ARH Scholars Fall 2018 Winner: Conner Leisge

The Fall 2018 class of Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars includes students from all over the region, in various stages of life with one common goal – to make a difference in healthcare throughout Appalachia. Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the ARH Scholars program. Recipients are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare.

Connor Leisge grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky, and he’s setting himself up to give back to that same community. He’s currently enrolled in the College of Dentistry at the University of Kentucky (UK). Connor decided to pursue the medical field in high school after his positive experience with the nurses and doctors who cared for him during a long hospital visit.

“When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a major chest reconstructive surgery done,” Connor says. “I had a condition called pectus excavatum, a birth defect in your sternum which makes it curve inward like you’ve got a hole in your chest. I was very self-conscious about it, which is why it took me so long to seek treatment. While I was in the hospital, the nurses, the doctors, everybody was fantastic. As hard as the experience was physically, emotionally I was perfectly stable because the nurses and doctors were so great.”

Overall, Connor spent 33 days with the medical staff. While many might choose to focus on the obvious negatives of a lengthy hospital stay, post-major surgery, Connor was simply grateful for the caregivers and medical staff who encouraged him daily on his road to healing and recovery.

“That was pretty life changing,” Connor says. “It definitely sparked my interest in the medical field. I wanted to give back and help people’s lives like mine was helped.”

Pursuing higher education in healthcare has always been a goal of Connor’s and he’s thankful to ARH for helping him along this path. His biggest inspiration comes from his grandfather, who instilled in him the determination to pursue this goal.

“At a young age, my grandfather made the importance of education apparent for me and my cousins,” he says. “His story of barely getting through high school but then getting his degree in education and later becoming principal and superintendent in Pineville, Kentucky, was a big inspiration for me.”

This motivation to make higher learning a priority led Connor to dentistry, a field he described as the obvious career path to follow.

“One thing I cherished growing up was that I had very good hand skills,” Connor says. “I loved to draw, I loved artsy things. It just clicked in high school that I had good hand skills and it took good hand skills to be a dentist.”

Connor found out about the ARH Scholars program through his girlfriend, who is also an ARH Scholar. When he found out he won, Connor was delighted ARH valued his determination to give back to his hometown in Harlan through volunteerism and the dental services he hopes to one day provide.

“A lot of people in Harlan that I know can’t wait to get out of here and never come back,” he says. “I’m glad ARH noticed that I feel differently. I want to build it up to be something to be proud of.”

“The scholars are selected by the ARH Scholars Judging Committee,” says Danya Anderson, ARH Scholars Coordinator. “Once I receive the applications, I prepare them to be sent to the committee by making them a ‘blind’ application, which makes it fair for each applicant. The Scholars award is paid in two installments of $2,500 directly to the school.  One is payable after verification and the other is paid the following year. For this round, we had 73 applicants with 10 finalists awarded.”

So far on his route to becoming a dentist, Connor has volunteered with Mission Lexington, an organization dedicated to giving dental care to Lexington residents at or below the poverty line. He’s also worked with children as part of the dental program at UK, which is important to him, as he wants to act as an inspiration to the future generation of Harlan County.

“I want to point out to kids that just because they’re from somewhere like Harlan, becoming a dentist or a doctor isn’t unobtainable,” Connor says. “If they want to do that, they should go
for it.”

Connor eventually intends to open his own practice in Harlan County, with a mission for his practice to be a positive force in both the community and the medical field overall.

“I want to be able to build relationships with my patients and get rid of the negative stigma of going to the doctor,” he says. “I want to build people’s self-confidence up, to make them healthier physically but also mentally.”

ARH Scholars Fall 2018 Winner: Hannah Busroe

The Fall 2018 class of Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars includes students from all over the region, in various stages of life with one common goal – to make a difference in healthcare throughout Appalachia. Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the ARH Scholars program. Recipients are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare.

Hannah Busroe was born and raised in Harlan County, Kentucky, surrounded by a family with deep roots in the healthcare field. Her grandfather on her mother’s side, Dr. Albino Nunez, worked for Harlan ARH after immigrating to the United States from the Philippines. After earning his degree in the Philippines, his family pulled together the money to send him to New Orleans to live the American dream. There he met his wife, Hannah’s grandmother, and together they moved to Appalachia.

“Originally, he couldn’t speak any English, but he met my grandmother and they ended up falling in love and getting married. That’s how my family was formed,” Hannah says. “My grandparents sat down and decided where they could go and use their services to create the most good. They ended up in Harlan County and they came here with nothing. They had three children, my mom who became a pharmacist, my uncle who became a dentist and my aunt who became a nurse, and they all ended up coming back to Harlan.”

Hannah grew up down the street from her grandparents where her family would have Sunday dinner full of conversation about community involvement and their careers in healthcare. This experience sparked her interest in the medical field and she began exploring opportunities by working in her mother’s pharmacy.

