March of Dimes Pays Tribute to Ohio Nurses

| Saturday, November 14, 2015

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Tim Kauffman, March of Dimes Ohio Chapter, (614) 306-1684,

Columbus, Ohio, November 14, 2015 —

The March of Dimes Ohio Chapter paid tribute to the Nursing Profession at the Third Annual Nurse of the Year Awards.  The Nurse of the Year selection committee reviewed 380 nominations from 122 different Ohio health care facilities across 18 defined categories ranging from Advanced Practice to Women’s Health & Centering.

The Nurse of the Year Awards is a state-wide event that recognizes exceptional nurses, creates awareness of professional excellence, and promotes the future of the nursing profession, all while helping to advance the mission of the March of Dimes: to improve the health of babies by preventing premature birth, birth defects, and infant mortality.

This year’s recipients, their category and employer:

  • Nancy Beinlich, Education, Akron General Medical Center
  • Marcia Belcher, Distinguished Nurse, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital
  • Jamie Biller, General Medical/Surgical, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
  • Stacy Busam, Ambulatory Care, TriHealth Digestive Institute
  • Myra Cook, Advanced Practice, Cleveland Clinic - Main Campus
  • Nancy Dorenkott, Pediatric, Cleveland Clinic - Fairview Hospital
  • Aris Eliades, Research, Akron Children's Hospital
  • Jason Fisher, Rising Star, Cleveland Clinic - Main Campus
  • Debra Friece, Long Term Acute Care/Rehab/Hospice & Palliative Care, Hospice of Dayton
  • Gordon Gillespie, Emergency, University of Cincinnati- College of Nursing
  • Mary Gossard, Case Management/Managed Care, Nationwide Children's Hospital
  • Jaimie McKinnon, Behavioral Health, Summa Health System Akron City Hospital
  • Lisa Ray, Critical Care, Summa Health System Akron City Hospital
  • Christine Rose, Quality & Risk Management/Infection Control, Cleveland Clinic - Lutheran Hospital
  • Joan Uhrig, Women's Health & Centering, Adena Health System - Adena Regional Medical Center
  • Victoria Wells, Surgical Services, Summa Health System Akron City Hospital
  • Michele Wilmoth, Public Health, Akron Children's Hospital
  • Rebecca Patton, Nurse Leadership, Case Western Reserve University
    The March of Dimes recognizes that nurses are at the forefront of our mission and what we’ve accomplished over the last 77 years. The finalists were honored at a sold-out formal evening gala on Saturday, November 14 at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus.

“We are honored to be able to host a special tribute that acknowledges the unsung heroes of the health care provider community. Nurses take on a variety of roles: caregivers, decision makers, advocates, researchers and problem solvers.  I’m proud to be a part of an event that honors the tireless efforts of those dedicated to their practice,” said Michael Reichfield, Chair, Ohio Nurse of the Year Awards and President, OhioHealth Doctors Hospital.

Bios of Nurse of the Year Award Recipients

Advanced Practice

Myra Cook is a board-certified Adult Clinical Nurse Specialist with expertise in critical care. She has a passion for professional development and education. Her career history also includes service as an adjunct faculty member for continuing education at the Cleveland State University where she lectures on topics such as heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, hypertension and more. She was one of two authors who successfully applied for and won a Sustained Improvement Award for Achievement in Eliminating Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Critical Care Societies Collaborative. She is an active member of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, American Association of Critical Care Nurses and American Heart Association.  She received the Nancy M. Albert Excellence in Nursing Research and the American Association of Critical Nurses Research Abstract Awards.

She is described as a resource, consultant and educator.

Ambulatory Care

Stacy Busam was nominated because of her ability to lead others. She serves as a mentor, a unit preceptor and demonstrates the qualities one would expect in a nurse. This nurse implemented a fecal micro biota transplant program. This program treats patients who have recurrent, severe or refractory Clostridium difficile infections (CDI) that have not responded to treatment. In this program, she provides patient education, donor screening, procedure scheduling, and continuous ongoing communication with the patient, donor and physician and tracks the progress of the patient after the procedure.  As a result, this program has seen a 91% success rate in eliminating CDI. She was the primary investigator for a research study that looked at healthcare malnutrition. This study raised staff awareness on healthcare malnutrition and the importance of nutrition in the recovery of patients.

Kind, patient, knowledgeable is how this nurse is described by others.

