Good Bones

Allison Farmer heads up statewide ortho group

Health Main

Of the eight company core values at EmergeOrtho, teamwork resonates the most for ALLISON FARMER, recently named CEO of the statewide physician group. 

“There is extreme value in working with people who have different strengths, especially in patient care,” says the Wilmington resident. “I value people who see challenges from a different point of view and who troubleshoot and problem solve with skills that are different from mine.”

EmergeOrtho is the result of the 2016 merger of OrthoWilmington and three other top North Carolina orthopedic practices, making it the largest physician-owned orthopedic practice in the state and fifth-largest in the country. As of October, Farmer leads a team of 1,800 employees, 400 in Wilmington, including 270 highly trained orthopedic surgeons, physicians, and advance practice providers. 

EmergeOrtho offers diverse orthopedic, spine and pain management care as well as pediatric orthopedics, sports medicine, trauma, therapy, advanced imaging, and urgent care.

“Mergers are not unique in the health care environment. In our case, we merged like-minded independent physician-owned practices, expanding our footprint and delivering strength in numbers from a patient care perspective,” Farmer says. “Collaboration of clinicians is an incredible reason to merge.”

Born in Arizona, Farmer came to Wilmington when she was two years old. Her father, Stephen Harper, relocated his young family for his job as a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business.

“My dad had a lot to do with my college degree choice,” Farmer recollects. “I liked math but didn’t know much about business. He suggested I consider a business degree. Careers in accounting were getting 100% job placement in the mid-’90s. My decision to apply to the master’s program in accounting at UNC at Chapel Hill after undergrad school there was the best career decision I ever made.” 

Farmer was immediately hired after graduation at Arthur Andersen LLP in Charlotte at age twenty-three. “My public accounting experience is still serving me today,” she adds.

Prior to her first role at OrthoWilmington as director of finance in 2013, Farmer was a senior accounting manager for GPM Investments, a large convenience store chain. Handling huge volumes of fuel sales and banking transactions taught her about the challenges of scale. 

“The job taught me about making accounting practices and procedures efficient through software automation,” she says.

Farmer describes her transition from retail to health care as an incredible cultural change. She credits STEPHEN DEBIASI, current CEO of EmergeOrtho’s Wilmington and Triad regions, as a most influential mentor. “He taught me the ins and outs of successfully leading a large physician practice,” Farmer says.

Farmer progressed to CFO of OrthoWilmington, then to CFO of EmergeOrtho. When her most recent promotion landed her in the CEO role functioning at the statewide level, she hit the ground running. 

After first hiring a replacement CFO, which she is proud to say was a promotion from within, and leading the annual shareholder meeting within the first two weeks on the job, Farmer got in her car and visited her new team across the state. And she faced challenges from the pandemic. Keeping employees, patients, and their families safe during COVID became a priority. 

Ongoing, Farmer says EmergeOrtho will need to keep up with government and insurance reimbursement changes. 

“This is continuously on our radar as we strive to provide care in a coordinated high-value, cost-effective manner,” she says. 

Farmer’s passion for teamwork is foundational. “I truly enjoy working with my team,” she says. “I am surrounded by motivated, engaged, passionate people who feel the same way I do about our mission to support the model of independent physician practices and how important that is to our health care system.” 

Farmer’s goals include building statewide synergies with IT, marketing, HR, and other services. “I want our workforce to know they are a team despite geographic distances,” she says. 

Farmer is constantly looking for opportunities for seamless execution. “I will support, develop, and train my team so they will be confident and autonomous in decision making.” 

Farmer’s future growth plans include promotion of accessibility of services across North Carolina, such as walk-in clinics that deliver high-value care at a lower cost than emergency rooms. 

“There is incredible satisfaction being part of an organization that truly helps people and changes quality of life,” Farmer says. “It’s rewarding to lead the business side of the organization so that our surgeons and clinicians can focus on what they do best.” 

But it’s the patient reviews and letters that Farmer treasures most. 

“Seeing someone have a better quality of life because of us is overwhelming,” she says. “I am humbled to be given this opportunity.”

To view more of photographer Terah Hoobler’s work, go to

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Categories: Health