CELEBRATING 15 YEARS By CINDY SANDERS The impressive women selected as part of the Class of 2020 for the 15th anniversary edition of our annual Women to Watch special section showcase both the diversity of skills and expertise necessary to run our complex healthcare system and the passion and dedication required to move the needle on transforming the industry. When this special recognition launched in May 2006 to shine a spotlight on women making a real difference in the healthcare ecosystem, we couldn’t envision the enduring popularity Women to Watch would gain. Yet, the incredible professionals featured on the following pages and over the past 15 years (see page 7) underscore just how fortunate Middle Tennessee is to have such a wealth of talented, innovative, motivated women whose wisdom and work are making a lasting impact on our community and beyond.
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We honor this year’s winners as well as our own past recipients who continue to serve & support Nashville’s healthcare community. class of 2017
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TATUM HAUCK ALLSEP
Founder & CEO Music Health Alliance
Chief Operating Officer Mental Health America of the MidSouth Executive Director Tennessee Psychiatric Association
Tatum Allsep has long been interested in both music and medicine. Today she’s found a way to blend her two passions in perfect harmony. Growing up, Allsep divided time between her mother’s home in Mississippi and Nashville, where father Christie Hauck lived. Both parents and two grandparents were Vanderbilt alumni, so the choice was an easy one for Allsep when it came time for college. “We bleed black and gold pretty deep,” she said with a laugh. An honors student, she majored in human development with a plan to bridge into the nursing program. Her junior year included a required internship. Deciding to take advantage of being in Music City, she said, “I got an internship at MCA Records. It was like I had found my tribe.” After graduation, Allsep went to work for MCA and later ran her own artist management company. Seventeen years ago, one of the happiest experiences of her life also became one of the most eye-opening. “I found myself facing a six-figure medical bill after giving birth to twin boys, despite having what I thought was a good health insurance plan,” recalled Allsep. “I had done everything I was supposed to do, and I was still almost bankrupted by medical bills. I quickly learned I was not alone. Over 76 percent of the music industry is self-employed or part of a small business.” Allsep added many musicians work part-time jobs to make ends meet. “Even the most successful artists and musicians are paid as contractors, so health insurance is an enormous problem for those at both ends of the spectrum,” she noted. While her personal experience set her on a mission to find a solution, Allsep also knew she needed to learn the business side of health insurance. With her young sons at home, Allsep didn’t want to be on the road anymore and was considering options when the perfect opportunity arose. “I went to Vanderbilt to build the Office of Music Industry Relations,” she said. In her quest to find solutions for musicians, Allsep said she “learned to navigate the hospital system, trained in healthcare navigation and advocacy at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, studied the Affordable Care Act inside and out, and cashed in my 401K … with my husband’s support and blessing … to launch Music Health Alliance. I began to realize that my whole life had been leading me in this direction.” Although the MHA was one woman’s vision, Allsep is quick
to say it has taken a large village to turn her dream into reality. She pointed to many legendary women of the Nashville music industry as inspiration to go after her own dream. “But my greatest music industry mentor is someone that I’m fortunate enough to work with every single day, Sheila Shipley Biddy,” she said of the first female head of a record label in Nashville who now oversees operations for MHA. In the late 90’s, Allsep was her intern. “She should have fired me several times during my stint at Decca Records, but she did not,” laughed Allsep. “Instead she used each of my offenses as teaching opportunities to learn life lessons.” She continued, “In the healthcare world, there is no doubt that Dr. C. Wright Pinson has been an extraordinary mentor to me.” In the years since MHA was founded in 2012, there have been many exciting milestones. The only non-profit named to Billboard’s Country Power Players list, MHA has provided free healthcare advocacy and support to more than 11,000 members of the music industry and generated more than $50 million in healthcare savings for musicians nationwide. “While the outcomes and results of Music Health Alliance’s programs and services are important, what means the most to me are the incredible stories we hear each day from our clients,” said Allsep. Although there have been many successes, Allsep noted finding stabile access to affordable, quality care for clients remains a challenge. Yet, she said grassroots efforts and the “system hacks” she and her team have deployed show the possibilities for improved access to care. Busy days spent building MHA meant time away from home, but Allsep said she has now found a better balance to spend more time with the family she loves fiercely. Rex and David, the twins who began the journey to MHA, will be seniors this fall, and nine-year-old Molly will be a fourth-grader. Husband Michael, who Allsep describes as a ‘recovering attorney,’ is now an American history professor working on a book. “I am working on never taking a minute with them for granted,” she said. “Our boys will be heading to college in a year and just thinking about it creates a lump in my throat.” While workdays can still be hectic, particularly as COVID-19 shut down the entire industry’s income source, Allsep remembers to keep her eye on the mission. “My granddaddy’s framed Hippocratic Oath hangs beside my desk as a daily reminder of the journey that led me here and the duty of care I owe our clients,” she concluded.
