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THA Honors 26 Hospital Leaders at Annual Meeting


Tennessee Hospital Association (THA) today honored 26 hospital administrators, employees and volunteers during its 2018 Annual Meeting. The awards luncheon was held at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs.

Awards were presented in 14 categories, including distinguished service, president's award, healthcare hero and nurse of distinction. The complete list of the award recipients includes:

Distinguished Service Award, the association's highest honor, recognizes leadership and service by an individual member, in addition to achievements within and contributions to the healthcare industry.

Alan Watson, CEO, Maury Regional Healthcare System, Columbia, was recognized for more than 35 years of healthcare experience. A strong long-time supporter of THA, Watson has enhanced care coordination for residents in southern Middle Tennessee. He also has expanded and enhanced hospital-based and outpatient services and partnered with numerous organizations for the education and advancement of healthcare professionals.

President's Award

Mary Layne Van Cleave, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Tennessee Hospital Association, Brentwood, was honored for her 22 years of service to the association. She is responsible for the direct development and implementation of health information systems, computer networks and data products that assist THA members in meeting strategic planning and development needs.

Healthcare Hero Award

Dairn Zachary, chest pain coordinator, Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett, performed CPR on a man she and her daughter came upon in a church parking lot one weekend. Unfortunately, the man suffered a three-vessel occlusion and passed away. However, he never would have had a chance to survive without Zachary's willingness to stop and help a stranger.

Meritorious Service Awards recognize leadership and service by individuals in support of their hospitals and health systems.

Chief Executive Officer

Gordon Lintz, president and chief administrative officer, Morristown-Hambien Healthcare System, Morristown, was recognized for his leadership and commitment, which proved instrumental in improving patient care, operations and services. After years in healthcare administration, he attended nursing school during the evenings. Once he became a nurse, he was an administrator by day and a nurse in post-anesthesia and intensive care.

Senior Executives

Kim Pridgen, vice president and chief financial officer, NorthCrest Medical Center, Springfield, successfully turned around the hospital's declining financial status and ensured the facility is fiscally sound. She also helped two other small hospitals improve financial operations and remain open, all while fostering a culture where every employee understands their role in service and patient care.

Sherry Sands, chief nursing officer, Southern Tennessee Regional Health System, Pulaski, is known as the anchor of the hospital and a strong patient advocate. Under her leadership, the culture of the hospital and patient care both improved, leading the charge in reducing and maintaining a low harms rate.

Department Heads

Joyce Noles, executive director of emergency medical services, West Tennessee Healthcare, Jackson, was honored for her passion and willingness to do what is best for not only the patient, but also the community. Her EMS business unit consistently has held a positive bottom line, and grown from 80 employees and eight trucks to nearly 200 employees and 15 trucks to serve the Madison County area.

Terry Ellis, respiratory care clinical manager, Erlanger Health System, Chattanooga, oversees a department of more than 110 therapists. He knows how to motivate and inspire his team and other colleagues to continuously provide world-class care, regardless of the work load.

Board Members

Renda Burkhart, vice chair, board of directors, University Health System, Knoxville, left an indelible mark on the quality and stability of healthcare provided at the health system. As the liaison between the transition committee responsible for creating an entire financial structure for a large academic center that now was going to be run by a newly created entity (University Health System), her efforts were remarkable. Burkhart positively impacted the bottom line of the medical center and improved the quality outcomes of patients.

Jack Studer, chair, board of trustees, Erlanger Health System, Chattanooga, is a true champion for the health system and healthcare improvements, steering it back to a healthy bottom line when it was near fiscal disaster. An innovator, his financial acumen and creative expertise have been invaluable to Erlanger's success.

Medical Staff

The work of Giancarlo Mari, M.D., medical director of the high-risk obstetrics program at Regional One Health, Memphis, drastically changed the standard of care in fetal medicine in Memphis and the surrounding mid-south community, resulting in better survival rates for these babies.


Barbara and Rich Kramer, volunteers, CHI Memorial, Chattanooga, are a committed philanthropic team, volunteering at the hospital each week and accepting leadership positions on the auxiliary and foundation boards. They have provided substantial financial support, contributing $1.3 million to the hospital.

For two days each week, Ann Roberts, volunteer, Erlanger Health System, Chattanooga, and her service dog use public transportation and travel to the Erlanger Heart and Lung Institute to make reminder calls to patients about their appointments. Roberts has not let her lost sight negate the impact she can make on other people's lives.

