Our Team

Our Executive Team

Laura Patel

Laura Patel

Laura Patel, MD, HMDC, FAAHPM
Chief Executive Officer

After serving as Chief Medical Officer of Transitions LifeCare for nine years, in 2022 Laura Patel was unanimously elected to her role as CEO. With her hands-on approach to leadership, Dr. Patel furthers the mission, vision and strategic direction of the organization during a time of unprecedented challenge in the healthcare economy. Dr. Patel is a thought leader and collaborator at the state and national level, working to advance models of care for those with serious illness.

To address the needs of our most vulnerable population, she helped launch Transitions Kids—a home-based pediatric hospice and palliative care program. Embracing the mission and elevating wrap-around care, Dr. Patel created a partnership for the hospital-based palliative care program and formed Transitions Medical Partners—a primary care medical practice. In 2015, Dr. Patel’s educational outreach initiative resulted in a partnership between Transitions LifeCare and the University of North Carolina creating an innovative ACGME-accredited fellowship in hospice and palliative medicine. Dr. Patel values diversity, equity, and inclusion and works to improve hospice and palliative care access to all North Carolinians.

Born and raised in the Midwest, she earned her medical degree from the University of Minnesota and completed her residency in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in geriatric medicine at the University of North Carolina. Before she found her way back to the Triangle, she experienced a universal healthcare system and hospice in New Zealand, and worked for several years in a community nonprofit geriatric, hospice, and palliative care group in Baltimore.

Dr. Patel is board certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and is a certified Hospice Medical Director. In 2017, she was named AHHC’s “Physician of the Year” and one of TBJ’s “40 Under 40.” In 2019, she was named as one of AAHPM’s Emerging Leaders. Dr. Patel is a fellow of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. She served on the North Carolina IOM Taskforce on Serious Illness and is a co-chair for the clinical practice workgroup of the NC Serious Illness Coalition.

Christine Casey

Christine Casey

Christine H. Casey, MSG, MBA, CFRE
Vice President of Philanthropy

Christine earned a master’s degree in Gerontology from UNC Greensboro, MBA from Averett University, bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Mary Washington, the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) credential, and Duke University’s Nonprofit Management Program certificate. She has been an active member and past board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Triangle Chapter since 2009 and has been a workshop speaker and trainer at AFP conferences and workshops as well as a mentor to other fundraising professionals.

Christine joined Transitions LifeCare in 2016 to help implement the new 1979 Circle and Grateful Family campaigns, implement and manage the donor database, and to build a comprehensive Annual Giving program. Promoted to Vice President of Philanthropy in 2021, Christine is responsible for overseeing a comprehensive philanthropy strategy to provide funding for the Indigent Care, Bereavement, and Transitions Kids programs, in addition to building the organization’s endowment. Prior to joining Transitions LifeCare, Christine worked for a variety of nonprofit organizations, both local and national, including American University’s Washington College of Law, Washington National Cathedral, American Red Cross, and Make-A-Wish Eastern NC Chapter.

Rachel Lipner

Rachel Lipner

Rachel Lipner, DO, HMDC, FAAHPM
Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Rachel Lipner was appointed Chief Medical Officer in April 2024. Dr. Lipner has been with Transitions LifeCare since 2016, providing clinical care in both hospice and palliative medicine and has taken on progressive leadership roles since 2018, including most recently as the Executive Medical Director. Dr. Lipner is Hospice Medical Director Certified (HMDC), and in 2023 received the prestigious honor of being recognized as a Fellow of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (FAAHPM), which is one the highest honors the Academy can bestow on an AAHPM member and is achieved by members whose professional activity is devoted to the practice of hospice and palliative medicine.

In the Chief Medical Officer role, Dr. Lipner is responsible for strategic and leadership direction to the medical staff, including supervision of the physicians and advanced practice providers. She is also responsible for the maintenance of appropriate medical policies and standards to meet agency, state, federal and accreditation requirements. This role functions as the senior medical liaison of Transitions LifeCare within the medical community and community at large, building effective relationships with referring physicians and healthcare systems.

Dr. Lipner earned her medical degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her Internal Medicine residency at Lehigh Valley Health Network and fellowship in Hospice and Palliative Medicine with the UNC School of Medicine. Her passion is direct patient care, as well as teaching and empowering all healthcare professionals to utilize communication skills to better care for seriously ill patients and their families. When not busy at work, she loves calling Raleigh home with her husband Nathan, two sons Noah and Adam, and objectively cute dog, Macho.

