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Meet the 2014 Texas GEM Award finalists is proud to introduce our 2014 finalists for the Texas region GEM (Giving Excellence Meaning) Awards. Nominations were reviewed and evaluated by our RN judges, who chose 18 Texas finalists.


Tommye Austin, RN, PhD, MBA, NEA-BC: Regional chief nursing executive, Baptist Health System/Tenet Healthcare Corporation, San Antonio

Austin has advanced the profession through program/business development, staff/leader professional development, patient care management, research, innovation and the ability to execute well-designed programs. She was instrumental in the development of several clinical programs, including those for wound care nurses, diabetes educators and lactation consultants, and played a key role in developing the stroke center. Austin has presented at local, regional and international conferences on stroke. She has secured more than $805,000 in funds annually to support the clinical advancement, national certification and tuition reimbursement programs. She has dedicated resources for benchmarking, and as a Six Sigma Green Belt, she has implemented patient and staff safety strategies. She supported and funded the development of simulation in the NICU. Her research interests include the study of emotional intelligence and she is a trainer in Crucial Conversations. She serves as a board member of the Louise Batz Patient Safety Foundation that supports innovative advancement in patient safety and was instrumental in the development of the Batz Patient Safety Guide. Under her leadership, Baptist Health System has developed iCLASS, an electronic learning management system. Austin has served as a mentor to military residents and graduate students pursuing their master’s and doctoral degrees.

Lori S. Frank, RN, MSN: Retired U.S. Navy captain, U.S. Navy, San Antonio

Frank retired in May 2013 after 27 years of military nursing leadership. She was the first female general duty nurse aboard a combatant aircraft carrier, and was one of the first nurses stationed with the Marines in Okinawa, Japan. She revitalized a quality assurance program and initiated a military education program for all medical personnel. She also began mass casualty and code drills, adding ambulance transport, patient moulage, videotaping and after-action briefs to bring realism. In Iraq, she served as director of ancillary services for a level 2 trauma hospital in Al Asad, Iraq.. Frank served as the Navy service lead with the medical education and training campus in San Antonio that uses the latest technology and training for healthcare professionals in three branches of the military in one location. She served as inaugural director for the first class of 5,000. She also served on the board of directors for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, traveled to Sierra Leone to teach and served as a nursing consultant for two major motion pictures: “Pearl Harbor” and “Windtalkers.” Her many awards include UCLA’s distinguished alumna, Fleet Marine Force Qualification, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal. Her work has created new pathways for nurses, women and healthcare training for the military.

Patricia Newcomb, RN, PhD, CPNP: Nurse scientist, Texas Health Resources, Fort Worth

Newcomb is responsible for promoting, initiating and facilitating nursing research. She leads the development of nursing research activities and aligns research with the priorities of the hospitals. Newcomb also develops grant proposals and identifies and acquires the necessary funding from private and public sources. She participates in the development of evidence-based practice initiatives and programs and promotes translation of high-quality evidence into practice. She disseminates research findings to the scientific community through professional journals and conferences and facilitates the scholarly products of other nurse authors within her organization. She served as president for her local chapters of Sigma Theta Tau and Pi Alpha Alpha and recently finished service as secretary for the International Society of Nurses in Genetics. She was one of the first nurses in her region to promote the interest of nurses in genetics and was the first and only nurse to direct an academic genomics translational research lab in Texas. Newcomb makes a measurable difference through her research, the research of nurses she mentors and the teaching she conducts about research within the hospital network. She currently is facilitating 16 research projects by teams of nurses and other professionals. She presents at local, regional, national and international conferences several times per year.


Neetha Tony Jawe, RN, MSN, CCRN: Clinical resource nurse, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston

Jawe serves as the clinical leader, charge nurse and clinical coach and is a member of the medical emergency rapid intervention team. She brings enthusiasm, positive energy and fresh ideas to motivate her peers into action on the clinical coach, clinical effectiveness, education and quality improvement committees. She has an ability to remain calm and soothe others in a chaotic, stressful environment. Jawe is dedicated to honoring the worth of humans through unconditional respect and acceptance, kind and careful handling of the human body and recognition of rights and responsibilities. She has participated in numerous projects and professional action coordinating teams. She served as the co-lead on an evidence-based project involving critically Ill patients who were often unable to communicate their pain score and piloted the use of the behavioral pain score to improve pain management by standardizing pain assessment for intubated and sedated patients, now an established part of the documentation system. Jawe monitors and trends nurse-sensitive indicators such as ventilator-associated pneumonia, pressure ulcers, medication and safety errors, falls, patient satisfaction, catheter-related blood stream infections and catheter-associated urinary tract infections. She enhances the quality of care and has been instrumental in implementing a new patient care delivery model, primary team nursing.