Jackie Cavnar began working as a candy striper in the rural, community hospital in her hometown of Greeneville, Tenn., when she was 14 years old. “Between my experiences there and watching the struggles my grandparents endured to access care, I knew that I wanted to be involved healthcare,” she recalls. However, Cavnar was equally sure she didn’t want to be a physician or nurse. Luckily, the experience at her hometown hospital showed her other ways to make an impact. One of her earliest mentors was the hospital’s CEO Gladys Duran. “First, this was the 1980s in rural, East Tennessee … not many women in that community were executives,” she said of her role model. “Second, she asked me herself to volunteer extra hours to work on special projects for her in the executive suite.” Instead of her candy striper uniform, Duran encouraged Cavnar to wear business clothes. “She was my first, powerful influence of what it was like to be a woman in the executive world,” Cavnar continued. After graduating with a degree in communications from the University of Tennessee, Cavnar spent several years working in public relations at the corporate and agency level. Although she developed campaigns for a wide variety of industries, healthcare increasingly became her specialty. While her daughter was young, Cavnar worked as a freelancer, which included serving in a development and communications role for Hospital Hospitality House. “It was then that I decided to go back and do the master’s program at Lipscomb University in Nonprofit and Healthcare Management,” said Cavnar. She completed her MBA in 2006, putting her combined career and educational experience to work in healthcare. Harkening back to her teenage desire to address access issues, Cavnar spent several years focused on rural health. Today, she and her colleagues work daily to connect those in need to behavioral health services throughout Tennessee. “I like the problem-solving aspect – connecting people to resources and getting them the help they need,” she noted. “The most challenging aspect for me is the occasion when I don’t have the answer. Sometimes the issue is that the resource you need does not exist.” Even more frustrating, said Cavnar, is when the resource does exist but can’t be accessed because
of money, time, transportation, lack of insurance or any of the other barriers separating patients from providers. “We’re making some progress on the stigma,” she said of one major barrier, adding Mental Health America (MHA) does a lot of community education and school programming to address this issue. “People are talking more about the need to get help, and we’ve made some strides with parity.” However, she continued, “The biggest stretch really is resources.” Whether addressing the needs of a community or a family in crisis, Cavnar noted it’s easy to overwhelm your audience. She said a former supervisor’s favorite mantra was: “Think of five things you wish to communicate and know that three of those things are too many.” Cavnar added, “That approach forces you to focus on the most important issues. If you’re trying to capture someone’s attention, quickly give them the nuggets.” She added that once the key issues are on the table and have been processed, there is time to introduce the other layers. A related trap, she continued, is to go through every possible scenario to the point of being stuck. Remembering another sage piece of advice, she said sometimes you just have to make the best decision possible and move forward. Cavnar pointed out, that task gets much easier when you are surrounded by a team of trusted professionals. “They teach me something every day, and I hope that I provide them with the tools to do what they need to do to serve our communities.” When not advocating on behalf of mental health clients and providers, Cavnar loves spending quality time with family. She and husband Steve will celebrate their 25th anniversary in the fall. Daughter Stephanie is now 22 and pursuing a graduate degree in Denver in the field of criminal justice after earning her undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama. A proud UT alum, Cavnar is quick to point the finger at Steve for their daughter’s choice of alma mater. “Her daddy took her down there one day while I was traveling for business,” she said with a laugh. On a more serious note, Cavnar was happy her daughter made a decision that suited her best. Whether choosing a college or fighting for access to care, Cavnar said her goal is to empower people to become their own best advocate.
TINA GERARDI MS, RN, CAE
Executive Director Tennessee Nurses Association
forefront of mine,” she stated. While Gerardi is passionate about advocating on behalf of the profession, she said it is frustrating to feel like there is a constant struggle to have nurses be recognized for their skill sets and contributions to the healthcare system and health and well-being of the public. She pointed out nurses often put themselves in harm’s way to keep the public safe, even when there isn’t a pandemic. “Battling ambiguous and antiquated laws and regulations that limit the nursing practice and the direct relationship between a nurse and his or her patient is also one of the greater challenges,” she added. As she and colleagues pour energy into the continued fight to change scope-of-practice laws in Tennessee, Gerardi recognizes and appreciates the need to recharge. “I learned early in my career from my sage mentor Susan that I must separate my professional life and my personal life as much as possible in order to find a balance between them,” she said. “I also learned to use my vacation time to help with the self-care that is necessary to achieve that balance. ‘Vacation’ is not a bad word,” she added with a laugh. Instead, time off is the perfect time to connect with family and friends … and to explore the world. “I have been lucky to have visited every continent except Antarctica, and I hope to do that someday,” she said. Gerardi’s large Italian family provides plenty of nieces and nephews to take on special trips for graduations or other milestones. “It’s fun to see my love for something being passed on.” She relishes opening new worlds for the next generation. On a trip to Australia, her godchild fell in love with the country and expressed a desire to live there someday. Today, she works for a food science company in Sydney. Vacation doesn’t have to be exotic, however. Gerardi and her brother have a cabin on Loon Lake in the Adirondack Mountains where reading, campfires and roasting marshmallows attract multigenerational gatherings. She also plans to retire in Fort Myers, Fla. “As soon as I go over the bridge, I feel my whole body relax,” she said with a smile. But there’s still plenty of work left to do before that day comes, and Gerardi is eager to continue her mission to uplift nurses and the profession.