“I kind of always knew I would go into the medical field,” she says. “I can remember when I was young my grandfather would sit me on his lap and we would look through his medical books that he created himself. When he was in school in the Philippines, he couldn’t afford his textbooks so he had to go to the library and hand copy or hand draw all of the material so he could study. I just remember thinking about how much of a commitment that must have been. Now that he has passed away those books are an example to me and my family that hard work pays off and sometimes it’s not easy, but he made it.”

Hannah initially attended the University of Kentucky (UK) to obtain her undergraduate degree in Human Health Sciences with a plan to later study Pharmacy. After shadowing a Pharmacist through a program at UK, she realized it was not the career path for her.

“It wasn’t as hands-on as I was used to seeing at my mom’s business,” she says. “I hit that point where I told my mom I didn’t like every aspect of pharmacy. She sat me down and told me if I didn’t like everything about the job then it may not be the career for me. That following summer I shadowed an Optometrist in Middlesboro, Kentucky, and I just knew it was the program for me.”

Knowing there was a slim chance she would receive early acceptance, Hannah applied for the Optometry program at the University of Pikeville (UPIKE) before completing her undergraduate studies at UK.

“I just kind of put all of my eggs in one basket and figured if I got accepted then I could go ahead and go and if not then I would finish at UK and try again to get into UPIKE,” she says. “All of the pieces just put themselves together and I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be on the career path I’m supposed to be on.”

In July 2018, she began the Optometry program at UPIKE and is set to graduate in May 2022. She is excited to study something she is truly passionate about at a university that allows her to stay close to home in the community she loves. After just about six months in the program Hannah has been immersed in the world of optometry through mission trips to Jamaica and Guatemala. These experiences have allowed her to see the kind of impact she can make through her work.

“Working in optometry, I’m able to help someone who may not even be able to provide for their family because of blindness that can be treated by simply giving them glasses,” she says. “Giving them that opportunity is such an awesome power to have in this profession. I have worn glasses and contacts since third grade and I can only imagine how life would have been if I hadn’t been able to see and live a daily life. Knowing that through Optometry I can help children proceed in their education and not fall behind is such an exciting thing for me.”

In addition to seeing the impact of optometry through hands-on experience, Hannah has a family connection motivating her. Her grandfather on her father’s side is going blind from Macular Degeneration. Seeing the impact that has had on his life motivates her to work hard in her program to help prevent those sorts of conditions.

When she received the news that she was chosen as a Fall 2018 ARH Scholar, Hannah was extremely excited. Her application was a very quick turnaround as she learned about the program just one week before the application deadline.

“I was just scrolling through Facebook and saw an ad about the program,” Hannah says. “I looked at the requirements and thought this was important for me to apply for because ARH is important to me and my family, but they employ so many people here in Harlan. I was able to get all of the materials together at the last minute and apply. I was very excited to find out all of that hard work paid off. It’s so relieving to know that there are other people beyond myself and my family who believe in me and my abilities who are pushing me to continue my education and career.”

After graduation Hannah is unsure of what her next step will be. She is interested in continuing her education to allow her to offer services beyond comprehensive exams. Regardless of her decision, she plans to return home to Harlan and eventually open her own practice.

“I think the biggest thing is just to serve Appalachia and give people who are challenged by vision deficiencies and difficulties the gift of sight,” Hannah says. “I think it’s something that a lot of people take for granted because we don’t think about how much we rely on our sight for everything from cooking to working and driving and even the smallest things. Knowing I can make a difference in a child’s life or an elderly patient’s life as their vision begins to decline is huge. Having the opportunity to give people sight with my knowledge is a huge opportunity and something I hope to do to my fullest capacity.”

ARH Scholars Fall 2018 Winner: Zachary Grimmett

The Fall 2018 class of Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars includes students from all over the region, in various stages of life with one common goal – to make a difference in healthcare throughout Appalachia. Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the ARH Scholars program. Recipients are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare.

Zachary Grimmett is a Belfry, Kentucky native and Belfry High School graduate. He is currently attending University of Charleston School of Pharmacy (UCSOP) while working as a Pharmacist Intern at Tug Valley ARH. In this role Zachary is gaining experience with both inpatient and outpatient pharmacy work. This means he gets the opportunity to work on the hospital floor and in more of a traditional pharmacy setting. Before beginning this journey, he worked at Food City grocery store where he learned basic customer service skills that he has carried into this new career.

“My position at Tug Valley ARH has helped me tremendously in school and in life,” says Zachary. “Even the retail experience I had in the grocery store has transferred so well into the medical field. Before I was working with customers in a retail setting, and now I’m working with patients, but the communication strategies I learned have transferred so well into my future endeavors.”

Zachary has always had an interest in the medical field. However, he was first introduced to pharmacy after taking part in the medical exploration program that Tug Valley ARH hosted at his high school. Motivated by the potential impact he can make, Zachary is excited to continue his career in Pharmacy after graduating from UCSOP in May 2020.