Behavioral Health

During Jaimie McKinnon’s 15 years in behavioral health nursing, this nurse has worked both inpatient and outpatient as a staff nurse, later entering administration and serving as a clinical manager, and director of inpatient as well as director of outpatient services.  He now serves as Vice President of the Behavioral Health Service Line.  He is a clinical instructor for behavioral health at Walsh University.  This nurse is also involved in community organizations, including Child Guidance and Family Solutions and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.  He has gone on two medical mission trips to India where he had the opportunity to provide basic nursing care to those without access to care.  As a result of his work in India, he inspired a theme of Servant Leadership at a Walsh University conference.  He has presented on the subjects of integration of behavioral health into other service lines, as well as on tactics for practitioner engagement to improve success in core measures.

Case Management/Managed Care

Mary Gossard has been active in multiple Quality Improvement initiatives.  As a result of developing a care map for parents, revising family education handouts, and reinforcing protocols, this multi-year project showed significant decreases in length of stay in the NICU by an average of 7 days.  This project received an honorable mention in the 2011 Race for Results Award with the Child Health Corporation of America. This nurse is active in the Ohio Department of Medicaid NICU Collaboration Pilot project, the annual Neonatal/Perinatal Conference planning committee, several hospital and NICU committees within her facility, and the Premature Infant Health Network of Ohio.  A particularly special initiative has been the formation of an annual Memorial Service for the NICU parents to celebrate the lives of their deceased infants. 

Her co-worker described her as “an incredibly dedicated, well liked and positive nurse.  She is a joy to work with and a tremendous asset to the NICU and all of the families she serves.”

Critical Care

As a diabetes resource nurse, Lisa Ray worked to find a way to address the current insulin drip protocol as there were issues with hypoglycemia in the critically ill patients.  As a result, she revised an existing protocol and gained permission from key stakeholders to conduct a trial using this new protocol.  There were no incidents of hypoglycemia episodes and the new protocol was implemented on all five intensive care units at her facility.  She then gained approval to conduct a retrospective chart review research study.  The results showed a virtual elimination of hypoglycemic events after implementation of the new protocol, and hours of patient IV insulin therapy decreased from an average of 83 to 54 hours. She is past recipient of the Andreoli Award for Nursing Research, the Traeger Critical Care, and the Sigma Theta Tau Delta Omega Chapter Excellence in Nursing Research Award.

Her co-worker says that she “demonstrates that nurses can be empowered to use evidence to change practice and improve patient outcomes.”

Distinguished Nurse

A critical care nurse for 42 years, Marcia Belcher was the driving force behind her unit achieving the first Beacon of Excellence Award in her academic center.  She is a huge proponent of evidenced based practice and has facilitated multiple changes at the unit level which elevated the level of care provided to patients. Through the years, she has served as a mentor to staff, a nurse entrepreneur, a teacher, a bedside nurse and a clinical leader. This nurse is active in the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and has served in several capacities with this organization. She has published several articles, done numerous poster and podium presentations. She was the first Advanced Practice nurse to receive the Cameos of Caring and the Excellence Award in her hospital.

Her nominator says that “she taught us by example to always excel, always keep learning, never cut corners, and remember why we are there: for our patients.”


Nancy Beinlich initiated and directs the Resource Nurse program at her hospital. This educational curriculum promotes professional development for staff nurses to become expert resources for their peers in reinforcing evidence-based care principles and sharing of knowledge to prevent hospital-acquired pressure ulcers. She developed an on-line continuing education program for the advanced practitioner to enhance their knowledge in providing professional nursing foot and toenail care to the at risk patient. She shares her passion for excellence in nursing by serving as a resource for nurses who wish to become certified in the specialty of wound care. This nurse has published several articles in peer-reviewed journals and has presented her work regionally, nationally and internationally. Most recently, she was invited to present several papers at the Royal College of Nursing Society of Orthopedic and Trauma in England.

This nurse was described as “an exemplary role model for nurses and colleagues.”

Emergency Care

Gordon Gillespie has focused on researching the prevention of workplace violence committed by patients and visitors against Emergency Department employees. This nurse convened a community advisory board and guided the group in identifying ways to prevent, manage, and recover from workplace violence. As a direct result of the research and collaborative efforts, this nurse developed an active learning educational program and trained educators in several Emergency Departments, in addition to working with multiple nurses across the country, helping them to address their emergency nursing practice-based issues.  He is the current president of the Ohio Emergency Nurses Association; past chair of the National Conference for Workplace Violence in Healthcare Settings; and has been honored with a lifetime achievement award for contributions to the Ohio Emergency Nurses Association for research, education, and promotion of workplace safety for the emergency nursing workforce.

