2024 Fayetteville Distinguished Citizen Award

2024 Fayetteville Distinguished Citizen Award honoring Mike Nagowski

Health system chief earns testimonial praise for health care vision

Dr. Rakesh Gupta says Mike Nagowski ‘has remained true to his mission’ as Nagowski is honored with 2024 Cumberland County Distinguished Citizen Award.

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Mike Nagowski has been CEO of the health system since 2008.

“Mike is an individual who is high energy and has an incredible vision for the health system,” says Dr. Rakesh Gupta, a retired gastroenterologist. “Over the last 16 years, he has pursued that vision with grit and tenacity, and through some challenging times, has remained true to his mission — to create a regional health system that is second to none with an academic focus. In 2017, he was able to deliver on a promise to start medical residencies in several disciplines, and today, there are about 330 residents in training.”

Others offering testimonials were Dr. Divyang Patel; Anita Davis Melvin, who is the longtime administrative executive to Nagowski as well as medical center chiefs for more than 40 years; and Cumberland County Commissioner Marshall Faircloth.

About 240 people attended the event.

“The Cumberland County Distinguished Citizen dinner honors individuals that have made significant contributions toward the betterment of Cumberland County,” Bill Walters with the Occoneechee Council, Boy Scouts of America, says. “It is the goal of the dinner to highlight the individual’s commitment to Cumberland County and to the youth — our next generation of civic leaders. The event also serves as the annual fundraising event for the Boy Scouts of America.”

The fundraiser brought in more than $60,000, according to Walters.

Previous recipients are John “Mac” Healy, 2023; Dr. Vinta and Dr. Rakesh Gupta, 2022; former Cumberland County Commissioner and businessman Billy Horne, 2019; Linda and Ralph Huff, 2018; Mary Lynn and Norwood Bryan, 2017; Dan Dederick, 2016; Nancy and Murray Duggins, 2015; Sharon and Ron Matthews, 2014; Tom Costello, 2013; Don Price, 2012; Lee Warren, the now retired Cumberland County Register of Deeds, 2011; late Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis, 2010; Dr. Wes Jones, 2009; the late Olga “Bo” Thorp, 2008; the Rev. Ernie Johnson, 2005; Gen. (Ret.) Dan K. McNeill, 2000; late Fayetteville mayor J.L. Dawkins, 1993; late Fayetteville Mayor John “Bill” Hurley and late businessman J.P. Riddle, 1987; and the late I.B. Julian, 1986. Among other recipients are Billy Davidson; the late Fayetteville mayor Charles Holt and his late brother Henry Holt; retired Fayetteville State University chancellor Willis McLeod; late state Sen. Laura Tally; and Gen. John Vines, who was former commander of the U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division.

‘The right person with the right intent’

For Rakesh Gupta, his testimonial had a deeper and more personal meaning. Gupta was instrumental in recruiting Nagowski to the health system.

Gupta has not been disappointed.

“The medical school concept was somewhat a pipe dream but will soon be a reality in two years with the expectation of the first class of 80 students, a joint effort with Methodist University,” Gupta says about the Methodist University Cape Fear Valley Health School of Medicine. “The impact of an expanding health care system to include Bladen, Hoke and Harnett counties with over 80 clinical sites to include primary and subspecialty care is no small feat. The health system now has over 7,000 employees and that has a very significant economic impact.”

The five-story Medical Education Center & Neuroscience Institute opened in 2023 and the Valley Pavilion is a $110 million expansion that will add two floors and 100 hospital beds to the Valley Pavilion at the medical center, circa 1956, on Owen Drive. Atop the pavilion will be two emergency medical helivac takeoff and landing pads.

“He is the right person,” Gupta says, “with the right intent.”

And, Gupta says, there is more work to be done.

“The next challenge is to continue to deliver on improving quality of care that is exceptional with evidence-based medical practice combined with humanistic and holistic concepts,” Gupta says.


For all the growth at Cape Fear Valley Health since his arrival 16 years ago, Mike Nagowski shares any success with those who are a part of the health system.

He is a humble man.

“Honestly, the evening was a bit overwhelming,” Nagowski, 58, was saying Tuesday. “To have that many people come to the Boy Scout event — elected officials, business owners, medical staff members, nurses and so many of my teammates. It caused me to stop and reflect on the goodness of our community, and how so many are willing to take time out of their busy lives to support such a worthy organization and recognize a fellow citizen.”

No health system is perfect.

But Cape Fear Valley Health is better today because Mike Nagowski is there.


(Courtesy of CityView: https://www.cityviewnc.com/stories/mike-nagowski-earns-testimonial-praise-for-health-care-vision/