“My mother was a medical transcriptionist, so since I was a kid I’ve been exposed to the healthcare field, physicians and doctors, listening to their speech and seeing how they work with patients. Pharmacy really interested me because their scope of practice was for the treatment of people and that is really my goal, to make people better. I know that sounds really simplistic, but it’s so touching to think that is my goal in life. Through medical treatments I can help give my patients a better quality of life.”

He is lucky to have a great support system in his family and friends. Aside from his family offering insight into the medical field, his close-knit friend group supports each other through every endeavor.

“I’ve had a lot of influential people in my life from friends to family and coworkers,” Zachary says. “My coworkers always support me, encourage and educate me, and I look up to them because of how they treat their patients. As for friends, I’m from a small community and I have a circle of friends who all support each other regardless of our career path. I also look up to my family because on one side I have coal miners and people who did a lot of hard physical labor and I respect that and want to be the hard worker that they are. On the other side I have managers of corporations and I look up to them because they have run successful businesses.”

As a first time ARH Scholars applicant, Zachary was ecstatic to learn he was a recipient. He is thankful that ARH sees the value in offering programming like this to encourage people in the community to pursue an education and career in healthcare.

“I was really shocked, but thrilled and blessed when I found out I was an ARH Scholar because I thought since I was a first time applicant they might just overlook me,” he says. “When I found out, it was such an overwhelming feeling. I was actually on a trip when I got the news and I just stopped everything I was doing and had an emotional moment.”

While Zachary is not completely sure what path he will take after graduation, he’s excited to serve his community regardless of his decision. He is interested in continuing his education to obtain board certification in both pharmacotherapy and critical care. These certifications will allow him to offer an even higher level of care to his patients.

“I would really like to work for ARH because it feels like home to me. It’s in my community and it has always been our local hospital,” he says. “I hope to make an impact on every patient’s life I come in contact with, whether that be an inpatient or outpatient setting. I hope to make a difference for each patient individually, but also on a grand scale. I want to improve the community as a whole by creating a higher quality of life and better health outcomes for everyone.”

ARH Scholars Fall 2018 Winner: Cheyna McCoy

The Fall 2018 class of Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars includes students from all over the region, in various stages of life with one common goal – to make a difference in healthcare throughout Appalachia. Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the ARH Scholars program. Recipients are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare.

Cheyna McCoy is excited to be the only high school student named a Fall 2018 ARH Scholar. As a senior at Leslie County High School she is extremely involved in school taking AP and college credit classes and running track. In her free time Cheyna loves to read, listen to music and explore the beautiful hiking trails around her hometown of Hyden, Kentucky.

She says she has always had a passion for caring for and being there for others in a time of need. This passion is what originally sparked her interest in the medical field. After graduation in May 2019, Cheyna plans to attend the University of the Cumberlands to study Psychology. Like many other ARH Scholars, Cheyna is excited to use her skills to give back to the community she calls home.

“I was compelled to take this path from living in a community that struggles with drug abuse,” she says. “It’s my dream to contribute in my community’s solution to this problem. I believe studying psychology will give me a better understanding of people in order to reach this goal.”

Throughout her life, and as she enters her college career, Cheyna says her family have served as her biggest mentors. She wouldn’t be in the position she is today without their constant love and support.

“They have always encouraged me to be the best I can be and pushed me to beat my limits,” she says.

She has already started flexing her healthcare muscles by volunteering with a local nursing home where she spends time with residents, talking and singing with them. She even takes the time to send the residents cards for special occasions and holidays.

She was very excited after learning she had been named a Fall 2018 ARH Scholar via an email from ARH Scholars Program Coordinator, Danya Anderson.

“I felt an overwhelming happiness and ran into my mom and dad’s room to tell them the news,” Cheyna says. “I woke up the next morning to my best friend FaceTiming me, congratulating me and saying they saw the news on Facebook.”

“The scholars are selected by the ARH Scholars Judging Committee,” says Danya Anderson. “Once I receive the applications, I prepare them to be sent to the committee by making them a ‘blind’ application, which makes it fair for each applicant. The Scholars award is paid in two installments of $2,500 directly to the school.  One is payable after verification and the other is paid the following year. For this round, we had 73 applicants with 10 finalists awarded.”

Cheyna is excited to continue making an impact in her local community through her work. After graduating from the University of the Cumberlands she hopes to begin working as a clinical psychologist and work her way up to Psychiatrist. Through this work she will help patients by identifying, treating and preventing mental disorders and issues.

“I hope to help the people of Appalachia fight for better lives that they deserve,” she says.

ARH Scholars Fall 2018 Winner: Sasha Engle

The Fall 2018 class of Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars includes students from all over the region, in various stages of life with one common goal – to make a difference in Eastern Kentucky healthcare.

Sasha Engle has been working toward this goal for over 10 years and is now pursuing a nursing degree as part of the partnership between ARH and Galen College of Nursing.

