John Devaney ’92, CEO of the charitable Cape Fear Clinic in Wilmington, North Carolina, hates tooting his own horn—especially when it comes to talking about the many honors he’s received. Those honors include being recognized as the 2017 Health Care Executive of the Year in the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s Health Care Heroes awards.
Under his eight-year stewardship, the Cape Fear Clinic has grown from serving 700 to 1,700 adults, all of whom are un- or underinsured and have incomes of no more than 200 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines. During that same period, the clinic’s annual budget has increased from $300,000 to $1.5 million, funding the medical, pharmacy and mental health services provided on site. Patients are asked to pay $3 per visit, but no one is turned away due to inability to pay. The clinic’s budget comes from foundation support, grants and individual donations.
“The reality is that, until we as a society value health care for all, we will always need places like this clinic,” Devaney said. Cape Fear Clinic is not a drop-in clinic, he added. It serves as the bottom of the safety net, providing continuing, comprehensive care for both U.S. citizens and those who are undocumented.
“If we couldn’t help them, they’d be at the ER. Cape Fear Clinic provides everything the patient needs for $500 a year,” said Devaney. The average emergency room visit is $2,500. The majority of those we serve have one or two jobs. Those who don’t work are generally too sick to be employed.”
The top job at a charitable clinic wasn’t exactly Devaney’s dream job when he graduated from Longwood with a degree in sociology. “If you’d told me in college that one day I’d be running a charitable clinic, I’d have never believed it—but here I am,” he said.
Devaney initially pursued an acting career in Washington, D.C., but a serious car accident halted his future treading the boards. Without health insurance and no money in the bank, Devaney needed a job quickly, so he took a job as ofﬁce manager at the Whitman-Walker Clinic of Northern Virginia. To his surprise, he loved the job and stayed on. Nine years later he was the clinic’s director, overseeing the operations of the largest HIV/AIDS clinic in Virginia.
He also previously was a vice president for a human services and health care consulting ﬁrm and director of operations for the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. I don’t have an M.A. or a Ph.D., but what I do have is more than 25 years of experience on the job, and I learned a lot at Longwood,” said Devaney. “A variety of leadership positions in fraternities and theater at Longwood prepared me for my career.
“My goal is to make things better for patients, staff and volunteers,” added Devaney. “Every day, I go to work to ensure that medical and other professionals are available to help our patients. I’m not selling widgets or just making money—I get to effect change in people’s lives. That’s why I do it.”