Healthcare Heroes Honorees

Photo by Earl Neikirk/Neikirk Image

Dr. Haytham Adada
Johnston Memorial Hospital

When Dr. Haytham Adada sees a need, he meets it. In 2011, Dr. Adada saw that Abingdon, Virginia, desperately needed high-level medical services, so he co-founded the critical care unit at Ballad Health’s Johnston Memorial Hospital. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Dr. Adada led the critical care unit through the darkest days of the pandemic and went the extra mile to meet the needs of his patients. He called the families of his patients to give them status updates on their loved ones when visitation was not allowed, a task that often required him to stay late. When ICUs at Ballad facilities across the region are shorthanded, Dr. Adada is there to cover shifts on his off days. Those who work with him describe him as a calming force in a high-pressure environment where patients’ lives are on the line every day. He also takes an active interest in the lives of those around him. Dr. Adada encouraged a single mother working in his clinic to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse, and followed up with words of support, help with her schoolwork and a listening ear. Upon her graduation from nursing school, she asked Dr. Adada to present her nursing pin at the pinning ceremony, a task he was happy to do.

Ronnie Alley
Ballad Health Volunteer

A model of consistency and compassion, Ronnie Alley has logged over 24,000 volunteer hours at Holston Valley Medical Center and Indian Path Community Hospital since 2002. Ronnie takes a bus from Gate City to one of the two Ballad Health facilities five days a week and spends seven hours helping hospital personnel wherever he is needed. He glides seamlessly between pre-admissions, human resources, clinical engineering, endoscopy and the surgical waiting room. Ronnie cheerfully answers phones, sorts paperwork and helps visitors find their way around. If it happens to be a slow day in the department where he is working, he’ll call around and find a department that needs an extra set of hands. When volunteers were allowed back following the COVID-19 surges, Ronnie was among the first to show up. His blend of courtesy, dependability and joy bring light into the lives of those who cross his path. A huge NASCAR fan, Ronnie is always quick with a story about one of the sport’s all-time great drivers. Those who work with Ronnie say it is an inspiration to hear him come in to work each morning, and they describe him as a dedicated volunteer with a servant’s heart and a smile that lights up the whole room.

Dr. Steven Baumrucker
Ballad Health

During the merger that formed Ballad Health, Dr. Steven Baumrucker served as the glue that helped bind the two legacy healthcare systems together. Dr. Baumrucker went above and beyond to help ensure a smooth transition for the palliative medicine teams. Part of the transition required legacy Mountain States team members to learn a new medical record system, which Dr. Baumrucker already knew quite well. Upon his arrival at Johnson City Medical Center to help with the transition, he immediately made his new team members feel valued, eased their fear of learning a new system and helped facilitate the system’s integration. Dr. Baumrucker’s humility and availability are tremendous assets. He makes himself available by phone to his team members seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and he connects with his patients on a personal level, making them feel at ease during the most difficult of discussions. Even after contracting COVID-19, Dr. Baumrucker rearranged his schedule so he could work from home and prevent his patients and team members from being inconvenienced or facing hardship as a result of his illness. Additionally, Dr. Baumrucker serves as a preceptor for the healthcare workers of tomorrow and serves as the associate editor-in-chief for two medical journals.

Dr. Angela R. Cameron
The Cameron Institute Foundation

Dr. Angela Cameron is no stranger to those in the dental community. She has owned and operated Sophisticated Smiles for over 20 years and served as the chief clinical director for the TMJ Treatment Clinic for the past decade. Dr. Cameron routinely completes over 100 hours of continuing education and training each year in order to remain on the cutting edge of emerging trends and treatment strategies in her industry. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, there were several questions about how to best provide dental care while keeping dentists, team members and patients safe. During this time, Dr. Cameron began doing webinar training for her fellow professionals in order to share guidelines from the American Dental Association for installing safety protocols and facilitating a safe return to work. She continued doing these webinars, focusing on topics such as TMJ treatment, professional wellness and avoiding burnout. These webinars were so well received that Dr. Cameron founded the Cameron Institute in 2021 to continue to serve those in her profession. The institute serves as an online platform for post-doctoral dental education and continuing education for dental professionals. Dr. Cameron’s foundation is also hoping to spur initiatives designed to alleviate dental pain and suffering around the world.