His co-workers describe him as “a dedicated nurse who is passionate about his work and strives tirelessly to improve the emergency department environment.”

General Medical/Surgical

Jamie Biller serves in a role of Clinical Coordinator. This role was designed to facilitate the patient’s plan of care and coordinate with the interdisciplinary team to ensure that patient needs are met. As a patient advocate, she is able to follow the patient throughout their hospital stay and after discharge. As a result of the work she has done, the unit has seen patients improve, as well as significant improvement in their Press Ganey scores. This nurse has proctored the written and practical demonstration testing of unit based competencies related to dressing changes for burn patients. Since the implementation of these competencies, there has been minimal graft loss to the patients on her unit. She serves as a preceptor, charge nurse and on multiple committees.

Her co-worker says that she has consistently gone above and beyond for the staff and patients she encounters and deserves to be recognized for all her hard work.

Long Term Acute Care/Rehab/Hospice & Palliative Care

Debra Friece functions as a hospital liaison between hospital and hospice. She has been a part of her facility’s Pain Assessment Improvement team along with a diverse representation of physicians and nurses, with the goal of developing an algorithm for assessing pain and devising a plan to improve comprehensive pain documentation.  This tool showed a marked improvement in pain assessment completion and charting and exceeded the goal of 92% compliance.  This nurse also functions as a leader within her facility by precepting, mentoring, and implementing best practices into training, orientation, and educational programs.  She has been a valuable resource in providing education to hospital staff regarding concurrent care.  This nurse participates in the American Pride program at her facility, and ensures that veterans with life-limiting illnesses are honored and have access to all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Efficient, pleasant and thorough is how this nurse is described by her co-workers.

Nurse Leadership

Rebecca Patton currently holds the inaugural (and first in the nation) Endowed Perioperative Chair, Atkinson Scholar in Perioperative Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.  She is one of the founders of the Kent State University College of Nursing’s Students for Professional Nursing organization, a university-based organization whose focus is the promotion of professional nursing goals.  She is the past and two-term president of the American Nurses Association. She has testified before Congress and met with major policy makers—including Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton, when she lobbied on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.  She was very involved in discussions regarding healthcare reform. As a result, key nursing professions were explicitly incorporated in the Affordable Care Act in order to address issues surrounding quality, cost, and patient access to healthcare, as well as workforce planning.   She was selected twice by the US State Department to serve on the United States’ delegation at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.  She has been honored with numerous awards, including twice being named as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Persons in Healthcare” by Modern Healthcare.  She created an endowment fund for the Washington Policy Fellowship for nurses, working in conjunction with the American Nurses Foundation.  Her newly published textbook, Nurses Making Policy:  From Bedside to Boardroom is donating 100% of editors’ royalties to support the fund.  She is currently serving the National Student Nursing Association as the ANA appointed consultant in an advisory capacity to the Board of Directors.


Nancy Dorenkott has been a clinical nurse, school nurse, patient educator and community volunteer. She opened a pediatric unit, implemented unit peer review tools and competencies, designed a pediatric pre-op surgery teaching program and created and taught infant safety and CPR classes to the community. She serves on a variety of committees in leadership positions including the Shared Governance Committee, the Pediatric Patient Experience Committee, the Florence Gray Scholarship Committee, her hospital’s Interdisciplinary Committee and Professional Development Committee. She also developed an initiative to improve nurse-patient/family communication and facilitate a therapeutic relationship. This initiative, Take 5, improved patient satisfaction scores.  She has been recognized for her leadership skills and was selected to participate in the Emerging Leader Program and the Leadership Education Development Program.  In 2013, she received the Nursing Excellence Award at her hospital.

 She is described as wise and articulate advocate for her young patients and their families.

Public Health

As Director of School Health, Michele Wilmoth has been instrumental in advocating for retaining school nursing in times of severe educational budgetary cuts.  She has coordinated a pilot project with Health Heroes in 12 Northeast Ohio school districts for school located influenza immunization clinics, resulting in over 5,000 influenza vaccines administered in October 2014.  She provided proponent testimony at the Ohio Statehouse in support of stock epinephrine for schools to use in an anaphylactic emergency in schools.  The bill passed in spring of 2014, and this nurse went on to work with a team of school nurses in developing and implementing standard procedures and protocols for adoption of this legislation.  In 2014, she was selected as one of 51 individuals to participate in the Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership fellowship.  She has been a past recipient of the Outstanding Leadership Award.

