Preston Hammock, 39, Healthcare Administrator
On a slow-slung shelf in his unassuming office, Preston Hammock keeps a scrapbook upholstered in a Wile E. Coyote print fabric.
It holds hospital bracelets, medical charts, educational materials, menus, pictures, and various other documentation from 25 years ago when Preston had open heart surgery.
“It was during that time I really understood the impact working in healthcare could have,” says Preston, now the 39-year-old president of Moses Cone Hospital. “It really drives what I do.”
Preston was born at Wesley Long Hospital, grew up in Greensboro, and went to Northwest Guilford High School. During a routine physical, his pediatrician found a heart murmur. Preston had a hole in his heart, a very common birth defect typically discovered earlier in life. He needed open heart surgery.
That six-day stay at UNC Hospital captured his imagination – and inspired him to pursue a career in the medical field.
“When I was a kid, I loved science. In my mind this was an experiment I got to see from the other side,” Preston says.
He was the first in his family to go to college. He went to Duke University, studying biology and genetics. He thought he might have a career in genetic counseling. After graduation, he worked at the Duke Center for Human Genetics doing research on spina bifida and chiari malformation.
He traveled around the country taking medical histories and blood samples from individuals affected by the conditions and their immediate relatives.
His sister Regina – who was inspired by Preston’s heart surgery to start her own career in nursing – introduced him to concept of hospital administration and inspired him to study it at UNC.
“I like the complexity of it. I was very quickly drawn to community-based healthcare systems,” Preston says. “To me there is incredible power in coming together for something that is bigger than any of us.”
He started as an intern at Alamance Regional Medical Center, and his career progressed quicker than he imagined.
“I love that I am close to home. Doors opened at the right time in a community I got plugged into and cared about,” Preston says.
First, he was an assistant vice president, doing strategic analysis. Then a vice president, overseeing pastoral care, radiology, and pharmacy. Then chief operating officer. Then president in 2013, when he was just 33.
He oversaw expansions, including the addition of inpatient dialysis services, the hospital’s first PET scanner, and a new cancer center and larger emergency room.
“I felt like it was my job to understand the community need,” Preston says. “When we look at a new piece of technology, we’re not just looking at it as this is the new advancement. It has to resonate with the community we are serving. What I love is unpacking that question.”
Those expansions include little touches – like more private treatment rooms that can be tailored to patient need – that he thinks are at the heart of community planning.
“It’s rooted in patient care,” Preston says. “That’s why I like what I do.”
He helped Alamance Regional transition to being a part of the Cone Health System and adopt a new electronic health record system.
“I like complex projects like that where you have to work with lots of different perspectives and navigate it together,” Preston says.
Last year, he became interim president of Moses Cone. He was made full president in September.
He says it is an interesting time for the hospital. He is excited about bringing in new opportunity, planning a cardiovascular expansion, and the new women and children’s center opening in February.
There is still lots of planning around the new center. Preston made sure he got a patient’s view by serving as a mock patient as the staff did a test run of transferring patients from Women’s Hospital to the new center at Moses Cone. He wanted to know exactly what it felt like.
He is excited that the new center will provide new amenities for families, like private NICU space. There is evidence of that attention to detail in patient care all over the new center, Preston says.
“To see that alive and well, to help navigate that, I think is an incredible responsibility,” Preston says.