“Ever since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be a nurse,” Sasha says. “I worked as a CNA for 10 years, four of which were at Whitesburg ARH. I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field and wanted to grow my career. ARH is all I ever knew growing up, it’s the only hospital around us. When I got the job it felt like I was working with family. The atmosphere is that down home care where you know their only goal is to help the community and give back.”

Sasha was born and raised by her father and grandmother in Linefork, Kentucky just outside of Whitesburg. Her father taught her the importance of hard work and dedication at a young age. Unfortunately, her father lost his life working as a coal miner when she was young, but his lesson prevailed throughout her life. Sasha has worked hard for everything she has accomplished in her career and life. Starting in the food service industry at the age of 16, Sasha has worked her way up – and she’s not done yet.

“My dad was my biggest mentor throughout my life,” Sasha says. “Even from the grave he’s been the biggest mentor for me. He taught me that nothing will ever be given to me, hard work, determination and never giving up will help me succeed in life. My kids keep me going too. They’re a handful, but they’re the motivation to keep me going.”

She says her family and community serve as motivation as she grows in her career. She has been married to her husband for 10 years and they have two children, an eight year old girl and three year old boy both born on the same day.

Sasha is now one of 10 students throughout the 12 ARH communities named a Fall 2018 Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholar. This award will allow her to continue her pursuit of making healthcare more accessible throughout Eastern Kentucky. As a first time applicant, she was ecstatic, proud and admittedly a bit shocked when she received the news that she was a recipient.

“I received an email congratulating me for being an ARH Scholars winner and I thought it was a joke,” she says. “I soon realized it was real and I felt so grateful for the opportunity to apply and win among many different contestants. They felt that I was great enough to win this, represent my community and show people that a mom of two can go on to pursue her dreams. Being a mom does not knock you down from doing what you want to do.”

“The scholars are selected by the ARH Scholars Judging Committee,” says Danya Anderson, ARH Scholars Coordinator. “Once I receive the applications, I prepare them to be sent to the committee by making them a ‘blind’ application, which makes it fair for each applicant. The Scholars award is paid in two installments of $2,500 directly to the school.  One is payable after verification and the other is paid the following year. For this round, we had 73 applicants with 10 finalists awarded.”

Sasha is grateful and excited for this opportunity and the doors it will open for her career. Once she graduates from Galen College of Nursing in October 2019 she hopes to continue working for ARH. Ultimately, she plans to obtain her BSN in the future.

“I just want people to know that when they are in my care I will treat them like family and I will always be in their corner fighting and advocating for them,” she says. “I want my patients and community to know I’ve worked hard for what I’ve got and see me as a great asset to the ARH team.”

Trena Hall

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Trena Hall

The women in leadership for Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.

The Director of Corporate Projects, Trena Hall is one of the main players in the expansion of ARH throughout eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia. Her 40 plus years at ARH have fostered a passion and commitment to fulfilling the organization’s mission.

Trena’s journey with ARH began as a nurse at Whitesburg ARH Hospital, where she spent the first 13 years of her career. Her work ethic and success as a nurse prompted ARH leadership to promote Trena to a management role. From there she took on several other leadership roles, including Assistant Director of Nursing, Assistant Administrator and CEO at Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center and CEO of McDowell ARH Hospital. She has implemented a number of programs and key services during her time at ARH including the Open Heart Program, Inpatient Rehab Program, and Cancer Center in Hazard.

“I often tell my husband that I feel really blessed,” Trena says. “I absolutely love my job. It’s so wonderful to bring a group of very diverse people together and help them achieve their goals. I work with everyone from nurses and doctors all the way to construction workers and engineers. It’s truly rewarding being able to see that final result knowing this new or improved healthcare service is going to make a difference to patient care, the people who work in those environments and the entire community. You can’t put a price on that.”

There is a strong sense of camaraderie among the employees of ARH. Many of the women in leadership, including Trena, said their favorite thing about ARH is the people they get to work with every day.

“I can’t begin to tell you how rich my life has been because of the people who have been a part of it along the way,” Trena says. “Any organization, I don’t care what kind it is, is only as good as it’s people and it’s mission. I believe in the mission of ARH, I think the services we provide in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia are critical to our communities. It’s our community, the people we serve and the employees who make it a pleasure to come to work every day. When you work with wonderful people it’s easy to be happy at work.”

Trena recalls an instance when she was out in the community and an individual she cared for during her time as a nurse recognized her.

“He said, ‘You don’t remember me, do you?’ I had no idea who the gentleman was, but he remembered me,” Trena says. “The gentleman had been in a terrible accident and I remember that we thought he was going to die. He remembered me because he remembers me telling him to hang on. It wasn’t necessarily what I did for him that he remembered, it was that I talked to him, and he needed that. He needed someone to tell him to fight.”

This encounter illustrates the amount of impact healthcare workers can have on a daily basis.

“It goes to the crux of what we do. It’s about that man and all the others like him. I’m just one little piece in this huge puzzle and I think that’s what matters.”