Her colleagues describe her as “a collaborative leader, an advocate for school nurses, and an expert in her field.”

Quality & Risk Management/ Infection Control

Christine Rose oversees the Infection Prevention and Control Program at her facility.  Outcomes in healthcare acquired infections have significantly improved over the past 5 years, and the facility has gone without any healthcare acquired central line infections or ventilator associated pneumonias for 3 years. As a result of the very low rates of infection, her facility was ranked as the 3rd safest hospital in the United States by Consumer Reports in 2014 and the 2nd safest hospital in 2014.  She has spearheaded a hand hygiene initiative and is currently seeking to trademark the campaign theme that she developed for marketing purposes.  She is a past recipient of the Patient Safety Enterprise Award, The Stanley Shalom Zielony Institute for Nursing for Nursing Excellence Quality, and Patient Safety Professional Practice Model Award.

Her nominator states “she is deserving of this award because she touches so many in her nursing role, patients, their families, other caregivers, and members of the community.”


Aris Eliades has been a visionary leader in advancing nursing research at her hospital.  She currently administers a dynamic research program that enhances scientifically based patient care and contributes to the professional development of staff. She provides consultation, leadership, visionary goals and strategic plans for engaging in high quality, cutting edge research. The research program has grown from zero research studies to over 40. This nurse has mentored nurses in over 80 posters and papers locally, regionally, nationally and internationally as well as authored peer reviewed journals, professional publications, text chapters and books. She is a founding member of The Ohio Society of Pediatric Nurses and has chaired her hospital’s annual Pediatric Nursing Conference for 15 years, bringing national pediatric nurse researchers and leaders to her hospital.

Her nominator states that “she has been the visionary leader in advancing nursing research in her institution for the last decade.”

Rising Star

While working on a coronary intensive care unit, Jason Fisher has been chair of the Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice Council. He has started two unit based journal clubs with the goal of reviewing the latest scientific evidence related to nursing practice, and has earned several professional certifications, both from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.  Co-creating a campaign to raise awareness of outdated practice and to promote the use and discussion of evidence –based practice at the bedside afforded this year’s winner the opportunity to impact patient care, and to develop leadership and speaking skills when presenting this program to nurse managers, clinical directors, and nurse executives within the organization.

This year’s winner is described by co-workers as being a broad and innovative thinker, exuberant, creative, and confident; and is a remarkable example of the young men and women selecting nursing as a profession.

Surgical Services

Victoria Wells has been a supporter of professional development within her unit, facilitating study groups and study guides.  She has earned a Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma, and has used six sigma strategies to focus on inefficiencies within her department.  In doing so, her team has been able to improve OR turnover time and sustain an average turnover rate of less than 24 minutes for over 17 months.  She helped with the implementation of two screening tools for perioperative patients which improved the safety and comfort for their patients.  This nurse also teaches several classes, including the Safety Program and a class on caring communications techniques.  She is a past co-chair and current member of the Education Council and leads the Quality Improvement Council of Shared Governance for Surgical Services. She is a past recipient of the Excellence in Nurse Mentoring Award, the Cameo of Caring Award, and a Preceptor Excellence Award.

Her co-worker states “her actions elevate the profession of nursing, providing inspiration to others.”

Women’s Health & Centering

This year’s winner in woman’s health, Joan Uhrig has had over 34 years of experience serving women and babies as a staff nurse.  She has been a certified lactation consultant for 13 years and has been active in increasing the number of mothers breastfeeding their babies through yearly breastfeeding skills fairs, educating not only new mothers but staff, and developing an evidenced based breastfeeding policy.  She was instrumental in developing a prenatal education program, and in starting the Cribs for Kids program at her facility.  She has played an integral role in several other unit-based initiatives, including organizing a prenatal breastfeeding class called “Baby Day Camp”; assisting in development of curriculum for the new “Grandparent/Caregiver” class; starting the Halo Sleep and the Safe Sleep Program.  She teaches obstetrical nursing clinicals for Ohio University and Chamberlain Schools of Nursing.

She is described by co-workers as an expert in her field and as a nurse heavily committed to providing assistance to breastfeeding mothers and improving infant mortality rates.

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