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Texas: The six-star state

On the night of Aug. 12, as a hot breeze whistled through Houston and temperatures lingered at around 100 degrees, 30 nurses and their colleagues, family and friends gathered at the Norris Conference Center to celebrate the RNs’ being chosen as’s 2011 Nursing Excellence Awards regional finalists.

The event, hosted by Eileen P. Williamson, RN, MSN, senior vice president for nursing communications & initiatives for Gannett Healthcare Group, and other members of GHG’s executive and managerial staff, was an opportunity to share with everyone the individual accomplishments of the select 30 and to witness the announcement of the six regional winners.

“We wait with great anticipation all year for this night,” Williamson said during the event. “It’s because of you and your fellow nurses that healthcare in the United States, and the lives of patients all over the nation, are made better each and every day.”

The finalists were presented with plaques recognizing their achievements, as a video presentation highlighted the career of each RN. Also, all RNs in attendance were given letter openers as gifts from GHG. Later in the evening, the regional winners were announced and presented with obelisks, as the room erupted into applause. The winners, featured here, will represent the state in the national competition. National Nurse of the Year winners will be featured in the November issue of The Magazine.


Terry Throckmorton, RN, PhD
Associate Chief of Nursing Research Evidence-Based Practice
The Methodist Hospital

Throckmorton is such a champion for other nurses that each year she nominates at least 15 colleagues for various awards and recommendations, which is partly why she was surprised that — this time — she was the one being honored.

“I am absolutely stunned [by this award],” she said, during her acceptance speech during the gala. “Some of my best friends competed with me in this category. I’m very surprised I came out on top because they are all wonderful nurse leaders.”

As a mentor, she not only guides her nursing students and staff — helping them create innovative projects that advance the profession — but also regularly befriends professionals she meets during meetings or presentations and helps them in their own development.

“I have a belief in nurturing staff and helping them make their ideas manifest at our institution. They have wonderful ideas and they just need a little support. Everyone has something to offer.”


Alice Neycheril, ANP-C, DNP, CRRN
Nurse Practitioner
Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center

During the awards ceremony, Neycheril was quick to thank those around her.
“I am so humbled and most honored to be standing in front of you during this prestigious award ceremony,” she said. “I want to thank everyone who finds my efforts praiseworthy, especially the award selection committee, my collegues, friends and my family. By recognizing my work, you are really honoring the clients who truly need our advocacy because they are not yet able to protect themselves.”

Her interventions as a provider of physical rehabilitation oftentimes extend far beyond the scope of duty, placing her at the forefront of improving patient care. She also has shared her expertise on evidence-based practice and maintaining a balanced lifestyle through numerous presentations.

“I strongly believe nursing is ‘the hospitality of the hospital.’ I always try to correlate my work, my volunteer activities and my family life to reflect what Mahatma Ghandi said about bringing change: ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’ I accept this award on behalf of the veterans and other deserved indigent populations all over the country who need our protection.”


Malinda Harden Cannon, RN, BS
School Nurse
Arlington (Texas) Independent School District

For the hundreds of kids whose lives she’s touched as their school nurse, Cannon is a hero. But on the night of the gala, she called attention to her mentors and other nurses’ accomplishments. “What a surprise for me to win this award in such a field of extraordinary community service people,” she said. “I would like to thank my mentors and peers.”

Cannon recalled one of her mentors during nursing school, Billie Gurke, RN, who was “relentless and fearless in her work as an inner-city high school nurse. She was instrumental in organizing a tattoo removal clinic called D-Tag at her school. Through D-Tag, she encouraged kids to leave gangs and return to mainstream productive lives. Envisioning potential for children changes them. I follow her inspiration and example daily. I hope to model kindness and expectations of success for each of [the children] as I teach about bodies and wellness.”

When discussing the young pupils in her school district that she helps on a daily basis, Cannon said, “I’m inspired by the children’s courage and their resiliency.”


Sharon A. Land, RN, BSN, MBA, CNOR
Administrative Director, Perioperative Services
Harris County Hospital District

As someone charged with directing perioperative services in a system comprised of two public hospitals, each staffed by a separate medical school, Land understands the importance of streamlining. She was able to standardize purchasing and processes and has consistently improved quality outcomes. Her work has resulted in a 5% increase in surgeries and a reduction in surgery cancellations and late-start surgeries.

In addition, Land helped integrate an electronic system upgrade in both facilities to capture standardized nursing/patient statistical reports. Her vision for and implementation of integrated perioperative services for the hospitals and ability to negotiate with physicians has earned her the admiration and respect of her employees — not to mention garnered increased satisfaction among patients.

On gala night, however, while standing at the podium accepting her award, Land made it clear her award was a team effort. “I’m certainly humbled by this experience,” she said. “My gratitude goes out to everyone I work with. This is really their award, because I wouldn’t be standing here without their support.”


Tonya S. Pena, RN-BC
Clinical Coordinator
Methodist Mansfield (Texas) Medical Center

When Pena recognized a communication breakdown among nurses in her department, she implemented a daily communication briefing called Circle Up, during which nurses discuss key findings in their patients. Within just two months, employees became so invested in briefings they began holding them on the night and weekend shifts.

About her nomination and subsequent win in the Mentoring category, Pena said, “I’m surprised. There were so many wonderful nominees. I’m very dedicated to my staff, co-workers and the nursing profession, and hopefully that came across.

“I have a desire for others to have that same passion,” she said. “I came to nursing as a second career, and I had mentors who introduced me to nursing. My goal is to pay it forward. Where else can you make such a difference in people’s lives?”

Pena also was chosen as the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council Employee of the Year and was included on the DFW Great 100 list this year. “It has been a special year for me,” she said. “I am blessed in that I love what I do every day, and I am humbled and honored to receive this award.”


Martina Gallagher, RN, PhD
Associate Professor
University of Texas Health Science Center of Houston
School of Nursing

As someone whose compassion compels her to listen and provide useful advice, Gallagher has positively affected scores of students.

“I want to give a heartfelt thanks to the nursing students who nominated me,” Gallagher said that evening. “By giving me the opportunity to teach them, I have really grown as an individual. I grew up in Mexico City, so I feel very much part of that rich culture. Growing up in the Latino culture helps me understand how to guide my students in learning the art and science of being a nurse.”

To Gallagher, what stood out about the gala was “the amazing amount of talent and leadership in our region. Listening to the description of each nominee, I saw how we all have gifts we share with colleagues, students, patients and communities,” she said.

Apropos to her award category, Gallagher plans to turn the award ceremony into a future lesson for her students. “I would like them to reflect on how they would want someone else to describe their accomplishments in nursing.”

By | 2020-04-15T13:08:04-04:00 October 10th, 2011|Categories: Regional, South|0 Comments

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