Trena’s career success is, in part, due to her parent’s encouragement throughout her life. They served as her biggest mentors because of their optimism, encouragement, and determination.

“I can remember being very young and my dad telling me I could be anything I wanted to be…I graduated from high school in 1974 and I didn’t realize at the time, because my father was so open about us doing whatever we wanted to do, that gender might make a difference in what I could do in a career,” Trena says. “My parents were very focused on us developing a personal level of integrity, being honest and open, working hard and communicating well. Those things have helped shape my life and my career.”

Trena passed along this same sense of perseverance to her children, and now her grandchildren who are nine and 14-years-old.

“The thing that matters most in life is having a strong faith and I try very hard to put God first in my life and trust what He has planned for us,” she says. “I’ve talked to them about the importance of the kind of person they become. All the money and power in the world won’t make them happy. What makes a person truly successful is leaving your mark, making a difference in the world and doing it with joy.”

When she is not working Trena loves to spend time with her kids and grandchildren at the lake, a place she says they stumbled upon almost by accident. ARH is something like a family business for the Hall’s. When her son was hired as Assistant Administrator at Middlesboro ARH Hospital his family moved to accommodate his career change. Trena says they would travel through Powell Valley on their way to visit and fell in love with the lake and surrounding area.

“I remember thinking it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen, and I’ve been a few places,” she says. “I’ve been to Alaska and it was gorgeous, but I just thought that valley was beautiful. I found my little slice of heaven and I think we’ll probably retire there.”

Although her son has since been promoted, Trena and her husband continue to visit Powell Valley every chance they get.

When asked what advice she has for a young woman interested in entering the medical field she had this to say:

“I think they really need to do their homework and make sure they understand the field they’re getting into. If they’re going into a clinical role they need to feel a passion for what they do because it’s a tough job. If they’re going into healthcare administration they need to understand that healthcare administration is arguably one of the toughest business leadership roles you can take. There’s nothing you can’t achieve if you are really determined and never give up. Perform the best you can, be the best you can be at what you do and be willing to work hard.”

Ellen Wright

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Ellen Wright

The women in leadership for Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.

For over 30 years Ellen Wright has worked for ARH in a number of nursing positions, from student nurse to ICU staff nurse, Community Chief Nursing Officer and Community CEO at Whitesburg ARH and now System Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Nursing for ARH. According to Ellen, in this position she provides assistance, oversite, development and implementation of all nursing services including policy procedure, education, staffing, implementation of new processes and evaluation of care that is provided. She works with the board of trustees, medical staff and all other departments to help coordinate care across the system.

Ellen boasts an impressive collegiate resume. Soon after graduating from high school she began classes to become an LPN and worked in that position for four years. She then attended Hazard Community and Technical College where she earned her Registered Nursing License. Finally, she earned her Master’s Degree in Nursing and her Family Nurse Practitioner Certification from the University of Kentucky.

“I think my interest in nursing started with my grandmother who lived with us,” Ellen says. “She had a lot of health conditions, so I helped my mother take care of her. Seeing the struggle my mother went through caring for her really motivated and inspired me to want to help others. Having resources and nursing professionals in our community to help care for family is really invaluable.”

As System Chief Nursing Officer, Ellen does not interact with patients in the same capacity she did as a staff nurse. While she loves working with patients to offer the best care possible, she was interested in advancing her career to make a larger impact at ARH. As she advanced to nursing leadership for ARH she had the chance to learn more about the various nursing roles throughout the system, other disciplines, and how they work to improve the quality of care across the continuum.

“My favorite thing about working for ARH is the people I work with,” she says. “They all have such a heart for their family, friends, neighbors and each other. It’s a very caring organization and their mission aligns with my goals, to improve health, making our community a better place.”

Talking to any ARH employee it is clear, this organization loves each other and the community with everything they have. Ellen says ARH employees care for their patients as if they are their own family.

“I respect my coworkers so much because I know when they’re at work they’re there for the patient, regardless of their personal trials,” she says. “They go above and beyond what they’re expected to do. I’ve seen staff take money out of their own pocket to give to a patient’s family, I’ve seen them bring back food when they go out for their lunch break, I’ve even seen staff visit funeral homes because they grew so close to a patient. It’s just part of the culture and the very reason I love them.”

Working in the medical field for over 30 years, Ellen understands the importance of having strong mentors to lean on for guidance and advice. She is proud to say she has had many different mentors throughout her life and has learned something important from each of them.

“Of course I have spiritual leaders, but I also have people who are my cheerleaders, like my mother who always said I could do anything I set my mind to and my father whose work ethic and love for others I admired,” she says. “I had nursing leaders like Geraldine McDonald, who was the epitome of nursing leadership. She always wanted to do what was best for the patient. As a staff nurse I always felt like she supported me and had my back. My goal was always to be a leader like her.”

