Gene E. Burleson '64, '72
1997 Outstanding Alumnus


Gene Burleson has taken his education along with his experiences in health care across the globe to reach the heights of the industry. Over a period of more than 20 years, he has built one of the most impressive credentials in health care management possible. Today, Gene has a dual role with two corporations; one he created, and the other in which he engineered a merger. Gene Burleson is chief executive officer of Vitalink Pharmacy Services, Inc. Through its 54 pharmacy locations in 29 states, Vitalink provides pharmacy services to nursing facilities. Vitalink serves 166,000 beds, or approximately 10 percent of total skilled nursing facility beds in the United States. His other "job" is as chairman of the board of directors of GranCare, Inc. Both corporations are headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.Over the past five years, Mr. Burleson has executed an aggressive growth plan that has moved GranCare to the position of sixth largest publicly traded long-term health care provider in the nation with revenues approaching $1 billion. GranCare was created through a merger with American Medical Services and HostMasters, Inc., both providers of health care services. Mr. Burleson served as president and director of GranCare from October 1989 through December 1990, when he was named chief executive officer. He assumed the additional post of chairman of the board in January 1994. In addition, he is currently serving on the Boards of Vitalink, Inc., Alternative Living Services, Inc., Deckers Outdoor Corporation, Walnut Financial Services, Inc., and EquiMed, Inc.

Before joining GranCare, Mr. Burleson served in progressively responsible positions within the domestic and international operations of American Medical International (A.M.I.). Beginning in 1974, his domestic responsibilities included management of A.M.I.'s acute care hospitals, psychiatric facilities, H.M.O.s day-surgery centers, free-standing diagnosis centers and retail pharmacy centers. In 1981 Gene was named Director of A.M.I.'s operations in the United Kingdom and became the Chief Executive Officer for the European region in 1983. During his tenure, facilities expanded rapidly and revenues increased from $5 million to $185 million, positioning A.M.I. as the dominant provider of health care in the United Kingdom and leading to a successful public offering of the company.

When he returned to the U.S. in 1986, he continued his role as Chief Operating Officer and was elected president of American Medical International's worldwide operations. His primary responsibilities included field operations, marketing, legal, finance, systems development and human resources. His areas of responsibility were acute care hospitals, psychiatric facilities and related health services in Great Britain, Spain, Switzerland, Greece and Singapore.

Mr. Burleson graduated from ETSU with a bachelor of science degree in accounting in 1964 and earned an M.B.A. in 1972. Gene continued his relationship with ETSU as a benefactor through the President's Trust, the Committee of 1000, and Challenge 2000. He also has served as an ETSU Foundation member and has volunteered with projects like the Buc Connection career development network and represented ETSU as an Alumni Ambassador.

Originally from North Carolina, Mr. Burleson now resides in Atlanta with his wife, Jan, and their children, Ashley and Alan. His son Jeff graduated from ETSU in 1994 with a bachelor of science in finance and in 1996 with a masters in business administration. Jeff lives in Atlanta and is employed at GranCare. His daughter, Lisa, graduated from Samford University in 1989 with a bachelor of science in psychology, and in 1992 with a masters in elementary education. Lisa lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and teaches at North Birmingham Elementary.