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Meet SC Biz News’ 2023 Health Care Heroes (PHOTOS)

Jason Thomas //December 7, 2023//

Honorees in 12 categories were recognized during an event in Columbia, as SC Biz News expanded its Health Care Heroes program this year to include honorees from across the state. (Photos/Josh Pugh, Studio 601)

Honorees in 12 categories were recognized during an event in Columbia, as SC Biz News expanded its Health Care Heroes program this year to include honorees from across the state. (Photos/Josh Pugh, Studio 601)

Honorees in 12 categories were recognized during an event in Columbia, as SC Biz News expanded its Health Care Heroes program this year to include honorees from across the state. (Photos/Josh Pugh, Studio 601)

Honorees in 12 categories were recognized during an event in Columbia, as SC Biz News expanded its Health Care Heroes program this year to include honorees from across the state. (Photos/Josh Pugh, Studio 601)

Meet SC Biz News’ 2023 Health Care Heroes (PHOTOS)

Jason Thomas //December 7, 2023//

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SC Biz News celebrated its 2023 Health Care Heroes honorees at a recognition event Thursday at the DoubleTree Hilton Columbia.

Honorees in 12 categories were recognized during the 17th annual event. SC Biz News expanded its Health Care Heroes program this year to include honorees from across the state.

Meet the honorees below.

Photos by Josh Pugh of Studio 601.


Dr. Spence Taylor, president and CEO, Integral Leaders in Health

The first physician to serve as president in the 107-year history of the eight-hospital Greenville Health System, Spence Taylor is former chair of the American Board of Surgery and past president of both the Southern Surgical Association and the Southern Association for Vascular Surgery, among his many, many accomplishments. He has received numerous awards for teaching and has authored more than 120 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters.

At Greenville Health System, now part of Prisma Health, Spence led the creation of a medical school and nursing school inside Prisma in conjunction with the two state universities. And now, he is on a new quest to improve health care.

Today Spence Taylor serves as leader of a new organization he helped found, which aims to revolutionize medical care to meet the needs of the individual patient by focusing on their outcomes.

Fun Fins program in Dorchester and Colleton Counties

Kelly Bowen, director of PR and Communications at Summerville Medical Center, accepted the award on behalf of the Fun Fins program.

Imagine dragging a 24 foot-long, 16-foot wide, 3-foot deep portable pool, holding 7,200 gallons of water to rural communities in Colleton and Dorchester Counties. Why would you do that? To teach children in rural areas how to swim in the wake of a spate of pediatric drowning deaths.

Reliable transportation, cost and availability are the biggest barriers for families to sign up their children for swimming lessons, even in areas crisscrossed by waterways. So seven community partners collaborated to take action through the Fun Fins program, bringing the swim lessons to the kids. Among these organizations was Summerville Medical Center.

In just four weeks, Fun Fins taught 335 children to swim – and other safety lessons, like how to put on a life jacket. And, after bringing his granddaughter to the lessons, one grandfather signed up for adult swim lessons. Fun Fins is making waves!

Community Service Healthcare Hero

Rebecca McKinney, Community Health Manager, Bon Secour St. Francis, Greenville

Over 12 years in her role at St. Francis, McKinney has been a whirling dervish of beneficial activity. She has improved health and wellness, and reduced environmental impact, for everyone at and around the hospital.

McKinney has won grants totaling more than $1 million, initiated fresh fruit and vegetable programs, and promoted recycling and conservation. She started neighborhood gardening programs, helped develop neighborhood master plans and overseen senior health education programs. She runs the Healthy Outcomes Program, and a chronic disease education and management program and … so much more.

In her personal life, she serves various community organizations, was named Urban Conservationist of the Year by the county water district and Adjunct Professor of the Year by Greenville Tech. And we’ve just scratched the surface.


First Responders Healthcare Hero

Chris Spencer, Upstate Operations Manager, Thorne Ambulance Service

When two ambulance companies exited the Midlands abruptly, Chris Spencer came to the rescue, as only the most amazing paramedic could. He relocated temporarily from the Upstate to help provide coverage to two counties that otherwise had no access to the EMS system. This operation required the certification of six ambulances and hiring of nearly 40 staff in just a month.

It turns out, that’s nothing new for Spencer. He’s been known to assist with emergency responses while off the clock, where his quick actions are the difference between life and death.

A solutions-focused leader who is equally accomplished mentoring others or rolling up his sleeves himself, Spencer is the definition of a team player.


