Caris Healthcare Founder and CEO Norman McRae combines a heart for mission-driven, community-based hospice with an entrepreneur’s drive for developing and nurturing outstanding teams, running efficient operations, differentiating on quality outcomes, and identifying and meeting community need.
And that’s what he’s accomplished since founding Caris in 2003. Operating originally out of Norman’s home office, Caris has grown to serve patients and families from 27 locations in Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Missouri, caring for nearly 1,100 patients each day. But more important than the growth of Caris has been the way it has grown, anchored by the values of Compassion, Accountability, Respect, Integrity and Service and guided by the mission of being a world-class hospice.
Since his first inspiring exposure to hospice as a divinity student in Louisville, Kentucky, Norman had dreamed of starting his own hospice company. Later, when studying for his Masters in Public Administration at the University of Kentucky, Norman wrote a business plan for a hospice company as his masters’ thesis.
And having subsequently worked for community-based not-for-profit, all-volunteer and publicly traded proprietary hospices, Norman founded Caris Healthcare nearly 15 years ago with the vision of building a multi-site hospice committed to providing hospice care with grace—not just in major metro areas but wherever there was an unmet need for ready access to quality hospice care.
Key to providing hospice care with grace, have been two features of Caris’ patient-centered care. At admission, every patient is asked a basic question: “What are the three most important things we need to know about you to provide excellent care.” Three Most Important Things has become Caris’ benchmark to ensure it meets the needs of patients, no matter how unique or individualized. Caris is also guided by its 20 Better Way Promises, which inspire every Caris employee’s interactions with patients, families, referral sources, fellow staff members and volunteers, and the community.
Norman founded Caris after seven years with Housecall Medical Resources, a Knoxville-based post-acute provider specializing in home health, hospice, home infusion, respiratory therapy and home medical equipment. Norman joined Housecall as head of its hospice division and after three years was promoted to Chief Operating Officer. During his tenure, Norman led the hospice division to a successful financial turn-around and led the company through three successful Joint Commission accreditation surveys, improved operating margins in each division and rationalized a number of essential operations through strategic centralization.
Norman began his hospice career as a chaplain with Hospice of the Bluegrass, Lexington, Kentucky. But within two years he was presented with the opportunity to lead an all-volunteer hospice as it transitioned to a Medicare-certified, not-for-profit provider. As the first full-time employee and President of Hospice of Hope, Maysville, Kentucky, Norman built a community-based provider that continues to thrive today. Under his leadership, Hospice of Hope quickly attained Medicare certification, was the first hospice in Kentucky and Ohio to be accredited by The Joint Commission and expanded its service area to 12 counties across northern Kentucky and southern Ohio. Norman also created the Hope Endowment, which boasted assets of more than $7 million when he left the organization in 1997.
As an advocate for quality hospice and end-of-life care, Norman is an active member of the Board of Directors of the Hospice Action Network, the largest national organization dedicated to preserving and expanding access to hospice care in America by providing hospice advocates with the tools they need to fight for the hospice cause at home, in Washington and online. From 1997–2002, Norman served on the Board of Directors of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Closer to home, Norman is a member of the Board of Directors for the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence, a not-for-profit economic development organization whose mission is to drive organizational excellence in Tennessee. Norman also serves as a director of Knoxville-based Clayton Bank and Trust.
Under Norman’s leadership, Caris in 2007 formed a not-for-profit foundation to support the work and mission of the Hospice of Ethiopia, which is partnered with Caris Healthcare under the auspices of Global Partners in Care (formerly the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa).
Norman holds a Master of Public Administration in Healthcare form the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and a Master of Divinity Degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. He earned a Bachelor of Arts at Mars Hill University, Mars Hill, North Carolina.