Growing up in in the Capital District of New York, Tina Gerardi knew she wanted to pursue a career in nursing by the time she was in middle school. Completing her bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh, she began her career as a staff nurse on a spinal trauma and rehabilitation unit. After earning a master’s from Binghamton University, Gerardi returned to the bedside as a clinical nurse specialist before moving into hospital administration, first in risk management and then as director of quality improvement. During a career that has spanned four decades, Gerardi has taught graduate nursing students at Pace University, led the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), overseen a $10 million Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant for the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) and taken the reins of the Tennessee Nurses Association. “Joining and remaining active in my state nurses’ association throughout my career had a major influence on my career trajectory,” she noted. Gerardi credited an early mentor, Susan Fraley, for getting her involved in NYSNA, and a second mentor for helping her rethink her role as a nurse. “Cathryn Welch was a past executive director of the New York State Nurses Association, and while I was making the decision to transition from clinical care to association work, she gave me a perspective that I have carried to this day,” recalled Gerardi. “She told me, ‘The profession is now your patient. Your goal is to nurture it and help it thrive.’ That is something I think about daily.” Gerardi, who joined TNA as executive director in 2018, loves the variety that comes with association work and said the diversity of her background has provided a broad perspective of the systems of healthcare. “No day is ever the same, so I’m challenged every day … and certainly these days,” she said as nurses have been on the frontlines of COVID-19 testing and care. “I cannot express how proud I am to be an RN. The coronavirus has brought attention and respect for what nurses do every day in every setting and in every community across the nation,” noted Gerardi. “Doing what is in the best interest of the patient and community in which they live is always at the forefront of a nurse’s practice and doing what is in the best interest of the nurse and profession is always in the
Congratulations 2020 NASHVILLE MEDICAL NEWS WOMAN TO WATCH
, DNP, RN, FAAN
Senior Associate Dean for Clinical & Community Partnerships Vanderbilt University School of Nursing
Leader. Mentor. Educator. Nurse. Collaborator. Administrator. Advocate. We proudly recognize all you do for nursing, Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee.
JULIE GRAY DDS, MA
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Assistant Professor of Restorative Dentistry School of Dentistry Meharry Medical College
DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
Senior Associate Dean, Clinical & Community Partnerships and Associate Professor Vanderbilt University School of Nursing
Growing up just outside of Houston, Julie Gray wasn’t sure what path her career would take, but she knew having a servant’s heart demanded she find a way to help people. “I knew that would likely be through a career in healthcare pretty early on in my life, but I didn’t always know I wanted to be a dentist,” she said. Completing her undergraduate degree but still unsure about medical school, Gray accepted a teaching job in Houston. “Teaching is part of my bloodline,” she explained, adding her grandmother taught school for 43 years. A routine trip for a teeth cleaning changed everything when her family dentist suggested she explore a summer program at the University of Texas School of Dentistry. “My whole perspective changed, and I realized I wanted to be a dentist,” Gray said. Following her dream led to Nashville. “When I first came to Meharry as a graduate student, Dr. William Davis and Dr. Sandra Harris became two of my mentors,” noted Gray. “I was a non-traditional student after teaching school for three years, and they both saw something in me throughout the admissions process and helped me believe in myself.” Gray added that early vote of confidence has made a lasting impact throughout her career as she has accepted new challenges. One of the first hurdles was realizing not everyone enjoyed going to the dentist. “I loved, loved my family dentist,” Gray said. But it didn’t take long to learn not everyone shared her enthusiasm. “I honestly had no idea people avoided going to the dentist until I began my clinical rotations in school. The first person I ever saw as a patient looked at me from my chair and said, ‘I hate you.’ She didn’t even know my name!” Gray recalled. What she quickly realized, though, was that the patient didn’t hate her at all … just past dental experiences. “I had the opportunity to change that.” After completing residency, Gray went into private practice. While still in school, she had met another young dental student from the Houston area – Phillip Gray II, DDS – who would become her husband. By 2005, the couple opened Gray Dental Care, PC, which her husband continues to lead. Although she has always loved hands-on care, Gray was excited when Meharry approached her about teaching parttime. She thought about the passion her grandmother had