Future Medical Leader Healthcare Hero

Joshua Kim, Medical student and Design Director, MUSC’s Human-Centered Design Program

The idea that Joshua Kim is a future medical leader is, frankly, laughable. Kim is a medical leader now. As an innovator and designer, he has led the development of two dozen healthcare improvement projects that aim to boost the healthcare experiences of both patients and physicians.

He helped develop a medical device start-up company focused on improving CPR outcomes. He helped create patient adjustment systems for pediatric cancer patients receiving proton therapy treatment. He helped invent a 3D-printed mask for alleviating mask shortages during Covid. And most recently he was integral to the development of an external vascular occlusion device to improve cardiac arrest outcomes.

Kim has won numerous awards for his inventions and accolades for his humility, perseverance and grace. And he’s doing all this while in medical school.


Julie Anderson, Director of the Quality and Compliance Team, MUSC Health

It takes brains and guts to transplant kidneys and pancreases. That’s Anderson, a master’s-prepared nurse with another master’s in public health, transplant certification and a Yellow Belt in LEAN Six Sigma. Anderson served as MUSC’s kidney/pancreas transplant coordinator before her performance got her promoted to her current position. There she provides direct supervision to two quality teams, overseeing three transplant centers.

There’s not a lot of room for error in the transplant business and Anderson is in constant improvement mode. She has authored a number of papers and presentations on emerging best practices. Her co-workers say she is a mentor who nurtures trusting relationships among team members and promotes a healthy and compassionate work environment.

While she’s leading teams of lifesavers she is also involved with a variety of charitable activities and won a Junior League award for her philanthropic leadership.

Dr. Myriam J. Sollman, Neuropsychologist at Prisma Health Neurology

Dr. Myriam J. Sollman works tirelessly to support her patients, as well as her colleagues in the medical profession, and her opinion and advice is sought by medical professionals across the nation.

Because she is one of the few neuropsychologists in the state of South Carolina, her opinion is highly sought by her medical colleagues, and she freely shares her knowledge and expertise.

Sollman serves as a reviewer for several professional journals and has authored or co-authored many peer-reviewed articles, and she also speaks at industry conferences on topics such as Parkinson’s disease.

Health Care Professional Healthcare Hero

Myra Whiten, Chief Nursing Officer, Pelham Medical; board president, Greer Relief & Resources Agency

Whiten’scareer is marked by innovation, commitment to people and collaboration.

During Covid’s most challenging days for healthcare providers, Whiten was busy devising plans and caring for the nurses at Pelham. Then, in the spare time she didn’t have in the midst of a healthcare crisis, she volunteered to implement safety measures at Greer Relief. This dedication during the most trying times demonstrates a level of commitment that goes beyond the ordinary.

Today, Whiten is guiding the agency through an expansion of services to better care for neighbors in need, again, on a volunteer basis. Says one of her admirers, “her ability to motivate and inspire her colleagues and staff reflects her commitment to fostering a collaborative and driven healthcare environment.”

Prior to advancing to these leadership positions, Whiten was recognized with a nursing fellowship and her healthcare system’s Pediatric Nursing Excellence Award.


Health Care Researcher Healthcare Hero

Julianne Laura, Research Occupational Therapist in Stroke Tele-rehab, MUSC

It is estimated that that about 20% of stroke survivors in South Carolina have rehab needs that remain unmet because of limited available options, particularly in rural areas. That’s where telehealth comes in.

Even that is limited, so when Laura, created the stroke tele-rehab program at MUSC, there were few tools at her disposal. So, she designed, created, and implemented a brand-new program and is now developing a certification training course to expand its availability.

How has that worked out? Here is a typical response from patient surveys: “I would rate tele-rehabilitation OT with Jule a 15 out of 10!”

And that wasn’t even the patient whose life Laura saved by recognizing the symptoms of an oncoming stroke during one tele-rehab session and calling 911. Can you get a 20 out of 10?


Inspirational Teaching Award Health Care Hero

Taylor Morrisette, Assistant professor of pharmacy, MUSC

This is Taylor Morrisette:

  • A summa cum laude doctor of pharmacy with several post-graduate fellowships and a master’s in public health,
  • the course coordinator for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Therapeutics, 3. an instructor in numerous other hard-to-prounice courses requiring 65 lectures annually,
  • course coordinator for the MUSC Pharmacy Residency Research Certificate.

Morrisette is one of those individuals who can’t be contained in a cover letter.

