Chattanooga businessman Barry Large may be last new Erlanger trustee before hospital goes private

Staff Photo / Chattanooga businessman Barry Large, seen in 2016, has been tapped by Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp to fill an open Erlanger board seat

As Erlanger Health, the new private entity borne out of Erlanger Health System, prepares to launch July 1, the makeup and structure of future Erlanger board membership is becoming clearer.

Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp has tapped businessman and philanthropist Barry Large to fill the Erlanger board seat currently held by Dr. R. Phillip Burns, a decorated surgeon and professor at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga.

Large's trusteeship would begin June 7, pending confirmation by the County Commission at its meeting that day, and may represent the public's last Erlanger board appointment before the health system becomes a private entity.

"As Erlanger converts to a private 501(c)(3), it is essential that the hospital's board includes financial expertise. Barry Large is one of Chattanooga's most respected business leaders, and I'm grateful he has agreed to serve our county's only safety net hospital during this transition," Wamp said in an emailed statement. "His personal experience as a cancer survivor and his demonstrated financial acumen uniquely qualify him to serve on Erlanger's board at this time."

Large graduated from Samford University with a bachelor's in business administration and management, according to Wednesday's commission meeting agenda. In years since, he has co-founded several companies and businesses, including Access America,, Lamp Post Group, Dynamo and Steam Logistics, according to the agenda.

Burns was appointed to the Erlanger board by former County Mayor Jim Coppinger in early 2019, a period of tension between Erlanger doctors and hospital leadership. At the time, Hamilton County Commissioner Chip Baker, R-Signal Mountain, called it "a great move" to appoint Burns, a longtime member of Erlanger's medical staff and well-known mentor to physicians in training.

"He's made that hospital what it is," Baker said. "He's the one who's kept the glue through all the changes of administration. He's the one constant."

Wamp also had words of praise for Burns.

"Our community owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Phillip Burns for his legendary career at Erlanger, which began in 1976. I am thankful for his leadership and service," the county mayor said in a statement.

Burn's departure will leave the Erlanger board with two physicians — Dr. Mitchell Mutter, another Coppinger appointee, and Dr. Chris Poole, chief of the Erlanger medical staff.

Burns declined to comment for this story.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority, more commonly known as Erlanger Health System, is a government entity overseen by an 11-member Board of Trustees.

The Hamilton County mayor appoints six trustees, while the local legislative delegation appoints four. Trustees are appointed for an initial four-year term and may serve for no more than eight consecutive years. The chief of staff also serves as a trustee.

As Erlanger transitions to the new private entity, the public authority board will remain in effect for several years as transactions for the old Erlanger wind down, Erlanger spokeswoman Blaine Kelley said via email. Major responsibilities of the authority board will include keeping tabs on Erlanger's bonds and pension fund.

"We are currently working on a strategy of transition of current trustee board members to the new board along with a few people who will remain on the authority board for a period of time," Kelley said.

In terms of the new Erlanger Health Board, current Erlanger Board Chairwoman Sheila Boyington said via text Wednesday that "efforts are being made to ensure that the board has diverse representation from health care professionals — including doctors — community and business leaders and key stakeholders."

The Hamilton County legislative delegation also has an open seat on the Erlanger board to fill. That seat was vacated by former trustee Jim Coleman when he became Erlanger's CEO effective July 11, 2022.

Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, who is chairman of the delegation, said in a phone interview the delegation is continuing to look for a replacement.

"It is a very time consuming board, and finding the right people with the right experience and profile that meshes well from the delegation's perspective with the other members on the board can be challenging," he said. "We've looked at a couple of people that we thought would be good candidates, but they just did not have the necessary time commitment.

"We're trying to make sure we got the right people in the right seats," Watson said.

As the bulk of decision-making transitions to the new, private Erlanger board, Watson said he expects the time commitment needed for the authority board will dwindle.

A separate three-member oversight monitor board is also in place to assist with the authority's unwinding and holding the new private entity to its commitments.

"There are a lot of moving parts to this, and our ability to have worked this out as efficiently as we have is actually pretty phenomenal," Watson said. "There are a lot of challenges to this, but I think we've got it set up in a really good way."

Contact Elizabeth Fite at or 423-757-6673.