Viewing Obstacles as Opportunities
Dr. Pamela Oliver, Executive Vice President and President, Novant Health Physician Network, leads a team of over 3,000 physicians and advanced practice providers in the Novant Health Medical Group. As Physician Network president, she oversees clinic operations, ambulatory quality and safety initiatives, provider onboarding and support, and growth of primary and specialty care. She also is highly invested in community engagement and health equity efforts. Dr. Oliver’s important leadership position expanded recently as she led the Novant Health Covid-19 vaccination efforts in the Winston-Salem area, taking the obstacle of Covid-19 and turning it into an opportunity to make our community a safer place to live. Dr. Oliver is a board-certified ob-gyn, practicing at Novant Health WomanCare since 2005, following undergraduate and medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and residency at Wake Forest School of Medicine. When asked, Dr. Oliver denies having had a grand plan leading her as a teenage girl from Rocky Mount, NC, to a seat at the table of a healthcare executive team. She was not that intentional then. But she is now!
Raised in eastern North Carolina, Dr. Oliver is a middle child, with an older sister and younger brother. She and her siblings were the first generation from her family to obtain college degrees. Growing up in a rural community taught important lessons like sharing resources, caring for your neighbors, and helping each other move forward. Dr. Oliver credits her mother and grandmother, both still living, for providing a strong, loving family support system, especially when she lost her father to leukemia a week before starting college. The loss of her father and experiencing his medical journey sparked her initial interest in medicine. While this interest in medicine was not intentional, it became strong enough to take her from studying as a Morehead Scholar at UNC, to UNC medical student, to obtaining a master’s degree in public health during medical school, to birthing twins during residency, and finally to Winston-Salem, where she is changing our community.
Dr. Oliver is making many intentional steps toward a healthier Triad community. Instead of obstacles to equitable healthcare in our region, Dr. Oliver sees opportunities. She views each opportunity as a thread that can connect all community members, not just the underserved. “It takes many small, intentional steps to solve the multiple inequities that keep us from living healthy lives,” Dr. Oliver explains. This optimistic outlook allows our community to view a huge, pressing issue like health disparity as several manageable opportunities for real change. She believes that educating women of color on maternal health not only improves the health of those women and their babies, but also the health of all women and all babies with access to better informed care. Her leadership role at Novant Health allows her to tackle multiple issues, not just maternal health. She urges our community to recognize that lack of health equity across our country is not a new problem; the Covid-19 pandemic just shines a brighter light on the issues that divide those with access to proper healthcare from those without access. We can all help by choosing one health disparity and working together toward closing that gap.
Dr. Oliver serves as a champion for change in our community but has the same struggles as any wife and mother of three teenagers. She has mastered the art of unplugging from work when she arrives home, many nights past 7:00 pm, to spend quality time with her family. And just like many moms, she battles cell phones for attention! Somehow Dr. Oliver will turn this small obstacle into an opportunity, and then hopefully share this trick with the rest of us, while making the Triad a healthier place to live!