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Meet the 2014 Texas GEM Awards winners prides itself in recognizing the accomplishments of nurses of excellence at its GEM (Giving Excellence Meaning) award programs.

In Texas, a regional winner from each of the six categories — Advancing and Leading the Profession; Clinical Nursing, Inpatient; Education and Mentorship; Home, Community and Ambulatory Care; Patient and Staff Management; and Volunteerism and Service — was selected.

The regional winners move on to compete in the GEM national nurse of the year program.

“Our nursing excellence GEM Awards program shines brightly once again as we salute our 2014 regional winners,” said Eileen Williamson, RN, MSN, senior vice president and chief nurse executive. “Nominated and selected by their colleagues, they truly epitomize nursing at its best. We are honored to present them with our prestigious GEM awards and privileged to recognize them publicly for their many contributions to nursing and healthcare.” is pleased to introduce you to the 2014 GEM regional award winners.


Lori S. Frank, RN

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

Frank retired in May 2013 after 27 years of military nursing leadership. A pioneer for women in the military, she was respected because of her strong work ethic and effective and graceful leadership style.

“I firmly believe in the leadership philosophy that leaders work for the people and not the other way around,” Frank said. “Without the people there would not be a need for a leader. People should be treated fairly and with respect.”

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. In Iraq, she served as director of ancillary services for a level 2 trauma hospital in Al Asad.

Frank also 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 was a board member for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, traveled to Sierra Leone to teach and functioned 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.

In Frank’s most recent role with the Navy Medicine Training Support Center, she initiated the Department of Defense alcohol abuse and alcohol prevention program and developed the Navy’s sexual assault prevention program at Fort Sam Houston.

In 2011, as the director of the Basic Hospital Corps School, she helped transition the Navy training school in a cross country move and as the Navy service lead, she helped plan and develop the largest allied health campus in the world.

“Honestly, I was very surprised,” Frank said when she learned she was the Advancing and Leading the Profession GEM Award recipient. “I never thought I did anything special.”


Amanda Truelove, RN

Amanda Truelove, RN, BSN
Clinical nurse manager, Methodist Mansfield (Texas) Medical Center

“I was surprised and honored,” Truelove said when she learned she was the regional GEM Award winner in the Clinical Nursing, Inpatient category. “It was so nice of my peers to nominate me,” she added.

Truelove has been a role model for new and experienced nurses for more than 18 years and has moved the needle on evidence-based practices and patient experiences.

In her labor and delivery specialty, she has been instrumental in reducing early elective deliveries and has been recognized nationally for her efforts. Truelove was successful in decreasing elective deliveries from 13.3% in 2011 to 2.51% in 2013. She also was instrumental in helping implement a practice in which all scheduled cesarean sections had to have a Leapfrog/ACOG medical reason before being scheduled. Due to her success in this area, she was asked to give her presentation, “Hey! Wait! I’m Not Ready Yet!” at a hospital system quality summit and at the CMS Partnerships for Patients national conference.

Truelove is leading the hospital’s participation in a program that improves the quality of care, education and support for moms and their babies.

She developed computerized nurse scheduling and a 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 toolkits to facilitate communication and developed a video with numerous vignettes and FAQs illustrating the pros and cons of communicating quickly to improve patient care.

Teamwork has improved and increased, and the number of certified nurses has doubled under her leadership. “I know that my purpose is to serve those in need with a joyful heart, whether it be patients, their families or my peers.” Truelove said. “I feel blessed every day to work with a team that inspires me to always strive for excellence in patient care through innovation, enthusiasm, compassion and strong values.”

Mark Twain’s quote, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why,” is particularly dear to Truelove, a labor and delivery nurse, because she gets to be there for one of those days.


Lisa Murphy RN

Lisa Murphy RN, MSN
Director, department of education
Methodist Charlton Medical Center, Dallas

“My initial feeling upon hearing the news was one that I am truly blessed and very honored to represent Methodist Charlton Medical Center,” Murphy said when she heard she was chosen as the regional winner of the Education and Mentorship category’s GEM Award. Recognizing how education, retention and employee satisfaction each play a part in quality of care and patient satisfaction, Murphy has assumed 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 composed of four medical centers and more than 2,000 nurses.

“My team of educators and I assist our nursing staff to strive to be the very best they can be and to hold them to high standards to ensure patient safety,” she said. “We try to challenge them to try to do things beyond what they have already mastered so that they continue to grow and learn. It is important to create an environment conducive to learning and base our education on evidence instead of past experience and tradition.”

Murphy’s passion for education is evident in everything she does. She anticipates educational needs and proactively plans to meet those needs. She never turns down any requests for her and her team to provide necessary training for the staff. The hospital president said she is always looking to educate the staff on cutting edge clinical practice and process improvement. Murphy is very involved with CMS, stroke and CAUTI prevention committees, brainstorming with participants and implementing the plan. Because of her many contributions, she received the Nursing Education Award from her facility in 2013.