Mary Lucas

Mary Lucas

Mary Lucas, MSHCM
Vice President of Strategy and Growth

Mary earned a master’s degree in health care management from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from The University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Following progressive roles in sales, marketing, and health care public policy, Mary joined Transitions LifeCare in 2019 initially serving as the director of business development. Promoted to vice president of strategy and growth in 2021, she is responsible for developing, monitoring, and communicating business strategy and strategic priorities. She is also responsible for pursuing new partnerships, contracts, and business opportunities within health systems and community organizations. Mary oversees marketing, sales, consumer education, corporate branding, and communication strategies to drive awareness of and admission in Transitions LifeCare’s various services and programs. She also is co-host of WPTF Aging Matters weekly radio show and podcast. In addition to her work at Transitions LifeCare, Mary serves on the Next Generation Leadership Advisory Council for the NHPCO.

A Raleigh native, Mary spends time with her rescue dogs and a regular rotation of foster dogs. She enjoys volunteering around the community with her therapy dog, Waylon. She also serves as a member for the City of Raleigh Community Engagement Board and the Habitat for Humanity Homeowner Services Committee.

Nicole Martin

Nicole Martin

Nicole Martin, MBA, BSN, RN, CHPN, CHC, CHPC
VP of Organizational Excellence
Chief Compliance Officer

Nicole earned her MBA and BSN at Western Governors University and is certified in hospice & palliative care and healthcare compliance. Her background includes more than 24 years experience in clinical management, education, risk assessment, and compliance. Nicole, who joined Transitions LifeCare in 2018, is responsible for the overall management of corporate compliance and performance improvement. She also ensures the organization continues to meet standards and maintain Medicare, Medicaid, state, and federal requirements.

Since 2020, Nicole has served on the board of directors for the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center, whose mission is to advance expert care in serious illness. She became the president in 2022 and will chair the governance committee in 2023. Nicole also launched Transitions LifeCare’s family advisory council in 2019 which provides families’ perspectives on policy change, development, and new programs.

Prior to joining Transitions LifeCare, Nicole served as director of quality & compliance at Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice in Marlton, NJ where she instituted a company-wide risk assessment program to identify and mitigate risk for a nonprofit hospice and participated in the National Partnership Hospice Innovations (NPHI) national work group.

Darlene Rutledge

Darlene Rutledge, MSN, RN
Chief Operation Officer

As Chief Operation Officer, Darlene administers, directs, and coordinates activities related to organizational operations. Darlene works collaboratively to develop and/or improve processes, controls, and procedures that improve the efficiency of the Transitions LifeCare. Darlene assures that organizational practices and activities are effectively integrated into the TL’s strategic plan and facilitates the provision of exceptional patient care and related services throughout the organization.

Darlene is an accomplished health care executive with over 30 years of progressive experience in leading prominent hospice and palliative care programs throughout the United States. She is certified in LEAN Healthcare and is an ELNEC and EPEC certified clinician and educator, and she has successfully developed and implemented major strategic initiatives that have resulted in significant market growth, increased fiscal management, and operational excellence.

As a transformational leader, Darlene has a deep appreciation for work culture, DEI, and is committed to the development and engagement of her teams. Her passion is ensuring the delivery of world class health care programs and services for those impacted by serious illness, grief, and loss.

Steve Shelton

Steve Shelton

Steve Shelton, CPA, MBA, CHFP
Chief Financial Officer

Steve joined Transitions LifeCare in May 2022. He is responsible for finance, revenue cycles, facilities, and IT. Steve has worked in healthcare for more than 13 years and prior to that, nine years in public accounting.

Steve graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and then received his MBA from Elon University. He is a certified public accountant licensed in North Carolina. In addition, he is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, and the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

Melissa Short

Melissa Short

Melissa Short, MBA, SPHR
Vice President of Human Resources

Melissa Short leads Transitions LifeCare’s talent strategy efforts. A native of Roanoke, Virginia, Melissa first came to North Carolina to attend North Carolina State University where she graduated cum laude in political science. She later continued her education at East Carolina University where she obtained her Master’s degree in business administration. Melissa has spent the bulk of her career in the for-profit healthcare sector but also has direct experience with non-profit and pharmaceutical organizations. She holds a senior-level certification from the HR Certification Institute®, is a board member of the Capital Area Workforce Development Board, and is an active member of the Triangle Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Alliance. As an experienced professional, her passion is helping organizations become an excellent place to work.

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