MUSC president Dr. David Cole honored with Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award

December 06, 2021
portrait of David Cole in a garden
Dr. David Cole was lauded during a Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce event on Friday. Photo by Anne Thompson

For his service to the greater Charleston community during the COVID-19 pandemic, MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, was honored with the 2021 Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce on Friday.

Family and community leaders lauded his honesty, work ethic and vision for excellence, particularly as Charleston confronted the pandemic.

“Dr. Cole has and continues to provide compassionate, medically advanced and public health savvy leadership in a once-in-a-century global pandemic. He ‘willingly stepped into the gap’ to be the clear signal we all needed to navigate one of the most pressing crises in our region’s history,” said Bryan Derreberry, president and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber.

Cole said that nothing of significance can be accomplished without community, and he thanked the MUSC family for being that community.

“Talented, dedicated faculty, educators, researchers, students, clinicians and staff work daily to make a difference, a positive impact, on individuals’ lives,” he said. “This has shone through over the past two years in the midst of ‘all things COVID.’ As the president of MUSC, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to lead such a group and, on occasion, be the one that intersects with our community and state in a meaningful manner.”

That interaction could be the three times per week 7 a.m. phone call with Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg that the pair initiated at the beginning of the pandemic.

“He’s a compassionate man, and he has such a high level of intellect. When you combine the two, it really makes for a powerhouse of an individual,” Tecklenburg said.

Cole immediately saw the risks of the pandemic to the Charleston region and beyond, said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority.

“He felt that MUSC needed to be a leader,” Newsome said.

Cole leads not merely through his authority but by influencing through his example, said Prabhakar Baliga, M.D., chairman of the Department of Surgery.

Under his leadership, the use of telehealth greatly expanded during the pandemic.

“Through telehealth, this community has been a role model for the entire country,” said Anita Zucker, chairwoman and CEO of the InterTech Group.

Cole’s wife, Kathy, and their children, Paige Randolph, Andy Cole and Bryan Cole, also offered accolades.

Randolph noted that Cole made it a point always to be present for his children’s games, concerts and awards shows, and Andy Cole said that Cole set an expectation for his children to always strive for excellence.

“He’s always strived to be the best person he can be,” Kathy Cole said.

There is no pretense with him – he is genuinely a caring person, Bryan Cole said.

“You are most deserving,” Zucker said. “Thank you for your incredible service to our community.”