The education department has expanded and flourished under her leadership, said her nominator. The quality of care that has resulted through the competency of nurses 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. She also established a free nursing CE program and other classes on campus.


Shainy Varghese

Shainy Varghese, PhD, PNP
Nurse practitioner, faculty, University of Houston

“Becoming a finalist was a surprise to me,” Varghese said when she learned she was selected as the GEM Award winner in the Home, Community and Ambulatory Care category. “When I got the email about becoming the regional winner I had to read it a few times, and I checked the email address a couple of times just to verify it was coming from the right source because I just couldn’t believe it. I just sat there staring at the screen for some time. I read it, but it just didn’t process.”

Varghese is a devoted primary care NP who started her solo pediatric practice in 2010 with a collaborating pediatrician, improving access to primary care in her community,

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 and provides exceptional healthcare to her pediatric patients, according to her nominator.

“Being a Christian nurse, I believe nursing is a ministry of compassionate care for the whole person, to foster optimum health and bring comfort in suffering for anyone in need, but especially children,” Varghese said.

Varghese exemplifies nursing as a nurse educator, NP, mentor, role model and nurse entrepreneur. She has volunteered to provide free vaccines to uninsured and underinsured children and provides low-cost healthcare for under/uninsured children at her clinic.

She also is an assistant professor at the University of Houston, Victoria School of Nursing, where she is involved in teaching, research and practice. She was awarded an internal research grant from the university for a project titled, “Integrating Gaming into Pediatric Curriculum,” which teaches pediatric growth and development concepts to second-degree nursing students and helped improve students’ ATI scores.

Varghese, who has been published in peer-reviewed journals and has presented at local, national and international conferences, credits her parents for having major influences in her life. “My parents taught me how to care for others and [to do] no harm to anyone, even to those who are not in favor of you,” she said. “That helped me get over many difficult situations in life. They taught me how to forgive and forget at a young age, which helps me always keep my mind clear with no grudges, nor regrets.”


Amy Atnip, RN

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

“I was completely surprised and honored all at once,” Atnip said when she learned she had won a regional GEM Award for Patient and Staff Management.

“My initial thought was how blessed I am to work with such great people. The [award] was not an award for myself but for my team because without each one of them, this would not have been possible.”

Atnip helped bring the undesignated trauma center at The Medical Center of Plano to an American College of Surgeons verified Level II Trauma Center within five years. She built the program from the ground up by working closely with the trauma medical director and all clinical hospital departments, establishing policies and ensuring staff received the training needed. She empowers her staff and encourages them to grow and develop personally and professionally. She is compassionate, dedicated, generous and supportive.

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 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, which resulted in early activation of the hospital’s STEMI team and an average EMS patient contact-to-balloon time of 65 minutes.

Atnip gives back to the community by coordinating numerous education and community events that include organizing a program offering sports physicals that include ECG analysis to local high school students to prevent young athletes from dying from undiagnosed heart problems. Another of her programs helps teens understand how a wrong decision can turn into a disaster and why it is important to make wise choices.

“The mission of our facility is, ‘Above all else we are committed to the care and improvement of human life,’” she said. “The teams, individuals and community partners I am blessed to work with all have the same vision, to do the absolute best and to continually improve in order to care for our patients.”


Maria-Elisa Aganon, RN

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

“Growing up, I’ve always had the yearning to give back to the community,” Aganon said. “I consider myself blessed, and giving back is my way of sharing my blessing with others.”

She actively is involved in several community-based organizations, serving as an inspiration for all staff at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and always is happy to provide guidance and encouragement to colleagues who wish to pursue volunteer work.

She makes a difference to the center’s ICU: She enlists colleagues to serve in various clinical roles in local, national and international communities that challenge them to use their abilities and talents beyond the bedside.

Aganon is a true example of how the nursing practice need not be limited to the professional setting, but can be implemented in many aspects and domains of people’s lives to profoundly impact communities, according to her nominator.

She is active in assisting Arts4Healing by raising funds to support Surgical Volunteers International, whose volunteers travel to Peru and Vietnam to perform cleft palate surgeries. Arts4Healing is a non-profit organization affiliated with Texas Medical Mission and Surgical Volunteers International whose mission is to connect art, healing and community together by generating funds through artwork donation and services.

Aganon involves her family, friends and co-workers in volunteer activities at the Beacon Day Center, which provides hot meals, private showers, lavatory facilities, laundry services, legal assistance, medical and psychological care and case management to Houston’s underserved and homeless population.

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 education on maintaining health and referrals to healthcare providers.

“I’m deeply humbled and honored that I was chosen to receive the Texas GEM award in the Volunteerism and Service category,” Aganon said. “I’m excited and truly grateful for the recognition, but I wanted to share the honor with the two influential people who have helped me; my sister, Erika, and my best friend, Stephanie.”

By | 2021-05-07T08:15:59-04:00 July 14th, 2014|Categories: Nursing Awards|0 Comments

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