The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce recently hosted its Healthy Hall Awards of Excellence, spotlighting those in the healthcare industry in Gainesville-Hall County making a significant impact on the community's quality of life through excellence in health and wellness.

A luncheon honoring award recipients was held today at Lanier Technical College in Gainesville, recognizing professionals in 11 categories. The awards program was also streamed virtually. The keynote speaker was John E. Delzell, Jr., MD, MSPH, FAAFP, who leads the Graduate Medical Education (GME) program at Northeast Georgia Health System and is the designated institutional official for Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

2021 Healthy Hall award recipients included:

Healthcare Education — Northeast Georgia Medical Center Graduate Medical Education, Donna Brown, Director of Graduate Medical Education, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Dr. Janeane Walker, Director of Educational Outcomes, GME. Northeast Georgia Medical Center welcomed its inaugural resident physicians in General Surgery and Internal Medicine in July 2019, and its first class of Family Medicine residents in July 2020. The program is focused on developing and training physician leaders. Other finalists included Brenau University, Foothills Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and University of North Georgia College of Health Sciences & Profession.

Corporate Achievement — ATEX, Inc., Luca Di Benedetto, CEO. Located in Gainesville, ATEX is a manufacturer of non-woven material and manufactures material for N-95 masks produced under the Halyard name throughout North America. Since early 2020, ATEX converted all of its production to producing material for the N-95 and has kept production running 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Other finalists included Gainesville Surgery Center, Kipper Tool Company and Pro-GeneX.

Community Impact — Supriya Mannepalli, MD, Northeast Georgia Health System. Just days after the COVID-19 outbreak in China, Dr. Supriya Mannepalli rallied healthcare leaders from across Northeast Georgia Health System to begin planning so that the Health System and the community would be prepared if the illness reached us. As the Health System's Incident Command Center, Mannepalli, a leading Infectious Disease physician, continues to guides clinical decisions while still caring for patients and leads coordinated vaccination efforts to bring the latest treatments for COVID patients. Other finalists included: Emergency, Inpatient Medicine and Critical Care Providers, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Rob Fowler, Turner, Wood & Smith Insurance/Community COVID Coalition and Norma Hernandez, Norma Hernandez Income Tax/Northeast GA Latino Chamber of Commerce.

Outstanding Achievement in Behavioral Health — J's Place Recovery Center, Jordan Hussey, Executive Director. The Jeffrey Dallas Gay Recovery Center — J's Place — has not slowed down since COVID-19 impacted the community and has more than doubled its capacity to serve those struggling with substance use disorder and mental health challenges. They have supported over 4,700 people in the community and provided 15,783 services from January to December of 2020. Other finalists included Whitney Milord, LPC, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Adam Raulerson, Laurelwood and Sisu.

Healthcare Worker of the Year — With a tie in this category, two finalists were honored, including Loren Funk, CEO, Longstreet Clinic, and Matthew Crumpton Manager of Emergency Preparedness, Northeast Georgia Health System. As the pandemic hit, a COVID-19 Response Team was established and Loren Funk became Longstreet Clinic's Operational Leader, coordinating internal efforts and facilitating collaboration with NGMC's Incident Command. Loren led his Laboratory team to establish one of the first COVID-19 lab testing sites with drive thru testing on the Gainesville Campus. He also coordinated with Northeast Georgia Health System to assure the Epic Covid Dashboard utilized by NGHS and Longstreet was included data from both organizations. Matthew Crumpton ensures the hospital staff is prepared for mass casualty or severe weather events, oversees the Incident Command Center. When the coronavirus outbreak was still confined to China, Matthew began working with Dr. Mannepalli and other leaders and worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week to make sure local leaders had the technology, data and support they needed. Governor Kemp awarded Matthew the Georgia Commendation Medal from the Georgia National Guard for exceptionally meritorious service during the pandemic. Other finalists included Respiratory Therapists, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, and Amy Scroggs, PT, Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Advance Practice Provider of the Year — Danny Webb, DNP, FNP-C, Longstreet Clinic. In addition to his clinical practice, in 2019 Danny Webb began working in a leadership role providing clinical oversight of nurse practitioners and physician, guidance to the Population Health Management team and Epic team. He is aslo a vital member of Longstreet's Primary Care Development strategy. Danny jumped into and became a valuable member of the COVID-19 Response Team and instrumental in the telehealth deployment, employee safety strategy, outpatient strategy for outpatient management of COVID-positive patients, testing and employee exposure, isolation and return to work protocols. Other finalists included Laura Banner, FNP, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, Jennifer Butler, FNP-BC, Longstreet Clinic, and Paige Owens, FNP-BC, Longstreet Clinic.