Brandie McBride, RN, BSN: Staff nurse, Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie (Texas)

McBride is instrumental in providing education to staff on new initiatives, ensuring patient safety measures are met and addressing any deficits in education during the shift. She helped with a project that considerably improved Press Ganey patient satisfaction measures. McBride, as part of a team, was instrumental in the education and institution of measures to improve the call light response time, earning an award at the Bill Aston Quality Summit along with an offer to present at the 2014 Nursing Quality Summit. She has improved safety through training and auditing and has been nominated for service awards for taking exceptional care of patients. She can think outside the box and mentors staff with documentation and training. McBride is outstanding in taking on challenges and working to make a difference. She is often recognized by physicians, nurses and patients alike. She has begun a new project with nurses on the unit to improve the education of patients on medication side effects and has taken the role of housewide and nursing council representative. As a member of operational redesign team, she worked to create more than 45 process maps for nursing related to the facility move in December.

Amanda Truelove, RN, BSN, RNC-OB: Nurse manager, Methodist Mansfield (Texas) Medical Center

Truelove has been instrumentalin reducing early elective deliveries and has been recognized nationally for her efforts. She helped implement a practice in which all scheduled cesarean sections had to have a Leapfrog/ACOG medical reason before being scheduled. She was asked to present locally and nationally because of her success in decreasing elective deliveries. She is leading the hospital’s participation in a program to improve the quality of care, education and support for moms and their babies. She developed computerized nurse scheduling and a SharePoint website for the unit to share evidence-based practices, clinical research, patient success stories and honors for every staff member of the department. She was instrumental in implementing the nurse-physician collaborative that is used at the hospital to improve the patient experience while creating satisfying work roles. She built tool kits to facilitate communication and developed a video with numerous vignettes and FAQs illustrating the pros and cons of communicating quickly to improve patient care. Truelove is a key contributor to improving teamwork on the unit and the number of certified nurses has doubled under her leadership. She is dedicated to her profession and has been instrumental in helping staff transition to a family-centered care model.


Lisa Murphy, RN, MS: Director of education, Methodist Charlton Medical Center, Dallas

Recognizing how education, retention and employee satisfaction each play a part in quality of care and patient satisfaction, Murphy has played an integral role as the first director of education since the department was created in 2007. She built the department from the ground up, creating a standardized, coordinated program that encompasses all nursing units for a health system comprised of four medical centers and more than 2,000 nurses. The education department has expanded and flourished under her leadership. The quality of care, through the competency of nurses that has resulted, has made a huge difference to patients and their families. Her accomplishments are numerous and include the development of a simulation lab on campus, creation of biannual skills day events and the establishment of an affordable RN refresher program for nurses that includes both classroom and clinical opportunities. Murphy instituted a preceptor renewal program for nurses who mentor new graduates and also set up a mentoring program for new graduate nurses pairing them with experienced nurses for one year after their internship. She established a free nursing CE Program as well as ACLS, PALS and CPR classes on campus and is responsible for the coordination of the partnership nursing program with El Centro College in Dallas. With a passion for education. she is dedicated to excellence.

Connie O’Daniel, RN-BC, MSN: Manager, clinical informatics, Texas Health, Fort Worth

O’Daniel goes above ordinary role expectations. She is a leader for EHR use, training and education. She creates standards of excellence and is a role model for those standards. Her work touches every patient and clinical staff person in the organization, as well as many licensed independent practitioners in the community. She acts as a patient and staff advocate for improving the process, including how to best incorporate the charting process into the clinicians’ workflow. She always keeps the patient at the center of the decision-making process. She is responsible for tailored training resulting in improved access to patient care information. O’Daniel has made an impact on healthcare in the community through project collaboration with another hospital, which provides information for clinical decision-making for physicians. She fostered collaboration between multiple departments for the extraordinary achievement of easily completing the attestation for an EMR adoption model, helping make her facility one of 160 hospitals to accomplish this level of electronic medical record usage. While this achievement is a collaborative team effort, O’Daniel provided essential leadership in educating, training and monitoring progress toward this goal.

Jerry M. Winfrey, RN, MSN, CPHQ: Director of nursing, patient safety and quality care, Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, Houston

Winfrey is a proponent of evidence-based practice, and has a propensity for instilling this framework into professional colleagues. She is a vocal leader in preserving the autonomy, self-efficacy, dignity and quality of life for patients. She consistently has demonstrated mastery in leading nursing quality initiatives and providing education to clinicians and administrative nurse leaders. She models high standards of integrity and ethical behavior and she works to mentor, empower and develop her team. She has partnered on strategic initiatives including the successful ANCC Pathway to Excellence re-designation. Whether she is leading or developing action plans for nurse sensitive indicators, Winfrey is viewed as the consummate educator and mentor. She is masterful at imbuing, all with whom she works, a spirit of inquiry, knowledge, skills and confidence to engage in delivery of nursing care that positively changes people’s lives. The National Association of Public Hospital Safety Network lauded her facility for its stellar work in transforming care and reducing morbidity in intubated patients, thanks, in part, to her efforts. Her efforts have helped lead to the implementation of several successful inhouse strategies also now used by other healthcare organizations around the nation.