brought to the classroom and remembered her mentor Dr. Davis saying he could see her as a teacher. By 2013, she was ready to step into this new role on a full-time basis. “I love my students and their love for learning … it’s contagious,” she said of their enthusiasm for the ever-evolving field of dentistry. “I love to serve the community through Meharry’s mission and to teach my students exactly what it means to be a good dentist.” Gray noted there are plenty of talented students who can learn the necessary skills, but she tells them knowledge isn’t enough. “Anybody can do the science of dentistry … that’s the simplest part. Caring and loving people is the art. And if you can’t perfect the art, your chair will always be empty.” Passionate about training the next generation to be compassionate and empathetic, Gray doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges for providers or patients. She advises students, “Know that the underserved, elderly, vulnerable and minority communities among us are often forgotten in this healthcare system. We have an obligation to take care of those people in our society.” Her dedication to the field has won the respect of both students and colleagues. Gray has been recognized with several teaching honors, including the ‘Student’s Choice Award.’ Most recently, she was accepted into the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership, graduating last October. Gray’s leadership skills led to her being chosen to spearhead Meharry’s charge to create and staff one of the city’s COVID-19 Community Assessment Centers. While she is deeply invested in her work, Gray never loses sight of her priorities. “I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter and then a dentist – in that order,” she explained. Daughter Jillian just finished her first year at Rhodes College, where she is part of the track and field team and considering a career as a physician. Son Phillip is a rising junior at Ensworth where he loves playing football. “Like any American family, we stay so busy with our children’s activities,” she noted with a laugh. Whether raising children or the next generation of dentists, Gray hopes her legacy is to instill in them a servant’s heart so that everyone she touches will go out and touch the lives of others.
Pam Jones always wanted to be a nurse. “I came to the healthcare profession very naturally. My father was a physician, and my mother was a nurse.” she said of growing up in a medical household. What she didn’t know in the beginning was how much she would come to love being a nurse leader. Undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing brought the Florida native to Nashville. After earning her degree, she moved to Atlanta for a staff nursing position with the Henrietta Egleston Children’s Hospital in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the first new graduate the hospital had ever hired into the NICU. Enticed to return to Vanderbilt, it didn’t take long before Jones was approached about taking on more responsibility in a supervisory role. “I had never considered leadership and management,” she recalled. “About a year later, there was a vacancy in the Pediatric ICU. It was a stressful position, and there had been five managers in five years. I was asked to apply, and I wound up staying in the position five years. That’s when I really fell in love with leadership.” With her interest awakened, Jones enrolled at her alma mater for graduate studies, earning her master’s in 1992 and completing her Doctor of Nursing Practice just over a decade later. “I have had the advantage of an incredible education and excellent mentors,” said Jones. “I have obtained three degrees from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. All of these educational experiences have shaped who I am as a nurse and a leader.” With each academic pursuit, Jones credited a cadre of professors for helping expand her worldview. “I also had the opportunity to work closely with Dean Linda Norman and the late Dean Colleen Conway-Welch. Both women are incredible role models of what a female leader looks like,” she said. Similarly, Jones has been greatly influenced by other talented nurse executives including Marilyn Dubree at Vanderbilt and June Bowman, the former chief nursing officer at Centennial Medical Center. “I have gained so much from mentors over the years that I am absolutely passionate about mentoring other leaders,” said Jones. She was thrilled when a long-time mentee called one day, saying she was in a difficult position but ‘channeled her inner Pam Jones’ to address the situation. “I could have retired happy that day,” Jones laughed. Considering her broad responsibilities at
Vanderbilt and in the community, thank goodness she didn’t! “I have the perfect job at this point in my career,” Jones noted of her work that includes serving as advisor and subject matter expert for the Master of Nursing Science and Nursing and Healthcare Leadership programs, serving on the DNP Curriculum Committee, teaching economics and finance, and overseeing community outreach and operations. “The School of Nursing has a 30-year history of nurse practitioner-based clinics for the underserved,” Jones added of this critical component of work, which improves access to vulnerable populations. “The beauty of leadership is that you can use your talents to create environments where those around you can succeed and do wonderful things for patients, families and communities,” she said. “I have a particular passion for advanced practice providers – APRNs and PAs. I believe that they are an important part of the future of healthcare.” Jones noted the work of nurses and advanced practice providers has been in the spotlight during COVID-19. “I’m so proud of all healthcare but especially nurses who have stepped up. It’s what we’re trained to do in emergencies.” She also said many lessons will come out of the pandemic to inform and improve the future delivery of care. As part of her mission to help create the next generation of talented, innovative advanced practice providers who will lead that work, Jones often shares some of her favorite insights. She stresses the need to be brave and appropriately stand up for beliefs, to invest in yourself and in developing emotional intelligence, to keep things in perspective and stay balanced, and to always remember to laugh. Husband Glenn, son Hayden, and furry family members in the form of two dogs and a cat provide the perspective and plenty of laughter. While she and her husband primarily live in Nashville, the couple also has a farmhouse in Greenbrier. “I have recently discovered a passion for rural living,” Jones said after spending more time at the farm over the last few months. “This ‘city girl’ has even put in her first bed of tomatoes,” she added with enthusiasm. Jones is quick to remind students and mentees that investing time in yourself to recharge doesn’t take away from the work at hand. Instead, it provides the energy needed to pursue your passions.