Nurse of the Year — Cheryl Bittel, CNS, Northeast Georgia Medical Center. Cheryl Bittel has worked tirelessly in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville since it opened and cares as much for the other nurses as she does for patients. Cheryl brought creative solutions to many of the challenges that the hospital staff faced as they treated the sickest of the COVID patients, while always having a smile for others. Other finalists were: Ashley Belfance, RN, BSN, OCN, Longstreet Clinic, Angie Caton, RN, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, and Tara Jernigan, RN, Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Dentist of the Year — Richard Weber, DMD, District 2 Public Health. Dr. Richard Weber has dedicated his professional life to providing dental care for disadvantaged people. Early in his career he cared for the dental needs of inmates in the prison system, and over the last 30 years he has worked in the Public Health System providing dental care for children and educating them and their parents about ways to improve their oral health. The local district is one of the few in the state to provide dental care and is available, at least in part, to the relationships that Dr. Weber has maintained with the dental community and medical facilities. Other finalists were: Sergey Gritsiv, DMD, Oakwood Smiles, Matthew Vaughn, DMD, BGW Dental Group, and Joe Weber, DMD, Weber Dental

Physician of the Year — Clifton Hastings, MD, Northeast Georgia Medical Center. When Dr. Clifton Hastings became Chief of Medical Staff at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in 2019, he had no idea what lay ahead in his two-year term. Even before the pandemic, Dr. Hastings worked tirelessly to support hospital staff and the community, and as the hospital prepared for the first, second and third COVID-19 peaks, his calm, reassuring voice became one that leaders across the community and state listened to. Never complaining and always kind, Dr. Hastings made himself available to educate the community while caring for his patients. Dr. Hastings worked non-stop to help ensure that no patient was turned away at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. Though his term as Chief of Medical Staff ended at the close of 2020, his leadership has left an indelible mark on the community. Other finalists were: Jack Cheng, MD, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, Mohak Davé, MD, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, and Priscilla Strom, MD, Longstreet Clinic - Surgery

Visionary Leader — John Browning, MD, retired, Longstreet Clinic. Dr. John Browning is not only a visionary - he is a doer, a motivator, a goal setter. In the early 1990's a number of physicians and healthcare leaders began a collaborative journey to ensure the local medical community was prepared and positioned for success for years to come. Dr. Browning's vision helped position us where we are today and was at the forefront of this effort. In 1995, Dr. Browning and other physician leaders spearheaded the creation of Longstreet Clinic from eight competitive and very successful single specialty practices. In addition, his bold vision and leadership can be seen today in many areas of the medical community, specifically the Prenatal Clinic at the Public Health Department and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at NGMC. Other finalists were: Pranav Jain, MD, Northeast Georgia Health System, Elizabeth Larkins, RN, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, and Mary Lou Wilson, RN, Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Lifetime Achievement Award — Jim Butts, MD, retired, Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic, Good News Clinics. During Dr. Jim Butt's 41 years with Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic, he worked in internal medicine, hematology and oncology. He began Gainesville's first dedicated Oncology practice, initiated chemotherapy services, and was instrumental in bringing drug trials to the forefront of cancer treatment locally. He has served on the Board of Directors for Emory University's School of Medicine and Alliant Health Group. He was also the Medical Director for Good News Clinics for 13 years before retiring in 2019. His leadership in aligning partnerships with the clinics helped remove barriers to generate medical care for thousands of low income individuals in Hall County. In addition to his volunteer service at Good News Clinics, Dr. Butts was responsible for establishing a Hepatitis C treatment clinic, saving thousands of dollars for the community and patients as a result of the partnerships he secured. Other finalists were: Tim Fulenwider, MD, Northeast Georgia Medical Center (retired), Tommy Jenkins, MD, Longstreet Clinic (retired), and Sam Poole, MD Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic (deceased).

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