Celebrating Black History Month: Mary Chatman

Feb. 23—EDITOR'S NOTE — In recognition of Black History Month, the MDJ is asking community leaders how they are celebrating and what the month means to them. Today we feature Mary Chatman, executive vice president at Wellstar Health System, and president of Wellstar Kennestone and Windy Hill hospitals.

Wellstar Health System executive Mary Chatman always looks forward to Black History Month as a time to raise awareness of "all the positive happenings and opportunities for minorities" in Marietta and Cobb County.

In addition to serving as president of Kennestone and Windy Hill hospitals, Chatman oversees seven other Wellstar facilities. In 2020, she led the opening of Kennestone's new emergency department. She also serves on the state's Healthcare Workforce Commission, appointed by the governor.

Chatman said Wellstar's workforce, and the men and women of Kennestone, reflect Cobb's cultural diversity, something that makes her proud.

"At the same time, it demonstrates the rationale for why diversity, equity and inclusion are so important. Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the work that has been done and acknowledge that there is more to do," Chatman said. "We collaborate and make advancements every day, which deserves a month of recognition and daily affirmation."

One of Chatman's personal heroes is Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first African American licensed nurse in the U.S.

Chatman said she celebrates Black history daily. As a leader who stands on the shoulders of others who encouraged her, she feels the need to give back. Recently, she gave a talk on healthcare leadership on a common mantra used in healthcare learning — "See one. Do one. Teach one."

"As I think about that talk and how it applies to Black History Month, 'see one' comes to mind," Chatman said. "I am often contacted by diverse leaders who tell their stories about how I and others in leadership positively inspired them. It serves as a reminder to me to be present and active to inspire rising leaders so that they can achieve their goals and aspirations."

On Wednesday, Wellstar employees were invited to attend a virtual fireside chat celebrating Black History Month. It was led by special guest and Harvard University professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad, and moderated by Dr. Hank Capps, executive vice president and chief digital and innovation officer for Wellstar.

"I am grateful that although we are a large system, we had an opportunity to come together to observe Black History Month in that forum. Reflection, learning and conversation are essential to bringing about positive change and working toward unity," Chatman said.