NICOLE MCCOIN MD
Keith D. Wrenn Residency Program Director, Vice Chair for Education & Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine Vanderbilt University Medical Center
DNP, CNM, RN
Chief Operating Officer The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial & TriStar Centennial Women’s Hospital
Growing up in Franklin, Nicole McCoin spent more than her fair share of time around hospitals as her father battled chronic ischemic heart disease. That experience, combined with a love of science, ultimately led her to her specialty. “I realized the significant positive impact that physicians … particularly those in the Emergency Department in my case … had on our family and the greater community,” she explained. Staying nearby as her father’s condition escalated, McCoin completed her undergrad and medical degrees at Vanderbilt, followed by internship and residency. As she was completing her training in 2006-2007, McCoin was named chief resident and ultimately continued as faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center where she now holds an endowed directorship. McCoin loves every aspect of her field. “From a clinical perspective on shift, it has been such a privilege to be able to care for people throughout our entire community in their times of greatest need,” she said. “From a leadership perspective, emergency medicine is a field that attracts people who like to problem-solve and innovate together in a variety of situations from on shift in the Emergency Department to the board room solving operational challenges.” she continued. As much as she enjoys all of her roles, teaching is a passion. “Whether in didactics or at the bedside, sharing knowledge with others is incredibly fulfilling,” she said. McCoin noted that it takes years of experience and repetition to develop skills and knowledge in the specialty of emergency medicine, and it’s exciting to watch the growth of medical students and residents. “You can see such a transformation happen throughout the course of resident training,” she said. “Additionally, beyond the classroom and bedside, mentoring and sponsoring junior faculty, residents and medical students as they navigate their own career paths is extremely rewarding.” McCoin said she benefited from similar attention from a number of generous physician mentors throughout her career. “However, my greatest mentor was my father, Col. Richard Streiff. Although his career was in the military and not in medicine, he taught me what it takes to be a true leader,” she said of the West Point graduate who served as President
Eisenhower’s military aide. “He was an amazingly gifted man who was a born leader, and I am so grateful I could learn so much from him.” Not surprisingly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In 2012, McCoin was named a Harvard Macy Scholar, and she is currently part of the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Fellowship at Drexel University College of Medicine. Selected as part of the 2019-20 class for the all-female fellowship, McCoin said the opportunity has been a transformative experience. “This fellowship has been one of the best experiences I have had in my career,” she noted. “It has opened my eyes to even greater opportunities, so there are a lot of goals on my list now for the next 10 years,” she said with a laugh. As much as she loves her specialty, McCoin readily recognizes the stress that is inherent in emergency medicine. “We break bad news often. We have to make significant decisions with limited information and in a rapid fashion,” she said. “Therefore, finding ways to manage that stress are incredibly vital, particularly after years of work in this career.” For McCoin, her greatest stress busters are family, friends and tennis. She and husband Patrick are parents to Catherine, 13; James, seven; and youngest Richard, four, who is named after her late father. With everyone home from work and school amid the pandemic, she’s trying to “find simplicity in the chaos.” She also loves spending time with her mother and extended family in the area, along with a close network of friends. “My old friends make me feel like I’m still 25, and my tennis buddies keep me laughing.” While McCoin said she doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, she has gained some hard-won knowledge over the years. “I think a day should be considered a ‘good day’ if you have tried to do something a little bit better than the day before,” she said, adding the sentiment is widely applicable to all phases of life. “If you try to be a little kinder, study a little harder, tackle a new project, get a little healthier … then I think you can qualify that day as a success.” It’s a good reminder as the next busy shift starts, residents arrive, and patients present in the ED looking for skilled, compassionate care. “Each day is a clean, new slate, and I try to take advantage of that and give each day my all,” McCoin concluded.