Ellen is able to maintain a work-life balance thanks to the loving support of her husband Tim, son Taylor and daughter-in-law Kristen, who are also part of the nursing community, and two granddaughters McKenzie and Alivia. Ellen’s free time is spent with her granddaughters, working with her church’s youth ministry, being outdoors and traveling with her husband.

Her career is a prime example of the type of growth and development available in this field. When asked what advice she had to offer to a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field, she had this to say:

“It is absolutely the land of opportunity. There are so many options and there are always jobs available.”

Dr. Maria Braman

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Dr. Maria Braman

The women in leadership at Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.

Dr. Maria Braman has had an extensive career in medicine that has led her to become the Chief Medical Officer at ARH. Her mother was a doctor and from a young age Dr. Braman was exposed to the healthcare field, cultivating a passion for serving patients.

She obtained her medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where she was able to explore several different medical concentrations before pursuing pathology. She completed her pathology residency at MedStar Washington Hospital Center as well as an additional breast pathology residency at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Braman says she entered the healthcare field during a time when a work-life balance was almost unheard of. While she was most interested in the surgery field, she chose to focus on pathology, allowing her to have a family while still aiding in the process of diagnosis after surgery. Before joining the ARH team, she served as the Vice President of Medical Affairs for St Peter’s Hospital in Helena, MT. Prior to that she was chair of the pathology department and medical director at St. Peter’s Hospital and Mountain West Pathology in Helena, Montana. There she utilized her training in breast pathology to open the first nationally accredited breast program in Montana, something she is still extremely proud of.

“[Creating this breast program] was really driven by a desire to improve the delivery of breast care. It provided me the opportunity to utilize my expertise in breast pathology to improve patient care on a broad scale,” Dr. Braman says. “It was very exciting to me and it opened my eyes to a whole other part of medicine where I didn’t just do direct patient care. This is when I was first bitten by the administrative bug. I was helping people from a broader perspective by developing a whole system involving multiple members of the healthcare team to bring better care to patients.”

In addition to this work, she served as the President and CEO of Braman Labs, LLC, a women’s health molecular diagnostics laboratory. In her current role as Chief Medical Officer, the most senior medical administrative position within ARH, she represents all hospitals across the system. She focuses on integrating medicine and quality of care into management while implementing the strategic vision and goals of the organization.

“When I’m sitting behind the microscope I can only help one patient at a time,” she says. “From an administrative perspective I’m able to help literally thousands of people per day. That’s just where my passion led me, and fortunately the opportunities followed.”

In an effort to advance her already impressive career, Dr. Braman graduated from Notre Dame University in May 2018 with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). She says completing this degree has provided an additional layer of exposure and expertise complimenting her move from practicing medicine to healthcare administration. This new knowledge will allow her to continue to excel at ARH, an organization she has grown passionate about in her time there.

“I really love my job here at ARH because there are so many people every day that we are able to impact, making a difference in the care that they receive,” Dr. Braman says. “There is a lot of opportunity to grow, develop and improve [healthcare] here. I believe that ARH has the opportunity to really make a national name for itself in rural healthcare and stand out as leaders on a national stage. There’s so much richness in our network of 12 hospitals and 80 clinics, we have so many thoughts and ideas and people working together to bring high-level care to the community. I love the opportunity, energy and commitment ARH has to the community and we’re at a point where we are launching. It’s really exciting.”

Her love for ARH runs deeper than her job alone. In mid-2018 her grandmother who lives in Maryland fell ill. Dr. Braman’s family alerted her of the poor care her grandmother was receiving and she had to intervene. She immediately jumped in her car and drove to Maryland where she arranged an ambulance to transport her grandmother to ARH.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the care that she received in our hospital and the genuine love that came from everyone in the community, whether it was the nursing staff, the janitor or the dietary team dropping off food,” Dr. Braman says. “She was so comfortable and felt so safe, a stark difference to the care she was receiving in Maryland. Watching what ARH does for patients be done so beautifully and seeing my grandmother transition from this world to the next peacefully, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

In addition to her grandmother, Dr. Braman’s family is full of incredibly talented women. She says her mother has served as her biggest role model and mentor throughout her life. Her mother came to the United States from Trinidad where she was one of only three women in her medical school class. Now, at the age of 74 Dr. Braman says her mother is traveling the world, living her life to the fullest.

“She has paved her way, she has energy and she loves life at 74,” Dr. Braman says. “She’s a dynamite woman and I’m very proud to be her daughter.”

Dr. Braman and her husband, Benjamin have three beautiful children, one biological daughter, Katie, and two adopted children, Jaylissa and Kanye who are biological brother and sister. Much like herself, her three children have been exposed to the healthcare field from a young age.

Family is extremely important to Dr. Braman, and she has always strived for the work-life balance that Pathology originally promised. Her passion for her work led her to pursue projects like developing the breast program in Montana in her free time; however, she has always taken time for her family and even involved them in her work when possible.

“I realized, if you enjoy what you do, you keep your energy for it. It’s when things are a drag that they’re hard, but when you enjoy what you do and you’re passionate about it it’s not so much about balance as it is about having fun. I love being able to share that with my kids.”