Jo Ann Clark
Smyth County Community Hospital Volunteer

When Smyth County Community Hospital opened its cancer infusion center, Jo Ann Clark was there as the first volunteer. Since that day, Jo Ann has spearheaded a robust volunteer program that offers comfort and compassion to those who walk through the doors to receive treatment. Since 2017, she has recruited 10 volunteers and she leads them by example. Patients who enter filled with anxiety credit Jo Ann’s uplifting spirit for calming their fears. Patients and their families face extraordinarily tough times within the walls of the cancer infusion center, but Jo Ann never wavers from her mission to nurture and comfort those who need it the most. There are days when Jo Ann spends hours on the phone seeking donations for “Blessing Bags” – a collection of blankets, hats, lotions, snacks and other items meant to offer a reprieve for patients as they fight cancer. When patients and family members need someone to lean on during difficult times, Jo Ann is there. When families face the unimaginable, Jo Ann sends cards every time a loved one passes away. Conversely, she is also there to celebrate with those who finish their cancer treatment, and every holiday is made special by her decorations and homemade treats.

Dr. Amanda Dove
Holston Medical Group

Dr. Amanda Dove of Holston Medical Group is a highly skilled physician with over a decade of experience. Her passion for rural healthcare was forged in Rogersville back in 2008 when she was a student in the Kellogg Rural Health Program. Dr. Dove obviously has an extensive knowledge of medicine, but it is her ability to connect with patients that truly allows her to make a difference. From the beginning, she took time to sit and talk with patients, finding the root cause of their health problems and connecting with them. Building that trust allows her medical advice to take root. Dr. Dove’s longtime patients will recount how she tells them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear, but she always does so from a place of compassion and empathy. They’ll tell you how Dr. Dove goes well above and beyond the call of duty during the darkest moments of their lives to ensure they don’t fall through the cracks. And they show their appreciation by leaving homemade pies on her desk and scraping her driveway when it snows in the winter. Additionally, Dr. Dove has worked with fellow Holston Medical Group physician Dr. David Schilling at the Church Hill Medical Mission to provide medical care to those who are uninsured.

Kristina Dulaney
Cherished Mom

It is human nature to celebrate successes publicly and keep your struggles private. This is particularly true when you are fighting your way through a maternal mental health issue. But Kristina Dulaney was brave enough to share her struggle with postpartum psychosis on multiple platforms in an effort to help other women who may be facing a similar challenge in their own lives. Kristina founded Cherished Mom, an organization committed to creating a world free of the stigma that surrounds maternal mental health issues. She works tirelessly to be an advocate for women on the local, state and national levels to fight for improved maternal mental health resources, support, access and outcomes. Kristina’s willingness to be vulnerable and share her story is making a difference in the lives of countless women facing the struggle of perinatal mental health disorders. Those who know her describe her as a natural leader driven by a heartfelt passion to change the existing landscape for the better. With a background in nursing, Kristina continues to meet obstacles head-on by developing innovative programs to suit the ever-changing environment around her. She is a fierce advocate, a survivor and an effective fighter for positive change.

Dr. Paige Gilbert-Green
Highlands Family Medicine

Dr. Paige Gilbert-Green had a vision, and more importantly, she had the courage and conviction necessary to make that vision a reality. Dr. Gilbert-Green joined forces with two other female physicians – Drs. Leigh Johnson and Christian Robinette – to start Highlands Family Medicine in Johnson City. The goal of the three doctors who joined State of Franklin Healthcare Associates to start the practice was to create a place where they could serve the people of Johnson City and everyone could feel welcome. Regardless of a patient’s background or what they have been through, Dr. Gilbert-Green and her partners want all their patients to find a home at Highlands Family Medicine. Her patients marvel at her thoroughness and attention to detail. Dr. Gilbert-Green researches family medical histories, stays up-to-date on what tests are covered by a patient’s insurance and follows best practices when it comes to screening and treatment. As a result of this approach, she has been recognized for providing award-winning medical care. Dr. Gilbert-Green is also heavily involved in her community, volunteering at RAM clinics, supporting the annual Radiothon that benefits Niswonger Children’s Hospital and serving a multitude of community organizations.