Fluent in four languages, perhaps Amber Price’s most important communication skill is her desire to listen. “My most important mentors have been the women I have cared for at the bedside. When we listen to our patients, we learn what we need to do to serve their needs best, and we find a sense of purpose,” she said. “Mothers are the best advocates for their children,” Price continued. “If you can listen, pause and change direction as a provider, that serves you well in a leadership role.” Born in Holland with time split between The Netherlands and the United States, Price began her healthcare career as a medical assistant at the age of 18. She later earned a degree in behavioral science from the University of Maryland, followed by her nursing degree from Old Dominion University in Virginia and master’s in her field from the University of Cincinnati. In 2016, Price completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice, Executive from Johns Hopkins University with a focus on change leadership. “My love for hospital leadership came from a passion for building infrastructures that improve outcomes and experiences for vulnerable families,” Price explained. With the exception of a short detour into cardiology, Price has spent her entire career in maternal and pediatric care. “Women and children need individualized care, every time,” she noted, adding the two specialties afford different opportunities that require different solutions. Focused on creating systems that serve all patients, particularly marginalized and underserved populations, Price said it’s critical to make decisions that keep you accountable. While always being mindful to stay within safety parameters, she noted true change requires new ways of thinking about old problems. “I want people to try new things … even if they don’t work out. That’s how we’re going to transform healthcare,” she said. “Only when people are unafraid to make mistakes do they become brave enough to speak up and share their ideas.” For a change agent, the gulf between emerging evidence and a highly regulated industry that isn’t very nimble can be frustrating. “One way I overcome that lag is to work with what we already have available today,” she said. “It takes a team with a strong voice and a passion for their patients to move with agility,” Price continued. “I am very fortunate to have nurses
and physicians on my team who love to help me solve these problems … tomorrow’s solutions with today’s resources.” She added administrators must also listen to people on the front lines no matter what the position. “They will bring you the solution to every problem if you empower and thank them,” Price noted. She said there are few things more satisfying than building infrastructures that cast a broad and inclusive net and then seeing the positive impact those initiatives have on real people’s lives. “I teach and lecture on change leadership, sharing knowledge that improves maternal and child health on a larger scale. I know that I have a direct impact on someone’s birth experience or pediatric emergency, and there is no greater job satisfaction than that,” she said. An area where Price hopes to see significant change is in the maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the United States. “With a laser focus on our care and the courage to change it, we can prevent this devastating loss to American families. I plan to roll up my sleeves and be a part of the solution,” Price said unequivocally. Lessons learned early in her career while delivering care and ensuring access in rural settings has helped Price inform practice in Nashville’s urban setting. “We’ve been able to translate that here where we have a zero percent maternal mortality rate at Centennial.” When not working, Price looks forward to spending time with her husband Joe and daughters Saskia and Sky whenever they can all gather in one space. Joe, who retired from the Air Force, works as a government civilian at the Pentagon, while one daughter lives in Virginia and the other finishes college. “We’re a military family, so we’re used to deployments,” she said with a smile. In Nashville, Price enjoys the vibrancy of living downtown but makes sure to carve out plenty of time outdoors. “I am an avid hiker with a love of waterfalls,” she said of hours spent exploring remote areas of Tennessee. Home base for the family, though, is Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay where Price grows oysters. “Metaphorically, oysters are the best purifiers and have the ability to transform their environment,” she explained. It seems like the perfect pastime for someone who has spent her entire career as a change agent.
CYNTHIA Y. REISZ
Member Bass, Berry & Sims PLC
PHD, LPC-MHSP, NCC
Executive Director, Military Services Centerstone
When Cindy Reisz is in … she’s all in. A Nashville native who earned both her undergraduate and law degrees from Vanderbilt University, Reisz has spent her entire career at Bass, Berry & Sims. During her tenure, she has become a nationally recognized healthcare attorney and member of the firm’s Executive Committee, with leadership responsibilities for four offices and more than 300 attorneys. On June 1, Reisz will begin her term as president-elect of the American Health Law Association. Reisz began her practice in the firm’s corporate and securities group. “Most of the transactions I worked on involved healthcare companies,” she noted. “I worked on public offerings and private placements … and later leveraged buyouts for a variety of companies in the healthcare space, such as AmSurg – now Envision. The more I learned about their businesses, the more I realized I had a strong interest in working directly with these companies.” Joining the firm’s healthcare practice group in the mid-90’s, she also continued as part of the corporate and securities group, focusing exclusively on healthcare. Reisz found the work challenging and exciting. Mentors Brad Reed and Jim Cheek, who were both senior partners at the firm, helped her hone her skills as a healthcare attorney. “They taught me to listen to the client, seek to understand their goals and then find a way to help the client accomplish those goals in a compliant manner. I appreciate the guidance and support they both have given me over the years. We lost Brad a few years ago, but I still think back to his words of advice,” she said. Keeping clients compliant is an ongoing challenge. Reisz said healthcare companies must thread the needle between federal laws such as the Stark law, the Anti-Kickback Statute, HIPAA, the False Claims Act and many other regulations in tandem with similar, but not identical, state statutes. “All of these federal laws, together with their state counterparts, make it so difficult for a healthcare company to operate in a nimble manner,” she said. “It’s like solving a puzzle where the pieces don’t all line up.” It takes constant work to stay current. “I scan the CMS and OIG websites every morning and spend a lot of time reading the Federal Register when proposed and final rules are published,” Reisz noted. “You can’t dabble in healthcare. You have to really understand the laws that impact your clients.”