Her career in the medical field has offered many lessons and a vast amount of knowledge that she is excited to share with future healthcare professionals. When asked what advice she has for a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field she had this to say:

“Do what you’re passionate about. Your passion carries you a long way. That’s the difference between being average and being great, do it with passion, don’t be afraid and take risks. Love what you do.”

ARH is lucky and humbled to have such an incredible, accomplished leader paving the way for future healthcare professionals and helping to further advance medicine in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia.

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Violet Sylvia

The women in leadership for Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.

 

Not many people can say they moved from Eastern Kentucky to join the Navy as a Medical Corpsman jumping from Orlando, to Virginia, Chicago, California, Alaska and back to California to earn their PhD and now work for a hospital system of 12 facilities. Violet Sylvia, System Director of Rehabilitation for ARH, did exactly that. As a teenager, she volunteered as a candy striper at her local hospital where she fostered a love for patient care. Growing up on a farm in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, Violet’s family did not have much money, but she knew she wanted to attend college. In 1975, Violet left Kentucky on a bus for Orlando, Florida where she completed Navy basic training followed by four years of active duty and two years in the reserves.

“During that four years of active duty I had the opportunity as this small town girl from Mount Sterling, Kentucky, to see places like Orlando, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; and San Diego, California,” Violet says. “I experienced large cities and diversity of people. I guess it was kind of like fate that it happened that way because by the time I started my college education I really knew where I wanted to be, what I wanted to do and how I wanted to go about it.”

Violet was able to utilize the GI Bill to complete her education in California where she earned her MBA with an emphasis in healthcare administration from National University and her PhD in business management from California Coast University. She completed her dissertation work in healthcare management and the impact it has on patient outcomes. This combined with practical work experience and her existing passion for patient care led her to pursue a career in rehabilitation services.

“Working in the emergency room led me to rehabilitation,” Violet says. “We would stabilize a patient and save their life after something like a motorcycle accident or traumatic brain injury and off they would go. I always wondered what quality of life they had after their accident. Did they go back to work, were they able to spend time with family, play baseball if that’s what they loved to do? That was the lightbulb that moved me into the rehabilitation unit. I’ve been very fortunate to have chosen a career I love and look forward to doing every day.”

In her current role as System Director of Rehabilitation Services, Violet oversees the service line for physical, occupational, and speech therapy for all 12 ARH facilities. She believes someone in her role needs to have organizational and leadership skills while also being very mission driven. Exercising these skills has afforded Violet 13 years working in the rehabilitation service line for ARH.

“During this last 13 years we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of clinical growth,” she says. “I’ve worked a lot on continuing education bringing in speakers who have provided programs for our rehabilitation staff to obtain certifications and learn new protocols. For me that’s really exciting because it’s a way to give back to those front-line people who are hands on with our patients and provide them with the latest and greatest skills. I’m also proud that we are able to promote from within and watch those qualified candidates grow as leaders. We’re now a preferred provider of rehabilitation services because of our clinical quality and as a result we’ve had clinical and financial success. I’m really proud of my team and the growth we’ve accomplished.”

It is clear that almost everyone who works for ARH has an unconditional love for the organization, their career and the people they work with each day. It’s no wonder why so many of ARH’s women in leadership have been with the organization for 10 plus years, sometimes after returning for a second tenure.

“In my position I have the opportunity to visit every single one of our hospital and clinic locations that make a positive impact on someone’s life through rehabilitation,” she says. “This gives me the opportunity to see our services in action. When I see a patient who wasn’t able to walk and then after rehab services, I watch them walk out of the clinic, or I see a non-verbal child work with our therapists and then they communicate with their family for the first time, that is so impactful. These are reasons why I love working in rehab services.”

When asked what she loved most about her position with ARH, Violet says, “I think my favorite thing about my job is the people I work with. Whether I am working with system leadership or Community CEOs and of course my amazing managers, they all make coming to work a positive experience. I’m blessed to work with people at all levels of our organization who really want to make a positive impact on our patients and the community.”

While Violet is an incredibly hard worker, she says she owes her current success to the support of her mother. Thanks to her mother’s encouragement she was able to enter the military to earn the GI Bill and attend school.

“My mom supported my vision for my future. She always encouraged me, from the time I was a candy striper, to when I graduated high school early, got on a bus and headed for basic training right after my 18th birthday,” Violet says. “She inspired me saying that whatever I set my mind to I could accomplish and I knew she would support me. Looking back now as I’m older and have kids and grandkids, I’m sure it had to be hard for my mother. I think about how it must have felt for her staring at that bus watching my wings spread. She never expressed her worry, she only said to go and do what inspired me and that she supported me.”

Today, Violet looks to her husband and family for support and to keep her grounded. She says her husband’s personality perfectly complements her Type A personality serving as a calming force in her life.