A top-rated instructor, he has published over 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts, contributed to over 85 abstracts and won numerous teaching awards and was honored to speak at the school’s pinning ceremony.

And Morrisette graduated from his last residency a grand total of two years ago. Wait til he gets some experience under his belt.

As you might imagine, the hosannahs pile up from students, summed up by this: “Dr. Morrisette is a phenomenal teacher.”


Mentor of the Year Health Care Hero

Alexandria Ingram, Lung cancer screeing nurse practitioner, MUSC Edgewater Surgery Center

Folks in rural Chester and Lancaster counties can’t exactly access lung cancer screening at the corner store. Good thing former ICU nurse Alex Ingram runs a cancer screening program, offering CT scans, educating patients and involving herself in the community to help residents live healthier lives and avoid early death.

Renowned for her patient advocacy, Ingram continues her outreach long after patient visits and pushes those in her care to return for follow-up appointments. The result is better outcomes for patients, even the reluctant and less compliant. For that Ingram was named nurse practitioner of the year at MUSC.


 Callee Hydrick Patro, Cardiac nurse, Roper Hospital

Devin Patro talks to people every day in his banking career, and every once in a while, he encounters someone who has had the good fortune to have been cared for by his wife, Callee. And they all say the same thing: she’s the greatest.

“Callee is a very dedicated nurse,” says her admiring husband. “She has a heart for service and goes the extra mile all the time, always putting others, their family and their overall experience before herself. She is often made Charge Nurse and is constantly being asked to train new nurses. Her patients and co-workers love her because she simply cares for people.”

Hydrick Patro has experienced hospital care both as a clinician and as the mother of a prematurely born child. Her now-three-year-old son was born two months early during COVID and endured an extensive NICU stay. Today the Patros serve as the March for Babies champion family to help bring awareness to birth issues.

Kerri Ridlehoover

Assistant Director of Nursing and Infection Preventionist, Saluda Nursing & Rehab Center

Have there been any infections in the last few years that might have kept an infection preventionist busy? If you think work has slowed for infection control since COVID, you haven’t met Kerri.

In the last couple of years, Ridlehoover has built a computer assessment for urinalysis, created and ran a unit manager bootcamp to improve leadership in the unit and developed a new process for documenting infections. It’s kept her so busy that she has sacrificed time with her family, even vacations, all for the good of patients and staff.

This dedication does not go unnoticed by her co-workers. They say she leads by example to promote positivity even during the most difficult times, smiling despite the struggles and offering calm even in times of turbulence.

Ashley Fullam

Nurse, MUSC Health

As with all healthcare hero nurses, the words you hear about Fullam are dedication, compassion and warmth. With nurses, it’s a Herculean effort to narrow the winners down to four, much less one.

Fullam worked with one patient who was hospitalized with an extremely painful pressure injury and required frequent repositioning. However, the pain made the patient reluctant. Ashley sat down with her and her family, and with great sensitivity and compassion explained how turning her was the only way to help her recover. She ultimately agreed and the pain subsided over time.

“I watched the patient smile during her worst days,” said a co-worker, “because Ashley was her nurse.”

Nurse Healthcare Hero

Ngozi Eke, Family Nurse Practitioner, Proactive MD

Passionate about breaking cultural barriers and helping people address their mental health needs as they do their physical health needs, Eke actively educates patients and helps them cut through the stigma that we often place on mental health.

Eke demonstrates exceptional dedication by going above and beyond her standard duties. She is highly involved in the diagnostic and treatment phases, often making critical decisions that have immediate and long-lasting impacts on er patients’ lives. She is known to follow up with patients during their treatment, a step that extends beyond her role but makes a meaningful difference to patients and their families.

Her passion is to provide holistic care to the patient that encompasses both the body and the soul. She tries to achieve this by listening to her patients and understanding who they are, understanding where they are coming from – not dismissing them or hurrying through to see the next patient.


Leon Platt, Engineering manager, Roper St. Francis Healthcare

Platt doesn’t do much at the hospital system. He just oversees the operation and upkeep of all four Roper St. Francis Healthcare hospitals and other physical plants. Aside from every staff member, clinician, patient and visitor to the hospitals, no one relies on Platt’s excellence in ensuring the safety, proper operation and legal compliance of the physical plant.

In his seven years, Platt hasn’t developed much expertise, unless you count the operational functions of all the system’s buildings and the antiquated legal requirements and accrediting standards the facilities must meet. He led efforts to digitize all facility and maintenance accreditation records, allowing the information to be managed through a single comprehensive dashboard.

