Gale Adcock: Director of SAS Institute Health Services

 Gale Adcock started as an activist at age 26 with a few calls to a stripping telegram service.

While working in Raleigh as a public health nurse, she was contacted by a friend who was distraught by the company employing someone dressed as a nurse. “She called and said, ‘Someone’s got to put a stop to this, and by someone I mean you,’ and by the end of the day they didn’t have a stripping nurse anymore,” Adcock recalled.

After enlisting the help of many of her fellow public health nurses to jam the company’s phone lines with requests to nix the nurse, Adcock realized she had a knack for making things happen.
Others realized it, too. She started working at SAS Institute in 1991 as a nurse practitioner, and only two years later was promoted to director of health services, where she still serves today. A short three months later, her boss asked her if she thought the company could transition its on-site health care center from an urgent care model to primary care.

“I said, ‘So how do you want it done?’ And he said, ‘That’s up to you,’” Adcock said. Somehow, she made it happen through the course of a year, and has since helped the operation grow from 17 employees to 56 people in two states serving 11,000 people, including 73 percent of Cary’s SAS employees and 55 percent of their families.

Adcock worked with an architect to help design the building renovations and also oversaw the implementation of a new electronic health records system two and a half years ago. She travels around the country to speak on the ways an on-site health care model can benefit companies both financially and culturally, plus holds independent presentations on leadership.

To top it off, she still sees patients half a day a week. That’s a lot for one person, but Adcock isn’t complaining. “I like what I do. I’m part clinician, part administrator, part PR person, part financial person and part firefighter.”

“I always say Dr. Goodnight thinks he has the best job, but I really do,” she believes. Even though she’s the head, she doesn’t consider herself the boss. “I work for 56 people. My job is to get them what they need — get them resources, get them time, get them the ability to do what they’re trained to do.”

In fact, she feels that way about the whole town of Cary. As a member of the Cary Town Council since 2007, Adcock believes she works for 140,000 people. “We’re deciding whether you’re going to get a shopping center on your corner or a park, or how many greenways you’re going to have,” she said, and she finds that responsibility quite humbling.

In earning her promotion at SAS, Adcock insists she was simply at the “right place at the right time — with the right skills, I guess.” Finding a seat on the Town Council was a similar story.

Four years before she’d planned on running, Adcock was called to action. “When the opportunity came to run for this office because the woman who sat in the seat decided not to run for re-election, I was approached by about 12 people who locked me in a room basically and said, ‘You’re not leaving until you say yes.’”

“What I told people on the campaign trail was what I know about land development could fit in a thimble, but I know how to learn,” she said. “As a nurse you’re a chronic learner. What you can’t teach people is how to solve problems, critical thinking … I would say I’ve proven to be that person.” Caryites seem to agree, as she took 55 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

Though she loves being the one to make the policy, Adcock embraces feedback from town citizens on what they want to see improved. “They are best served when we’re open-minded,” she admitted.

Originally from a small town in Virginia, Adcock loves Cary’s feeling of a “big town/small town” where neighbors are friendly, yet amenities abound. She can frequent Jazzercise classes, go fishing or relax at the pool with her husband, Kevin, and two teenage sons — who she says are teenagers 24 hours a day.

She’s happy to support them in their last years at Green Hope High School, but ultimately, she quips, “I raised you to leave me, so get out the door.”

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