Aliese Harrison
Johnston Memorial Hospital

Aliese Harrison is a registered nurse who serves as a team coordinator at Johnston Memorial Hospital, where she is dedicated to serving both her patients and her team members. Her unselfish nature shines through when she picks up a nighttime shift or cooks a hot meal to deliver to a sick co-worker. Her motivation for picking up nighttime shifts stems from her desire to make sure patients always have the best possible care. She communicates well with patients and their families and takes time to listen. Her commitment to patient care earned her a Nurse of the Year award for patient safety. In addition to her duties inside the hospital, Aliese has gone the extra mile to advocate for nurses and educate the public on the challenges nurses face and the incredible sacrifices they made during the COVID-19 pandemic. She participated in interviews with the Washington Post, Emory & Henry College and the Virginia Nurses Association to help educate the public on the seriousness of the disease and the challenges it posed to healthcare workers. Additionally, she advocated at the state and national level with United States Senator Tim Kaine to raise awareness about the need for mental health services for healthcare workers.

Rhonda Hickey
Greeneville Community Hospital

Rhonda Hickey has worked as an x-ray and CT technologist for nearly 20 years. An early fascination with x-ray machines and how they work led her down her chosen career path. Rhonda has spent most of her career at Greeneville Community Hospital where she has been able to form connections with her patients. Recently, one of her hobbies has allowed her to develop deeper connections than ever before. While exercising with one of her friends who had recently undergone a mastectomy, Rhonda noticed her friend adjusting silicone inserts and noted how uncomfortable they must be during a workout. It was then that she remembered a pattern for “knitted knockers,” knitted prosthetics she saw while surfing the web, and started researching how she could make a pair for her friend. Drawing upon her hobby of crocheting, Rhonda quickly found her groove and gave her first successful pair to her friend to try out. The knitted prosthetics proved to be a hit, and Rhonda began making them for patients. Since she started making knitted knockers last year, Rhonda has produced and distributed them to several patients and has been invigorated by the boost of confidence her prosthesis provide for the patients. She provides knitted knockers free of charge and is motivated to serve an underserved population – mastectomy patients who aren’t good candidates for reconstructive surgery.

David Knechtel
Milligan University

With the perfect blend of real-world experience and a passion for preparing tomorrow’s medical professionals for the workforce, David Knechtel has been the driving force behind the clinical phase of Milligan University’s Physician Assistant program. David worked as a PA in clinical private practice prior to joining Milligan’s PA program before it even received provisional accreditation. As clinical coordinator, he was heavily involved in the planning and development of the clinical phase of the program from day one. David coordinates the entire clinical year schedule to ensure each student attends the appropriate clinical rotations and administers end-of-rotation exams. He continuously monitors and revises learning outcomes and instructional objectives to maximize each student’s learning experiences while also meeting accreditation standards. David still practices one day a week as a PA at Pulmonary Associates of East Tennessee, which allows him to treat patients while staying up to date on the skills students will need in an ever-evolving environment. He also serves as a student advisor for the PA program and currently has 12 student advisees. David is an excellent team player and is always available to help his colleagues with any task. His passion for Milligan’s PA program and the students who are preparing to work in the field is evident on a daily basis.

Dr. William “Bill” Martin
Holston Medical Group

The late Dr. William “Bill” Martin was a physician, shareholder and friend to all who knew him at Holston Medical Group. Dr. Martin was a leader in HMG’s Urgent Care department during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and his leadership was critical to HMG’s ability to meet the needs of the community at a time when it was needed most. Dr. Martin’s team was on the front lines working with very sick and worried patients on a daily basis. They wore PPE for hours on end, moving from exam room to exam room to administer tests and provide care that went beyond physical ailments and addressed the emotional and mental toll the pandemic had on their patients. Stress and anxiety was just as high for the team, which struggled with illness and staffing issues that often left them exhausted. Through it all, Dr. Martin was a ray of light. His team often referred to him as “a big teddy bear,” and he managed to find ways to keep his team members focused and to make them smile even on the heaviest days. Armed with a never-ending supply of jokes, quotes and stories, Dr. Martin always had a prescription for the best medicine – laughter. He was a mentor to many and a friend to all, and his 33 years of dedication and service will not soon be forgotten.