Kalinda S. Longino, RN, CAPA: Clinical coordinator, Methodist Mansfield (Texas) Medical Center

Longino serves as a role model in the outpatient medical day area. She is dedicated to providing patients with quality care, appropriate infection control measures and compassion. She has excellent clinical skills and was asked to present her poster on how to improve SCIP measures in surgical services at a quality summit. Longino has increased patient satisfaction scores in the med day area, which now are in the 90th percentile. She implemented a code blue team and sits on numerous hospital committees impacting process improvements. Because of her clinical knowledge in emergency and outpatient medicine, Longino helped develop and redesign the cardiac arrest guidelines and implementation of the cath lab and step down units to lead quality care and improve care of patients in critical situations. She was responsible for training the staff and physicians on computerized order entries. She coaches, mentors and takes time to share her knowledge with high school students who shadow at the hospital each week. Longino understands the true meaning of giving back and serving her community. She takes time out of her schedule to lead first aid classes at local schools and helped coordinate 400 high school sports physicals. Her calm and compassionate nature is second to none.

Dana Tian, RN, OCN: Clinical nurse, The University of (Texas) MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston

Tian is a nurse in the Clinical and Translational Research Center where she is responsible for managing all aspects of patient enrollment and care during clinical trials. She is responsible for complex monitoring and detailed data collection to ensure patient safety and protocol compliance. She is active in teaching patients about the trials they enroll in and the treatment in these trials. Tian is focused, dedicated and follows through to ensure protocol compliance and patient safety. In the last five years, she supported studies at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center for 17 drugs that ultimately were FDA-approved. Tian takes the time to support both patient and provider to ensure the best possible care for patients. She is able to channel the best attributes of professional nurses to develop profound and impactful relationships with individuals, even in the relatively short context of an outpatient visit. She balances the roles and responsibilities of clinician and researcher. She even took the time to visit a patient just one hour before her own wedding rehearsal dinner.

Shainy B.Varghese, RN, MSN, CNPN PhD,Assistant professor, University of Houston Victoria, Sugar Land, Texas

Varghese started a nurse-managed clinic, improving access to primary care. She is a devoted primary care NP who started her solo pediatric practice in 2010 with a collaborating pediatrician. She is seen as a Florence Nightingale to her patients, especially to the Indian immigrants who speak her language. She opens her clinic on Saturdays to meet immigrant parent needs. Varghese also is an assistant professor at the University of Houston Victoria School of Nursing where she is involved in teaching, research and practice. She has volunteered to provide free vaccines to uninsured and underinsured children and also provides low-cost healthcare for under/uninsured children at her clinic. Varghese values education and has presented on the importance of immunization at multiple campuses of Fort Bend Independent School District for parents. She also has helped meet the educational expenses of nursing students in India. Varghese exemplifies nursing as a nurse educator, NP, mentor, role model and nurse entrepreneur. She provides exceptional healthcare to her pediatric patients. In addition, Varghese has published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at local, national and international conferences.


Amy Atnip, RN, MSN: Director of trauma and EMS, The Medical Center of Plano (Texas)

Atnip helped bring the undesignated trauma center at her facility to an American College of Surgeons verified Level II Trauma Center in five years by working closely with the trauma medical director and all clinical hospital departments. As an instructor in the trauma nurse core course, she teaches multiple times a year and is a role model and valuable resource to other facilities seeking trauma designation. She developed the trauma performance improvement program and was instrumental in the development of standard of care protocols for trauma patients. She also has led the EMS department in developing relationships that resulted in agreements establishing her facility as medical control medical control for several fire departments. In concert with EMS trauma office staff, she implemented evidence-based guidelines for the pre-hospital triage and treatment of trauma and stroke patients. This effort has resulted in early activation of the hospital’s STEMI team and an average EMS patient contact to balloon time of 65 minutes. To prevent young athletes from dying from undiagnosed heart problems, she organized a program offering sports physicals, which include ECG analysis, for a local school district.

