She will assume the role on March 1, Korth remains in consulting role through April 30

Cookeville – The Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC) board of trustees unanimously appointed Chief Operating Officer Buffy Key to the interim chief executive officer position at its Thursday, Feb. 23 meeting. The appointment was made following CEO Paul Korth’s retirement announcement earlier this month.

Key, an Upper Cumberland native, will assume the role as of March 1 with Korth remaining in a consulting role through April 30.

“I look forward to serving as the interim CEO,” said Key. “I grew up in this area and have a vested interest and a passion for ensuring high quality health care for the people of this region. Our hospital is one of our area’s greatest assets along with the amazing staff and providers at our medical center. I’m excited to work with our city council, board of trustees, providers, staff and the community as we move our medical center forward to what our community expects it to be and deserves for it to be.

With a career that has spanned more than 32 years of health care and hospital experience, Key started her health care career as a medical laboratory scientist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center while serving in the Army National Guard. She has a bachelor’s degree in medical technology from East Tennessee State University and a master of management degree in health care from Vanderbilt University and currently serves as the chief operating officer at CRMC.

Beginning with her work in the military, she has had a wide range of health care experience. She previously worked in the laboratory at Johnson City Medical Center and CRMC and at Vanderbilt as a medical technologist. She also served as field service engineer in the diagnostics division with the Bayer Corporation before returning to CRMC as the lab manager and then the lab director. Key left CRMC to return to Vanderbilt as the administrative director of operations-clinical laboratories.

Before becoming COO at CRMC in 2020, Key served the medical center as the senior vice president for quality and operations. During that time, she was the recipient of the Tennessee Hospital Association’s 2016 Patient Safety Leadership Award, recognized for her dedication and extraordinary efforts to make patient safety and quality a top priority at CRMC.

“We are excited to move Buffy into the interim CEO position,” said Dr. Ernest Buchanan, chairman of the CRMC board of trustees. “With her prior experience here and at Vanderbilt, she has the background and leadership skills necessary to step into this role. She’s served both on the front line and in management, giving her a unique perspective to running a hospital. She is passionate about the patient experience and is continually motivating staff to improve processes for the betterment of patient care. She has demonstrated the operational expertise needed to be successful and move CRMC in the right direction. On behalf of the entire board, we are confident that we have made the right choice in promoting Buffy to this position.”

The medical center’s board of trustees will develop a plan to appoint a permanent CEO in the coming months.

Photo courtesy of CRMC.

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