Brittany Mitchell
Frontier Health

Brittany Mitchell has an unwavering belief that recovery is possible. When you combine that with her passion for helping equip individuals for their fight against persistent mental illness, you get a healthcare professional capable of making a tremendous positive impact in Northeast Tennessee. Brittany is the Site Director of one of Frontier Health’s most extensive outpatient facilities. She supervises a team of 15 therapists who work with individuals experiencing severe, persistent mental illness, all while continuing to provide individual and family therapy herself. Brittany starts by meeting each individual where they are and mapping out problem-solving strategies to get them where they need to be. To that end, she enjoys piloting new programs to expand services in the directions they need to go to help more people, and she thrives at connecting caregivers to available services and resources they need to help them achieve their goals. Brittany also serves as Frontier Health’s representative on the Washington County Health Council and chairs the Frontier Customer Service Committee. Both positions help her unite people and identify resources to further coordinate mental health services in our region. Brittany has helped develop the Washington County Intake Program, a piloting program with the Washington County Detention Center, which helps ensure incarcerated individuals with mental health issues nearing release have services lined up and appointments scheduled upon their release.

Deborah “Debbie” Moore
Frontier Health

Those who have been in the trenches during the opioid crisis will tell you that making headway requires an all-hands-on-deck effort. During her 21-year career at Frontier Health, Debbie Moore has been instrumental bringing key stakeholders together and leading the charge to help those battling severe, persistent mental illnesses and co-occurring substance abuse disorders in Southwest Virginia. When you talk to her colleagues and the community leaders she works closely with, they’ll tell you Debbie’s knowledge and clinical expertise are tremendous assets, but it is her compassion for those who need mental health and substance abuse services that truly sets her apart. Debbie has helped implement and lead multiple groups over the years to deal with all aspects of the opioid crisis. She helped implement an evidence-based, medication-assisted treatment program back in 2005 for individuals prescribed Suboxone, and she has also helped physicians enhance their Suboxone programs by facilitating access to an intensive outpatient program for those individuals taking the medication to aid in their recovery. Her collaboration with the Virginia Action Safety Program, Department of Corrections, Social Services and other agencies has improved communication and strengthened efforts to address opioid abuse. Her efforts span three counties and have helped make a tangible, positive difference in the lives of countless individuals and our region as a whole.

Dr. Karen Shelton
Mount Rogers Health District

While it is true that nobody could have foreseen the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Karen Shelton made sure her corner of Southwest Virginia was ready when the novel coronavirus arrived. Dr. Shelton’s vast network of contacts allowed her to spring into action in her role as director of the Mount Rogers District, working with her team to create pods at remote locations and administer COVID-19 tests as soon as they were available. As the pandemic wore on, she became the go-to source for information and guidance in all of Southwest Virginia, fielding calls at all hours of the day and night from first responders, city managers, churches and clinics. Although Dr. Shelton was only responsible for the Mount Rogers District, she stepped in and filled the void as acting director of the Lenowisco and Cumberland Plateau Districts when the previous directors departed. She ran all three districts through the summer of 2001, helping calm fears as they arose and supporting overworked staff members across three districts. Her ability to build networks of providers and supporters did not go unnoticed; Dr. Shelton was named Bristolian of the Year by the Bristol Herald Courier and earned the Woman of Distinction honor from the United Way of Southwest Virginia.

Phyllis Smith
Franklin Woods Community Hospital

Phyllis Smith’s title doesn’t begin to describe the difference she makes in the lives of patients and their families. Phyllis is a registered nurse and a team coordinator in the intensive care unit at Franklin Woods Hospital, and she excels in those roles. But she is well-known for making deep, spiritual connections with her patients and going out of her way to help everyone on her team. Leaning on her experience in hospice nursing, Phyllis helps guide patients and their families through some of the most difficult conversations of their lives. She explains the end-of-life processes with so much grace and compassion that her team calls her interactions with patients and their families making end-of-life decisions a “Phyllis Consult.” It is not uncommon to find Phyllis at the bedside of a patient in their final moments, holding their hand and singing “Amazing Grace.” She goes above and beyond by providing care for the patient’s mind and spirit in addition to the care she provides for their body. Her compassion and kindness extend to everyone in her life, including her team members, who say she is willing to stop whatever she’s doing and lend a hand. Phyllis goes above and beyond her job title, and as a result, her work impacts the entire hospital.

