Leadership Spotlight: Up Close and Personal with NCCA President Cynthia V. Vaughan

Cynthia V. Vaughan

New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC

Chaplaincy Training

I completed my CPE residency in 1997 in Women’s Health and served as associate pastor of two large churches in Atlanta before going to work as a chaplain/supervisor in training at Emory Center for Pastoral Services in 2003. I served as a critical care chaplain, chaplain of a long term acute care center (LTAC) and associate director of pastoral care at a continuing care community prior to becoming a CPE Supervisor in 2010.

Educational History

BA in English from Winston Salem State University, MA in Public Administration from Ohio State University; MDIV in Biblical Studies from Gammon Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center with additional group work in Yvonne Agarzarian’s Systems Centered Theory®.

Community of Faith

Being ordained in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church I have connected with a local church here in Wilmington that feeds me through the preaching, the music, the community and an opportunity to serve. Wrightsville UMC currently meets all four.  Until recently I was active with the Outreach Committee, the Nurture Committee, and the Mission of Hope in Sierra Leone where we have re-opened a hospital in that war-torn country in West Africa.  In addition I serve communion or preach when invited by the pastoral staff. One of the things I am excited about is that I am serving as one of two Sabbath Chaplains for my church district via a partnership between Blessed Earth, Inc., and the Duke Endowment.


Member for seven years. Currently serving as President.


My first 25 years of life I was an introvert who loved reading and going to school. My next 15-20 years I was a functional extravert as a manager in Corporate America. For the last 15-20 years as a pastor, chaplain, and CPE Supervisor, I am enjoying being an introvert again.


I’m not married, so my family is comprised of my 90 year old father, two brothers and three sisters.  I would be remiss in not acknowledging the loss of my mom and three sisters in the last seven years, who make my family complete, even still.

Restoration and Rejuvenation

The ocean brings me rest and I enjoy jazz, plays, and most recently have begun enjoying the opera. Travel used to be my favorite pastime, but since I have been in Wilmington I am enjoying my weekends at the local beaches. When I am stressed or I need space, I get to the ocean if I can, and meditate on the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Also, my theory of pastoral care reminds me that I am not in this alone. Joshua 1:9 sustains me.

Professional Uniqueness and Passion

People tend to tell me their stories and share some of their deepest feelings, often through tears. I’m still not sure how that happens. I relish the privilege of being present to a person when they are most vulnerable and in need of someone with whom to share deep, deep feelings.

Highs and Lows

In 1996 a middle aged, white Roman Catholic woman, who had not been to confession in 20 years, was about to undergo open heart surgery if they could get her to settle down. She would not go without talking to a chaplain first.  When I appeared she said, you don’t look like a chaplain, but I guess you are a person of God. I heard her confession. When I visited her two days later, she was surrounded by four of her children. The first words out of her mouth were: “this is the woman that I told you about who saved my life!” She did not know that by accepting me as her chaplain that day she had given me one of the best gifts I ever got!

I have a hard time seeing occasions as “bad” because I tend to look for lessons God might have me learn from all of my experiences. But perhaps one that haunts me a little is a phone call I got during my first unit of CPE. A young woman wanted to commit suicide because her boyfriend had infected her with the herpes virus and she thought her life was over.  I was at a loss as to what to say to her because of the stigma and shame that accompanied a “disease you could not get rid of” back in that day. I never found out what happened to her but my sense is, I did not help her. Had I known then what I know now, the phone call might have ended differently.

Caregiver to the Famous

One of the most memorable things occurred when I was chaplain of the VIP floor at Emory University Hospital. Patients there usually checked in under a pseudonym so I was very surprised when I walked into the hospital room and there sat Muhammed Ali and his wife (this was after his diagnosis of Parkinson’s). He was watching movies of himself fighting. They both greeted me warmly. He then proceeded to tell me a dirty joke (which I didn’t get). Suddenly his wife said to him to “Stop it, you apologize, you don’t say things like that in front of a lady.” He chuckled and said he was sorry. Then he got up and said “watch this, watch my feet.”  He went to the door and grabbed the edge of it in one hand. As I watched his feet they lifted about four inches off the floor!  His wife then coaxed him back to the chair and our conversation went to what it was like for him to not be able to box again.

Gutsy Move

When I turned 55 I had a bucket list that included flying a plane. I went up in a two seater with a friend of mine and flew over North Georgia. After being up for about 30 minutes he said “OK, take the wheel”, which I did!  I didn’t pilot it very long but it was exciting!  After he took control back I happened to notice a crack in the plane where I could see the sky—the door was not securely latched!

Impetus toward Chaplaincy

As a two-time breast cancer survivor I know what it means to be a patient. It was a chaplain named Noel at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1981 who visited me consistently throughout my first two week stay, who set me on this course towards chaplaincy. I will be forever grateful to him.  He died from a brain tumor before I got a chance to share with him what  his ministry to me really meant.


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