“I have a very supportive and patient husband,” she says. “I’ve been blessed to have someone in my life who challenges me, provides comfort, but also supports my need to create.”

In her free time Violet loves spending time with family and her two rescue

Chihuahuas, Dusty and Haley. She also enjoys reading mystery novels, and volunteering at animal shelters. Giving back to the community of eastern Kentucky is extremely important to her. Outside of her role at ARH, Violet continues to work in the rehabilitation realm. She is the co-founder of Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network (KARRN), an organization dedicated to improving quality of life for all by advocating for communities impacted by disability.

When asked what advice she has for young women interested in entering the medical field, she had this to say:

“You just have to expect the unexpected,” Violet says. “I think that holds true in professional and personal life. You have to anticipate the unexpected happening and when it does, just go with it. If you understand that things are not always going to happen as you plan, then you treat the unexpected more as a problem to solve than a crisis. That really helps me keep life balanced. Whenever things happen I am ready to address the issue and handle the problem. If you keep that level of calm and treat it as a challenge to overcome rather than a crisis then it takes much less time to resolve.”

Violet has loved her time with ARH and we are equally grateful for her hard work and dedication. Join us in thanking Violet for 13 years of service and congratulating her on retiring on November 30, 2018!

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Dena Sparkman

The women in leadership for Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.

ARH is a very tight-knit community, as are the towns each facility is located in. It is common to hear locals say they were born at an ARH hospital. This connection is part of what fosters the sense of pride and passion each ARH employee has for their work. Dena Sparkman was born at McDowell ARH and grew up in a town called Wheelwright, Kentucky, just 12 miles from the hospital. After spending stints of time in Durham, North Carolina and Lexington, Kentucky, Dena was excited to return home in 1993 to begin her career with the organization where it all began. After almost 25 years, and a variety of leadership roles she currently serves as the Community CEO at Whitesburg ARH.

In this role, Dena is operationally responsible for the hospital and clinical operations on campus. In addition to the hospital, three clinics fall under her jurisdiction: one on the hospital campus, a cardiology clinic located nearby and one in Jenkins, Kentucky.

“I once had a mentor say to me that there is no substitute for brains,” Dena says. “To be a community CEO you have to have a varied background with knowledge about the hospital, community and clinics. You need both people skills and financial skills.”

Dena always planned to enter the healthcare field and originally pursued her undergraduate degree in biology at Alice Lloyd College. She then attended medical technology school at Duke University with plans to work in the lab after graduation. For about six months, Dena worked in the lab ultimately deciding it wasn’t the career for her. Dena continued her education by completing her Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration at the University of Kentucky. During the last year of her Master’s program Dena’s instructor passed around a flyer for an Administrative Fellow position with ARH and she jumped at the opportunity to return home.

“I asked her to hand the flyer over to me and I decided that position was mine, I was going home!” Dena says. “My parents and the rest of my family were in Eastern Kentucky and that’s where I wanted to be.”

Dena was hired as Administrative Fellow. In this position Dena learned hospital administration through hands-on experience working for six months in the corporate office and six months out in the field.

“It’s never the same day twice and it’s never a boring day in healthcare,” she says. “There’s always something unexpected and I think one of the reasons I love it is because you get to help people. You make decisions and do things that impact their lives, and that’s powerful. It may not just be patients, it may be employees. It’s always something different and I love that.”

Dena’s passion for healthcare stems from her experience with severe asthma as a young girl. Asthma attacks would send her to the emergency room regularly where she met her special nurse, Shelby Jean Boyd. Her nurse was sure to give her medicine and oxygen and once Dena was feeling better Shelby Jean would pop popcorn and they would spend time talking and catching up.

“I’ll just never forget, when I saw her I knew it was going to be alright if she was there,” Dena says. “It didn’t matter to me which doctor was there, if Shelby Jean was there everything was going to be great. Because of her I tell people, never underestimate the impact you’re going to have on someone because 30 years later I’m still talking about Shelby Jean.”

Today, Dena loves volunteering her time mentoring kids in the community. Together they work on resumes, interview skills and talk through the details of different career paths. Whether they are interested in the healthcare field or something else, she loves giving back to the community in this way.

“There have been a lot of people who have served as mentors in my life,” she says. “I think everyone needs a mentor, someone they can call and bounce ideas off of in a non-punitive way. It’s your one get out of jail free card, someone you are comfortable with that you can sharpen your skills against in a way that is good for both parties.”

Dena loves her job, but also makes time for work-life balance. Outside of her volunteer work, Dena is an avid reader, loves to go to the movies, her son’s marching band events, and spending cozy nights in doing jigsaw puzzles.

“In order to make the work-life balance work, you have to realize that you’re only one person and you can’t do it all,” Dena says.

When asked what advice she has for a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field she had this to say:

“Try it, you might like it. I think more young women should try it and not be intimidated by the environment.”

Whitesburg ARH is lucky to have such a driven, hard-working and well-rounded Community CEO in Dena Sparkman.