Community Connection: Phil Wolfe
Medical Center director makes time for passions

Phil Wolfe, CEO and president of Gwinnett Medical Center, says his job is to make sure he's got the right people in the right places doing the right things. While he's a hard working guy, he says he makes time for his passions, such as golf, family and running. In this installment of Community Connection, Wolfe sits down with staff writer Melissa Wilson to talk about his days in the Army Medical Service Corp., his passion for flying and his favorite sports teams.

MW: Tell me a little about your background. Are you a health nut?

PW: No, I'm not a health nut. Have I always been in health care? Kinda sort of. I graduated college, and I was in ROTC. So I needed to - the Army put me through college on a scholarship - so I needed to pay them back.

When I was in the Army I went into the Medical Service Corp., so that really - those four years in the Army - is what gave me the direction I wanted to go into in the future, which is health care.

At the time, I was just paying the Army back for the obligation that I'd incurred. But knowing the experience I got in the Army gave me the direction of wanting to do the same thing in civilian life, so I went back to graduate school and went into hospital administration.

MW: Now while you were in the Army, you said it was the Medical Corp. What are some of the things you were doing? Did you travel a lot?

PW: Yeah, I went to officer basic in San Antonio, Texas, and then I went to Germany for three years, and then I finished my Army career in Savannah. So yeah, I traveled when I was in Europe. I traveled quite a bit to different countries and enjoyed it very much.

MW: What were some of the things you were doing on a daily basis when you were with the Army in Europe?

PW: Well, we were having fun on a daily basis (he smiles slyly). But I think in the Army itself I, as a junior officer, got to do all the things other people didn't want to do. So I got to run the motor pool, I was the nuclear, chemical, biological officer. I was in charge of training. You just did a lot of things as a junior officer.

I did work out of a hospital. That was fortunate because some of the other junior officers that were Medical Service Corp. officers were actually out in the field attached to a tank battalion or an infantry battalion. So, for me, the duty was a lot nicer being able to work in a hospital every day.

MW: What made you decide to go into the Army?

PW: I needed financial help going to school. I couldn't afford it myself, and it would have been very, very difficult for my family.

My guidance counselor said there was a scholarship available through the Army, so I applied for it and got it.

MW: You're also a licensed pilot?

PW: I am.

MW: That's exciting. Do you still get to fly?

PW: I haven't flown much since I moved back here to Atlanta, but I love flying - I always have.

I started flying when I was 15 and soloed on my 16th birthday and got my license when I was 17 and then went to college and ran out of money. I didn't fly for about 20, 25 years but then got back into it about 1995 and flew for, I don't know, maybe 1,000 hours in a 10-year period.

I've always enjoyed flying, love flying, it's a fun hobby.

MW: Are you thinking about buying a plane, or do own one now?

PW: I might. I had a plane, but I just sold it because I wasn't flying much. But there's probably another airplane in my future out there somewhere.

MW: Does your wife fly with you? Does she enjoy flying as much as you do?

PW: My wife does fly with me. She enjoys it a lot. We actually met after she had soloed herself. And so she's always enjoyed flying even before she met me. It's always been a thrill for her, too.

MW: Where did you guys meet, how did you meet?

PW: We met in Mount Vernon, Ohio, which is our hometown. I was just out of the Army and I was just getting ready to go back to graduate school, and she was a dental hygienist and we met through friends.

MW: Do you have kids?

PW: No children - 17 nieces and nephews.

MW: Wow, that's pretty impressive. How many siblings do you have?

PW: There are four children in my family, and there are six kids in her family.

MW: That will keep you busy enough. Are they nearby?

PW: They're mostly in Ohio, but you know they love to come to visit and we love to spoil them.

MW: Have you ever taken any of them flying?

PW: Yeah. Whenever they come to visit, especially when we were in California. They all love to go up and go flying. I let them fly a little bit, they kinda enjoy that, too.

MW: Now, you've lived in a couple of different places. You mentioned Ohio and California. Where's your favorite place?

PW: Boy that's a tough question. Where's our favorite place we've ever lived? We've enjoyed every one of them. That's a tough call. Given that I now am a resident of Georgia, I would have to say Georgia is the favorite place I've ever lived.

MW: Why do you say that?

PW: You know there's a lot here. We started in Rome, that was our first stop professionally. We loved that town. It was a great, great place, and you're near the hills, or the mountains.

We've always enjoyed coastal states because you have the chance to go to the beach. I liked Savannah a lot when I was stationed there. I was at Hunter Army Air Field, and you know you could get out to Tybee and enjoy the beach.

My wife and I both enjoy going back to Savannah. It's a charming place. And of course there's Atlanta. Atlanta has so much to offer - it's a vibrant city. There's always things going on, and now that we're in Gwinnett County this place is just exploding with not just growth, but good things are happening in Gwinnett County. So, we're very, very happy here, and right now this is our favorite spot.

MW: What do you like to do in your free time other than flying?

PW: Ah, flying's a hobby. Golf is a hobby, I love to play golf. I run, don't know if I would think of that as a hobby. It's a great way for me at the end of the day to just relax and reflect.

I actually run by myself and it's really my medicine, because it's a great way to relax and reflect on things.

We love to travel, and without kids there's not the kids' activity stuff that we do, but we do enjoy traveling and we've done quite a bit of that.

MW: In talking with you before I've heard you mention your love of spots. Who's your favorite sports team?

PW: My favorite baseball team is the Cleveland Indians, and if it's the national league, of course it's the Atlanta Braves, since we live here.

I've always been a Cleveland Browns fan in football, always been an Ohio State fan for college sports, but I just like sports in general.

It just depends on which way the wind is blowing on who I'm pullin' for with most teams. But I enjoy sports, and I enjoy watching sports and occasionally even participating.

MW: Did you play any sports in high school or college?

PW: I did not, other than intramural stuff. So, for me, it was intramural softball or intramural football in college.

I played baseball growing up and that's probably my best sport. I was always too small for football and always too small for basketball, so baseball was it.

MW: What would you say is the key to success?

PW: I think the key to success in health care is to make sure that you've got the right people in the right places doing the right things, but that's probably the key in any industry. And I think once you have the right people, it's making sure you have the right strategy and that you're executing on the strategy or implementing those things that you need to do.