Diversity Champion Award recognizes leaders who have made outstanding contributions in leadership and workplace diversity and inclusion, and demonstrated commitment to a diverse workforce.

Tom Ozburn, president and CEO, Parkridge Health System, Chattanooga, has demonstrated a clear desire to enhance diversity and inclusivity throughout his career. As CEO of TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center, he led work to meet the needs of one of Nashville's largest immigrant and refugee communities, including establishing an on-campus site for indigent primary care. In his current role at Parkridge, he continues to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for patients, families and employees.

Tish Towns, senior vice president and chief administrative officer, Regional One Health, Memphis, is an accomplished leader who often is a champion for others. As part of her work with THA's Council on Inclusion and Health Equity, the health system established its own Equity of Care Council to identify and develop strategies to increase awareness about diversity and health disparities. Towns also developed a robust strategic plan and comprehensive cultural competency and health literacy training model.

Patient Safety Leadership Award recognizes an individual who has taken extraordinary and innovative steps to make patient safety and quality a top priority in their organization.

Trish Tanner, assistant vice president of corporate pharmacy, Ballad Health, Johnson City, helped reduce the number of inpatient opioid doses administered at Mountain States Health Alliance hospitals (now part of Ballad Health) by 40 percent last year. The system's emergency department opioid prescriptions also have dropped to a level that is 26 percent below the national average.

Nurse of Distinction Awards recognize outstanding contributions by registered nurses employed at a THA member hospital or health system.

Executive Nurse of Distinction Awards

Gina Bullington, chief nursing officer, HCA/TriStar Horizon Medical Center, Dickson, was honored for her leadership, which has been a primary driver of the hospital's clinical and organizational success. She and her team recently opened the TriStar Natchez freestanding emergency department, developed a Level III trauma center at Horizon and opened a Level II neonatal intensive care unit.

Rhonda Poulson Hatfield, senior vice president and chief nursing officer, CHI Memorial, Chattanooga, tirelessly has worked to foster the collaboration of nursing with the various service lines and improve the implementation and design of patient care. She has excelled because of her leadership, willingness to work with a team to overcome big obstacles and the insight to try innovative solutions.

Clinical Nurse of Distinction Awards

Teresa Nixon, lead surgical nurse, NorthCrest Medical Center, Springfield, was recognized for her dedication in caring for med-surg patients and educating and mentoring more than 75 new nurses over her 36-year career, including nursing clinical groups, high school students and nursing externs.

David Trout, clinical resource nurse, University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, was recognized for exemplifying outstanding bedside patient care and serving as a role model for his colleagues. He also mentors new team members and supports process improvement to improve patient outcomes.

Nurse Leader Award

Karen Hampton, director of emergency services/chest pain/stroke/sepsis, Saint Francis Hospital, Memphis, was honored for helping to reduce emergency department throughput times by 30 percent and implementing safety protocols that include processes for managing potential workplace violence.

American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Awards

Regent's Exceptional Service Award

Craig Becker, FACHE, president and CEO, Tennessee Hospital Association, Brentwood, was honored for his leadership in developing a true partnership between the hospital association and the state's local ACHE chapters, and as an advocate for ACHE.

Senior Level Healthcare Executive Award

Britt Tabor, FACHE, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Erlanger Health System, Chattanooga, was honored for mentoring staff and encouraging their personal and professional development, including their affiliation and participation in ACHE and East Tennessee Healthcare Executives Affiliation (ETHEA) activities.

Rural Healthcare Executive Award

Dustin Greene, FACHE, CEO, TriStar Horizon Medical Center, Dickson, was recognized for his vision and servant leadership that embodies the culture and values of ACHE and HCA, including elevating the hospital's clinical capabilities through physician recruitment and adding programs that serve community needs, such as a Level III trauma center, neonatal intensive care unit and cardiovascular services.

Excellence in Diversity Award

Recognized for advancing diversity, Chara Stewart Abrams, administrative director, psychology department, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, has served on several boards and currently is president of the Memphis Chapter of the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE). Under her leadership, NAHSE's institutional membership has increased more than 100 percent, and provided three $10,000 scholarships to minority undergraduate students across the state through a partnershp with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

Early Careerist Award

Lee Ann Benson, FACHE, vice president of pediatric network development and growth, Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville, was instrumental in fostering relationships among the three Tennessee ACHE chapters and coordinating efforts to offer educational sessions in collaboration with THA.


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Tennessee Hospital Association, THA, THA Awards of Excellence
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