Gaining that type of in-depth knowledge is what first attracted Reisz to the American Health Law Association (AHLA). “I knew it was an incredibly valuable resource for healthcare lawyers. I started out just being a consumer of what they offered,” Reisz said of educational and networking opportunities. Before long, she began volunteering with the national organization, taking on increasing responsibilities including leading a practice group and chairing the planning committee for a large meeting. Seven years ago, Reisz was asked to join the board. In June 2021, she will become the first woman and just the second president in AHLA’s history to hail from Nashville. “One of my goals is to help AHLA expand its reach to healthcare professionals … not only lawyers but also other professionals such as consultants and compliance officers … as AHLA produces many valuable resources that would benefit them.” She said it will also be interesting to see what impact COVID-19 might have on the regulatory landscape. “I think the coronavirus has been the impetus for healthcare providers seeking opportunities to be more creative in how they deliver services to their patients,” Reisz said. “We will have learned some lessons from how the healthcare field addressed access to care,” she added, pointing to temporarily loosened telehealth regulations. Although her days are incredibly busy between client work at the firm and AHLA responsibilities, Reisz is always eager to spend time with family. “I have three daughters who are all strong, independent young women following their own passions,” she said. Eldest daughter Collins has returned to Nashville and works in logistics. Lindsey is in graduate school studying marine science in Miami. Taylor, the youngest, returned last fall from working in Germany. She currently works in insurance and intends to pursue a master’s degree in global health. “I love watching them make their own way in the world,” said their proud mother. Outside of family, Reisz also enjoys working off stress on the tennis court when she has down time. “I love to play and have a group of friends I met through tennis who are very important to me,” she noted. Time with family and friends re-energizes Reisz as she works to make a difference in healthcare. “I am not a provider, obviously, but I do my best to support clients as they strive to make a difference in the way healthcare is provided.”
As the daughter of an Air Force veteran, wife of a retired Green Beret, and mother of an active duty Air Force service member, Jodie Robison is uniquely suited to serve those who serve our country. With a master’s degree in counseling and doctorate in human services, she brings two decades of clinical knowledge and a lifetime of personal experience to her role leading Centerstone’s Military Services. “I got involved in the behavioral health care of military service members, veterans and their families when I recognized the difficulties facing this community during the First Gulf War,” Robison explained. “Service members were separated from their loved ones for combat deployments for the first time in many years and represented – for the most part – a new generation of our military. These separations contributed to anxiety, depression, stress and relational problems in the military community. Seeing the toll it was taking on my friends and loved ones in that community prompted me to want to help address these issues.” Robison credited her parents with helping spark her passion. By exposing her to the military lifestyle, she grew up with an idea and understanding of the unique challenges faced by this community. Clinically, she said her work has been greatly influenced by E.C. Hurley, DMin, PhD, an internationally renowned trainer and therapist who is also a U.S. Army veteran. “He helped me learn a great deal about post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD – it’s clinical presentation and treatment conceptualization,” said Robison. “I have become a much better treatment provider as a result of his guidance.” The need is great, added Robison. The suicide rate among active-duty military and veterans is high. In fact, for a number of years now, more active-duty personnel have died from suicide than in combat. PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and relational issues also plague those who have served. Yet, Robison said, the stigma attached to seeking help remains strong and is still a major barrier to accessing care. “Although there has recently been a shift in perspective, historically, service members who sought behavioral health care were looked down upon from within … which, in turn, contributed to a sense of guilt and shame in help-seeking,” she said. “In addition, service members feared losing their careers
due to being diagnosed with a behavioral health disorder and/ or taking psychotropic medications,” she added of the most challenging aspects of getting help to those who need it most. To address the issue of suicide, Robison is working with colleagues at Centerstone’s Research Institute on the adaptation of a new intervention that she is hopeful will change outcomes for those with suicidal ideation. While focusing on this new therapeutic strategy, she said she is truly passionate about all aspects of her work from direct patient care to operational oversight to advocating for legislation that supports service members, families and veterans. While there are challenges, she noted it is an honor to give back “to the men and women who have sacrificed through their service to this country.” Robison added, “As a trained clinician, I get the greatest reward from providing clinical treatment to address military-related PTSD. When I provide treatment, using evidence-based psychotherapies, I generally see positive changes in my clients. This brings me hope that the men and women who have selflessly served this country can live their happiest, healthiest lives.” To achieve her own best state, Robison knows she has to carve out time to stay physically active. “I believe physical and mental well-being go hand-in-hand,” she said. She also happily recharges her batteries with her husband and two grown daughters. Her other favorite way to unwind is by watching lots of Spanish language movies. Robison noted with a laugh that it was an unusual pastime but one that keeps her skills sharp. With an undergraduate degree in Spanish, being bilingual helps her connect with more military members and families. Forging connections to help this selfless population not just survive, but truly thrive, is a powerful motivator for Robison and one small way she shows her gratitude for their sacrifices. “We can all sleep at night because we have the greatest military in the world,” she said. “There are many missed birthdays, anniversaries graduations and other holidays with family and friends. There are lives lost and injuries incurred – all in the name of securing our freedom. They took care of us … the very least we can do is take care of them. #neverforget,” she concluded.