Mary A.Bossier-Bearden, RN, NE-BC, MBA: Director of nursing, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, Harris Health System, Houston

Bossier-Bearden has a robust expectation of nursing care delivery. She is known within her service and throughout the hospital as a nurse leader who models high standards of integrity and ethical behavior, fosters a culture that is congruent with the evidence-based professional practice model, mentors her team and assures they have the autonomy to engage in exemplary patient care. A co-investigator and co-author, she is published and has presented nationally. Bossier-Bearden has worked on the organization’s projects, resulting in re-designation as an ANCC Pathway to Excellence facility, and plays a significant role in their Magnet journey. She has a knack for fostering open, collaborative systems and involving critical stakeholders in prioritizing care delivery for the patient population, which is traditionally culturally diverse, economically marginalized and typically underserved. Providing staff with flexibility for integration and delivery of services, she promotes informed independence and further hardwires the hospital’s shared-governance structure. She always is visible and not only has the acumen to excel in the role of nurse leader, she is equally qualified and willing to assume virtually any role that is required to ensure patients receive exceptional care.

Judy Joiner, RN, BSN, RNC-MNN: Nurse supervisor, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas

Joiner has a reputation for being influential and demonstrating a natural ability to lead her team. She enthusiastically mentors and coaches. To achieve departmental and organizational goals and objectives, Joiner assists in planning, developing, implementing, evaluating and monitoring policies and procedures, budgets and resources, continuous quality improvement initiatives, educational programs and shared governance/shared leadership councils. Her talent in leadership and commitment to a healthy work environment for all nurses has greatly influenced her unit’s staff engagement score, which is far above the norm. For new nurses, she created a strong orientation and organized a career path resulting in a 100% retention rate. She developed an assessment and educational tool for at-risk mothers and a late preterm infant nursing care guideline that reduced the incidence of hypothermia in infants, which was presented nationally. She implemented a self-governance and decision-making structure on her unit and has been the pioneer for significant process improvement strategies that have been impactful and sustainable. She also created a hospital supervisory council, developed a protocol for RNs that float to other units and is working to decrease bullying in the workplace.


Maria-Elisa Aganon, RN, BSN, CCRN: Clinical nurse, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston

Aganon is distinguished by her personal commitment to volunteerism. Her contributions are vast as she actively is engaged in several community-based organizations. She does more than volunteer at a single event. She serves as an inspiration for all staff with her actions and always is happy to provide guidance and encouragement to colleagues who wish to pursue volunteer work. She is a true example of how the nursing profession need not be limited to the professional setting, but how it can be implemented in many aspects and domains of peoples’ lives to profoundly impact communities. She is active in assisting Arts4Healing in raising funds to support the group, Surgical Volunteers International. which travels to Vietnam to perform cleft palate surgeries. On her birthday she asks that, in lieu of gifts, her family, friends and co-workers volunteer at the Beacon Day Center and at The Big Feast, where she facilitates a medical booth that offers Houston residents annual medical screenings. During these screenings, she provides education to individuals on maintaining their health and refers them to community-based healthcare providers for appropriate follow-up, as needed.

Jessica M. Hill, RN, BSN: Vice president of patient care services/CNO, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital, Southlake, Texas

Hill is an RN who provides nursing care, skills and expertise in outreach efforts to the community. She has a heart for the homeless and has offered countless volunteer hours at The Mission in Fort Worth and Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County. When she is not reaching out to fellow humans, Hill takes care of unwanted dogs and cats via Operation Kindness. She has donated time to more than 50 organizations in her area, with a strong focus on those groups benefitting chldren, such as Advent Urban Youth Development, The Warm Place, a grief counseling pre-school, Toys for Tots, a group providing hypnotherapy for handicapped children and Christ’s Haven for Children and Families for Effective Autism Treatment. Her volunteerism also benefits battered women, former military members, the elderly, families with children, the mentally ill, library patrons, those with cancer and diabetes and local businesses. Her outreach to organizations benefitting animals also includes Animal Angels, Bob Jones Nature Center Organization and Homeward Bound Animal Rescue. Her innovative, energetic and dedicated efforts to local, state and national programs are examples of how she goes above and beyond in everything she does.

Renee Richmond, RN, BSN: Administrative supervisor, Children’s Medical Center, Dallas

Richmond volunteers at her children’s schools and has a great passion for the homeless. Richmond and her family have volunteered with the Austin Street Shelter in Dallas for the past 11 years. She has recruited several families in her neighborhood and many staff members at Children’s to become involved with the shelter, which provides emergency shelter for women and men. Richmond and her family serve meals there one Saturday and Sunday every month. Not only does Richmond serve meals, but she assists with projects including clothing collections and drives for hats and gloves, toiletries, medications, school supplies and backpacks. She is an example of a servant leader who always is helping others. A couple of years ago, there was a clinical technician working on one of the inpatient floors at Children’s whose house was struck by a tornado. Richmond went to check on the employee, and the next time Richmond worked with the technician, she handed the employee a personal check. She is someone who gives more than she takes, always thinks of others and sets a good example for her children by helping others who are less fortunate.

— Compiled by Cheryl Portner

By | 2015-04-23T21:22:06-04:00 June 9th, 2014|Categories: Awards, GEM Awards, Regional, South|0 Comments

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