F.L. Villard
Johnston Memorial Hospital Volunteer

When a person is battling cancer, having a strong support system is key. Every patient who walks through the doors of the Johnston Memorial Hospital cancer center on the days F.L. Villiard is volunteering are guaranteed to have a dedicated advocate in their corner. F.L. volunteers Tuesday through Friday. He’s there at the beginning of the day to greet patients and their families, and he consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty to make sure each patient is comfortable during their treatments. He provides pillows, blankets, drinks and snacks. If a patient asks for a snack he doesn’t have, F.L. will go to the cafeteria and get it. His profound impact extends to the nurses and frontline staff who can focus their attention on clinical care knowing that each patient is drawing emotional support from F.L. The team members he works with receive the same support and friendship from F.L. He gives them cards during Nurses Week and on holidays and other special occasions, and he donates to causes that benefit the patients. F.L.’s wife was a patient at the center who passed away in 2018, which compelled him to start volunteering. A nurse at the center said, “He is just the kindest soul I’ve ever met, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.”

Vonda Wagner
Frontier Health

Clinical knowledge and solid programming is a prerequisite to providing quality mental health services. But finding ways to help patients integrate themselves into the world around them is where the rubber really meets the road. As the Director of Rehabilitation Services at Frontier Health, Vonda Wagner advocates for services, support, and care for the individuals Frontier serves from the state level on down to our local communities. Vonda works with teams of program leaders to evaluate individual and programmatic outcomes to ensure Frontier is providing the services people want, need and deserve. She has helped expand psychosocial rehabilitation services by adding two additional centers and helped create peer recovery centers that offer recovery education classes, support groups, wellness activities, community integration and community outreach. Additionally, Vonda has worked to initiate employment services in Northeast Tennessee. As a leader within Frontier Health, Vonda invests in staff with the knowledge that investment will translate to better services for the individuals Frontier serves. She has spent her time and energy creating innovative services provided by highly trained staff members who believe they can help individuals gain the power to move beyond mental illness and into lives full of hope, meaning and purpose.

Dr. Alison Whitman
Holston Medical Group

Dr. Alison Whitman spends her days meeting the medical needs of the people she grew up around. The Abingdon native returned to her hometown in 2004 and quickly found that every appointment hit close to home in one way or another. Dr. Whitman, a primary care physician and a shareholder in Holston Medical Group, takes the time to listen and get to the root causes of a patient’s symptoms. One of Dr. Whitman’s patients came to her after a long battle with a chronic health issue that had gone undiagnosed for years. Within two visits, Dr. Whitman found the source of the complaints – a 14-pound tumor on the patient’s ovary. In addition to giving back through the compassionate care she provides her patients day in and day out, Dr. Whitman works with the Cancer Outreach Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on providing assistance with the financial needs of those in her community who are battling cancer. The organization provides help with transportation, the cost of treatments, medications and medical supplies, and Dr. Whitman serves on the board of directors. Her level of dedication to her community makes Dr. Whitman one of the most respected physicians in the region.

Robin Wilson
Ballad Health

Robin Wilson has created a culture at Johnston Memorial Hospital and Russell County Hospital that is compassionate, attentive and professional. She has served as a passionate advocate for her patients and her team during her four decades in healthcare, but it can be argued that the COVID-19 pandemic was Robin’s finest hour. She took proactive measures at the start of the pandemic by setting up a ventilator lab at Johnston Memorial in order to ensure doctors and nurses had the opportunity to revisit the technology in preparation for potential surges. When the pandemic did arrive in our region in earnest, Robin – who serves as the director of pulmonary care and sleep services at both Johnston Memorial and Russell County Hospital – jumped back into the trenches to help her team shoulder the heavy load as staffing challenges and patient surges took their toll. She was always there to celebrate her team and their accomplishments, often at her own expense. Additionally, Robin served as the clinical leader for Ballad’s system-wide implementation of a new ABL blood gas system, a critical testing function that provides fast results from blood samples primarily in the emergency department, intensive care unit and neonatal intensive care unit. Robin has made a lasting impact, and has done so by leading by example.

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