W. Daniel Barker Leadership Award Winners

2019 Winner - Joel Wernick, Retired CEO, Phoebe Putney Health System

Wernick began his tenure as president and CEO of Phoebe Putney Health System in 1988 and remained in this role for 30 years. During those three decades, he transformed a single community hospital with limited specialized services into a thriving regional health system that has expanded access to care for hundreds of thousands of Southwest Georgians and has services, technology and a workforce that rival those found in larger urban health systems. 

Throughout his leadership of Phoebe, Wernick remained passionate about expanding access to primary and specialty care to the community to allow people to stay close to home for high-quality care. He was instrumental in developing a pipeline strategy to recruit physicians to the Albany area and to establish Phoebe as a regional hub for medical education and training future physicians. Since its inception 25 years ago, the Phoebe Family Medicine Residency has graduated 125 physician residents, with 60 percent of those still practicing in Georgia, most of whom are in Southwest Georgia. In 2005, the first campus of the Medical College of Georgia’s statewide education network was established at Phoebe. In 2011, the UGA College of Pharmacy opened its Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus at Phoebe. Finally, in 2017, Phoebe opened a modern housing community for the physician residents and medical and pharmacy students training at the health system. 

In addition to his physician growth efforts, the health system itself has grown in many ways during Wernick’s leadership. In addition to the growth of the medical staff from 167 to 312, Wernick oversaw the formation of Phoebe Physician Group, which employs more than 175 physicians and 135 advanced practice providers. The system acquired a critical access hospital and helped rebuild a new Phoebe Sumter Medical Center when a tornado destroyed Sumter Regional Medical Center in 2007. 

“Joel Wernick has left an indelible mark on Phoebe Putney Health System, the community it serves, and the entire state,” said GHA President and CEO Earl Rogers. “From helping grow the physician workforce in Georgia to ensuring the viability of the Phoebe hospital system, his efforts help guarantee that residents in southwest Georgia and surrounding communities will perpetually have access to high-quality care. He is a most-deserving recipient of this award.”


Wernick is actively involved in many local civic and economic development initiatives. He chairs the Southwest Georgia Alliance for Progress, a regional coalition to strengthen economic, educational and cultural infrastructures that support the Marine Corp Logistics Base of Albany. He has also served as a member of the University of Alabama at Birmingham adjunct faculty and is a member of the Albany Chamber of Commerce and the Albany Rotary Club.

Past Chairman's Award Winners

2018 - Philip R. Wolfe, Gwinnett Medical Center

2017 - Candice Saunders, WellStar Health System

2016 - Cindy Turner, Bacon County Hospital

2015 - Jerry Fulks, WellStar West Georgia Health

2014 - Loy Howard, Tanner Health System

2013 - Miles Mason, III, M.D., Gwinnett Medical Center

2012 - Chuck Adams, Ty Cobb Healthcare System

2011 - William T. Moore, WellStar Atlanta Medical Center

2010 - Robert Maynard, Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, Inc.

2009 - John S.  Bowling, Hamilton Health Care System

2007 - David Seagraves, Phoebe Sumter Regional Hospital

2006 - Benjamin H. Underwood, FACHE, Talbott Recovery Campus

2004 - John A. Drew, FACHE, Athens Regional Medical Center

2003 - John D. Henry, Sr., FACHE, Emory Healthcare

2002 - Richard Hubbard, Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, Inc.

2001 - Edward J. Fechtel, Jr., St. Mary's Health Care System

2001 - John A. Ferguson, Jr., FACHE, Northeast Georgia Health System

2000 - James Peak, Memorial Hospital and Manor

1999 - Larry Sanders, FACHE, Columbus Regional Health

1998 - Ken B. Beverly, Archbold Medical Center