‘You have to have a heart for the work’

Heather Egan on the passion that drives her as the new chief development officer of Forsyth Medical Center Foundation

The past two months have been the busiest of Heather Egan’s entire career.

She’s always worked with nonprofits, raising the necessary funds to support their work and their mission. And she’s long been driven by passion.

“We know we can’t be successful if we’re not passionate about the mission. That’s at the forefront of any development team,” Egan said. “You have to have a heart for the work.”

But she’s never been faced with something like the COVID-19 pandemic. No one has, really. And that has made the current reality challenging, particularly as she’s taken on an important new role: Two weeks after the pandemic hit, Egan took over as chief development officer of Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation.

As she’s acclimated to a new position with increased responsibilities, she’s been faced with the arduous task of determining the most pressing needs of front-line workers and how the foundation can rise to meet them.

“I don’t think we knew emergency child care was going to be such an issue, but that became apparent very quickly. And then lodging, for those team members who have an immune-compromised person at home,” Egan said. “We were really building the plane as we were flying it because those things were coming at us fast, and we had to make some very rapid decisions about what would be important for the foundation to support and talking to donors about how they could help.”

One of those donors is Bud Baker who, along with his wife, Zanne, has been a long-time supporter of the Forsyth Medical Center Foundation.

“I know they have a love of children, so I called Mr. Baker early, when our teams were having to figure out what to do with their kids, and let him know there was a need for emergency child care,” Egan said. “He responded immediately. He and his wife were so generous and quick to respond, and that’s what we’ve seen across the board. People have been raising their hand immediately to help.”

In fact, the outpouring of support from the community has been so overwhelming, Novant Health had to devise a system and a central location for collecting donations of food, masks and other items.

“We can’t have volunteers right now. So people are volunteering in the ways that they can, which is making masks or helping to support us financially or sending good wishes and drawing sidewalk pictures on the entrances,” Egan said. “And that makes a difference, too.”

As quickly as priorities shifted at the start of the pandemic, Egan is anticipating another change as the state begins to open up and Forsyth Medical Center shifts into the next normal. One particular area of concern lies in the number of job losses, which could leave people without insurance and the ability to pay out of pocket for medical care.

“Going forward, we want to make sure there are no barriers to care,” Egan said. “And we’re lucky: Our donors are loyal. They appreciate the care they receive through Novant Health, and they want to make sure that care is available to everyone in our community, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Another priority is the Family Connects program at Forsyth Medical Center, which is an effort to visit new mothers, either virtually or in person, to continue providing care after they give birth. Egan has also started thinking about the need for behavioral and mental health services, which could increase markedly on the other side of the pandemic.

“That is an area we’re getting more involved in, and it could become more of a priority later in the year,” she said.

Egan is also looking ahead to the foundation’s first-ever virtual fundraising event — a digital version of its signature Garden Party. Originally scheduled for March 20, it would have been Egan’s last in her former role at the foundation. Now, it will be her first as chief development officer.

“We know it’s not going to be the same, but we’re going to make it as warm and as personable as we can,” Egan said.

The virtual event is now scheduled for June 19. The goal is to raise funds to support the Family Connects program. There will be a silent auction, mystery bags, a raffle and a signature drink recipe to help everyone celebrate with a collective toast.

“It hasn’t been easy to see how the pandemic has impacted healthcare, but I think we’re going to come out of it with some amazing leaders,” Egan said. “I’m also just excited to see my donors again. Their support saves and changes lives. And I don’t say that lightly. We don’t know what barriers to care there are for a patient or what resources they lack as they’re going through their health journeys. So our donors absolutely make a difference every day.”

You can make a difference, too.

With a gift for Novant Health’s COVID-19 relief efforts, your donations will support critical needs for front-line workers so they can focus on caring for the community.

Join the Garden Party

Donate now