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Health Care Heroes Award Winners Announced

By Staff Reports, posted Nov 13, 2017
Surgeon Charles Kays, accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award at the Health Care Heroes awards ceremony Saturday at the Country Club of Landfall, received a standing ovation. (Photo by Chris Brehmer)
The Health Care Heroes award winners were announced Saturday night during a ceremony at the Country Club of Landfall.

Surgeon Charles Kays, a board-certified specialist with Wilmington Plastic Surgery who has helped more than 4,000 women to recover from breast cancer, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Recipients were also honored for excellence in 10 categories in the awards from the Greater Wilmington Business Journal. Each category had three finalists, and the following were chosen as the overall winners:

FIRST RESPONDER: In the First Responder Category, the winner was Aaron Kasulis, EMS manager/battalion chief of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, who has worked with NHRMC's Emergency Medical Services for the past 22 years. His accomplishments include working closely with community partners to create medical and safety response plans for events such as the N.C. Azalea Festival and the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament in May.

HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL: For the Health Care Professional Category, Kevin Briggs of NHRMC was the stand-out. The center's administrative director of pathology and laboratory services, Briggs joined NHRMC in 2006 as a laboratory manager and worked his way up, garnering a Leader of Excellence Award in 2008. He oversaw the standardization of the system’s primary testing centers, and his endorsement of automation and other innovative technologies led to a fully automated microbiology system being implemented, improving efficiency of delivery of lab results, according to his nominator.

VOLUNTEER: Common Thread Ministry, a women’s circle program at Pine Valley United Methodist Church in Wilmington, was the winner of the Volunteer Category. Each month, the ministry's members gather at the church on Shipyard Boulevard to make pillowcases that are eventually presented to patients at Lower Cape Fear Hospice, Partners in Caring AIDS clients or any homebound individual they learn about.

PHYSICIAN: Joanne "Anne" Allen of Allen Spine & Sports Medicine and EmergeOrtho earned the top award in the Physician Category. One of the University of North Carolina Wilmington team physicians, Allen has been a team doctor at USA Olympic and Paralympic winter and summer games. She also works with local high schools on sports concussion management. The board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at EmergeOrtho was elected last year as trustee for medicine on the American College of Sports Medicine Board of Trustees.

NURSE: Tops in the Nurse Category was Lowell Higgins Jr., NHRMC pediatric infusion coordinator, a pediatric nurse since 1996 who is credited with seeing the need for and working to help establish the center's Pediatric Infusion Program.

NURSE PRACTITIONER/PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT: The winner in the nurse practitioner/physician assistant category, Bruce Williams of Black River Health Services in Atkinson, "is the epitome of what one wishes for in a health care provider," according to his nominator.

COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT: Olivia Herndon, director of mental health and the co-director of continuing education at the South East Area Health Education Center-NHRMC, was the winner in the Community Achievement category. During her five years in the role, "she has done a remarkable job reaching out to the community to make a difference," her nominator wrote.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH: The winner of the Community Outreach Category, Patrick Lockamy, physical therapy assistant at NHRMC Rehabilitation Hospital, "serves as a mentor, resource and voice in his work and in the community, advocating for reducing barriers and improving life for those with disabilities," his nominator said.

HEALTH CARE EXECUTIVE: The winner in the Health Care Executive Category, John Devaney, was hired as executive director of the then-Tileston Clinic in April 2010. The Tileston Clinic subsequently became Cape Fear Clinic, and under Devaney's leadership as CEO, "the clinic has evolved to better serve our patients" in numerous ways, his nominator said.

INNOVATION: Kevin McNabb, NHRMC's director of microbiology, immunology and molecular testing, was the winner in the innovation category. Notable contributions McNabb has made include NHRMC’s Microbiology Laboratory becoming the second fully automated microbiology lab in the country and the first in North Carolina, according to his nominator. "The automation reduced the time of testing, allowing patients to be diagnosed and treated two to three days quicker."
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