MELISSA SCALISE MD
Assistant Professor & Associate Program Director of Internal Medicine University of Tennessee â€“ Nashville Internal Medicine Program at Ascension Saint Thomas
From the outside looking in, Missy Scalise might not have seemed a likely candidate for medical school while growing up in a trailer park in Norfolk, Neb. Luckily, looks can be deceiving. â€œMy family didnâ€™t have much, but what we lacked in financial resources, my parents more than made up in parental involvement and support,â€? Scalise said. â€œMy mother went to college when I was a young girl, and I grew up with the expectation that I would go to college, too.â€? A high school biology teacher solidified Scaliseâ€™s love of science as she entered college at Wayne State with a focus on entomology. â€œHowever, my life and my choices changed during my sophomore year when I lost my father to suicide,â€? she said. â€œWorking through that experience caused me to think deeply about what matters most in life to me.â€? With a renewed sense of the importance of positive interactions and determination not to let fear of failure limit her possibilities, Scalise decided to welcome opportunities that came her way. Saying â€˜yesâ€™ to spending the summer of her junior year in Texas changed her career trajectory. â€œI participated in the Summer Medical And Research Training (SMART) program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston,â€? she recalled. â€œWhile there, I performed laboratory research on breast cancer, rounded with inpatient teams, and volunteered at the childrenâ€™s hospital.â€? She found interacting with patients on rounds brought her joy and sparked passion. â€œI realized then that I wanted to be a physician.â€? Her affinity for searching for diagnoses, treating complex illnesses and developing patient relationships led her to internal medicine. She also loved teaching, having been a tutor throughout her academic career. After graduating first in her med school class from the University of Nebraska, Scalise completed an internal medicine residency at Vanderbilt and served as chief resident for internal medicine in the UT/Ascension Saint Thomas program. With training complete, she accepted a faculty position at Vanderbilt, where she rose to Master Clinical Teacher. Although she credits many mentors and colleagues for enhancing her practice of medicine, Scalise said John Sergent, MD, rheumatologist at Vanderbilt and former program director of the residency program, has had the greatest impact as a mentor and role model. â€œDuring my first month of internship, I had difficulty transitioning into the new role and felt I was not meeting
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expectations,â€? she said. â€œDr. Sergent was kind in his willingness to listen to and support me through that transition. He is the kind of doctor and teacher I want to become.â€? The offer of Associate Program Director for the UT/ Ascension Saint Thomas internal medicine program provided an exciting new challenge. â€œI jumped at the opportunity to play a significant role in teaching residents, as well as working on administration of the program and developing curriculum,â€? she explained. Scalise added she loves being part of mentoring the professionâ€™s future leaders. COVID-19 has added new challenges both to patient care and teaching. â€œThe new virus has changed every aspect of how we deliver care and how we connect with patients, as well as how we teach residents,â€? she said of adjusting to new norms. Prior to the outbreak, Scalise said â€œhelping patients navigate the complex healthcare system, as well as trying to mitigate health disparities related to social determinantsâ€? ranked among the most difficult barriers to optimal care. Now, COVID-19 has amplified those challenges. One piece of advice she shares with residents is to hang onto the positive emails, notes and tokens of appreciation received. â€œThen, when you have a hard day, you can look to them for motivation and inspiration. They remind you why you are here.â€? Outside the hospital, Scaliseâ€™s reason for being centers around her two young sons â€“ Lucas, nine, and Leo, six. â€œIt is amazing to see their personalities develop over time,â€? she said. â€œLucas is very into soccer,â€? she noted, adding he was able to attend the first Nashville SC game before the pandemic shut everything down. â€œLeo is very into Pokemon,â€? Scalise added with a grin. â€œI really like being physically active and being creative, too,â€? she continued of bike rides with the boys and running. Scalise has also written a childrenâ€™s book about connectivity in a world of screens. â€œIt was after my second son was born. I was standing in line and every person was looking at a phone,â€? she explained of the impetus for â€˜Wadgets in the Land of Loodles,â€™ which explores the power of personal connections. Making important connections has been a continuous theme for Scalise â€Ś whether itâ€™s connecting the dots for a diagnosis, building longitudinal relationships with patients or helping the next generation of physicians find their footing.
Vanderbilt Nursing Salutes Pam Jones
DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN Associate Dean for Clinical & Community Partnerships Vanderbilt University School of Nursing
Dr. Pam Jones is an example of nursing leadership at Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and in our community. We are honored to call her colleague and friend; moreover, Nashville has benefitted by her leadership and commitment to the health of our community! â€” Marilyn Dubree, MSN, NE-BC, Executive Chief Nursing Officer
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