There is one standard Leon is always focused on: patient and teammate safety and experience. His leadership consistently brings positive outcomes and helps further the organization’s mission of healing all people with compassion, faith and excellence.

Engineer Healthcare Hero

Joel Mortimer, Manager of off-site maintenance, Roper St. Francis Healthcare

A 20-year Coast Guard veteran, Joel is a leader who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. By encouraging others to take pride in what they do, he has a knack for drawing out their talents and helping teammates succeed. This approach has fostered a high-performing, cohesive team.

Mortimer oversees the preservation and maintenance of all off-site facilities and construction. He manages five mobile maintenance technicians for facilities throughout the Lowcountry totaling more than 1 million square feet.

By crafting the comprehensive maintenance plan and operational guide for the Roper St. Francis Healthcare Data Center, he ensured stringent upkeep of critical systems. He also orchestrates emergency repairs to ensure as little downtime as possible.


Dr. Paul Freel, Primary care physician, Bon Secour

Paul Freel is a rolling stone; wherever he lays his stethescope is … well, it’s a place where people in need can get care. That’s true whether it’s in Albania, Afghanistan or New York City during Covid. Those are just a few of the mission trips he has taken to provide medical services to those who most need him anywhere on the globe.

Colleagues say medicine is Freel’s life and he treats his patients like family, building relationships and offering his time and a listening ear without constraint. Over three decades, including three years in the Air Force, he has spread health and wellness far and wide.

Dr. Tallulah Holmstrom, Chief medical officer, MUSC Health

Still seeing patients even as the chief medical officer, Holmstrom works early mornings and late into the evenings, juggling clinical care with administrative duties. A Camden native and member of the Camden High School Hall of Fame, she went to the big city for school – that is if you consider Clemson and Columbia big cities – but returned to her roots to offer medical care to her hometown area.

The only female chief medical officer in the MUSC Regional Health Network, she is lauded for supporting the needs of providers and serving as a role model for women in health care. A dedicated community volunteer, she serves on numerous boards and won numerous honors, including the Camden Rotary Club Professional Services Award.

Physician Healthcare Hero

Dr. Jawahar Swaminathan, Urgent and primary care physician, Doctors Care

What does it mean when a physician’s children follow him into health care? Probably that they see the good he does.

Dr. Swami, as he is affectionately known by patients and staff, has provided high-quality urgent and primary medical care to patients in the Seven Oaks neighborhood of Columbia for more than 20 years. He also serves as the travel medicine expert, assisting patients across the state to prepare for exotic travel.

Working 70-80 hours-a-week, Dr. Swami mentors younger providers to improve their bedside manner and is constantly on the lookout for patients in need, frequently lending money, giving gift cards, and donating his time. Patients return the affection with praise and gifts.

Says one colleague, “love for humanity is apparent to all who know him.”


Therapy Service Animal Healthcare Hero

Greg Diehl and Nevie, a service therapy dog at Summerville Medical Center

Every Thursday without fail, Diehl and his gentle giant Newfoundlands Nevie, Winston, Ruby and Mercy brighten the days of patients and staff at Summerville Medical. The canine crew has logged 450 hours of service there, and make the rounds at other local hospitals as well.

A loving lick, tender touch or compassionate gaze is all it takes from these incredible empaths to light up the day of a patient or even staff member having a bad day.

Every week for six years, smiles and laughter follow Diehl and his team.

“I’ve seen tears in the eyes of our ICU nurses as they pet the dogs during the middle of a difficult shift, looking for a moment of peace and happiness,” says one colleague.


Phillip Moss, Volunteer, MUSC

A volunteer in the emergency department for the last dozen years, Moss assists staff, patients and visitors any way he is needed, but more than anything else, just be being Phillip. A consistent and reliable volunteer, he comes complete with a sweet smile and willingness to help.

Moss is the kind of guy who stops what he’s doing to arrange a ride for a patient lacking transportation to go home. It’s no wonder patients and their families regularly email the hospital telling them what a pick-me-up Moss and his ever-present smile were for them during their stay.

This year, Moss hit 2,000 hours of service and began training new volunteers. That’s 2,000 hours of smiles.

Volunteer Healthcare Hero

Shirley Salvo, Volunteer, MUSC

What has 15,000 hours of volunteer service sewing 17,000 pillowcases for pediatric hospital patients over 14 years? It’s not a what, it’s a who – Shirley Salvo.  She coordinates the band of tailors sewing 100 pillowcases-a-month – even during COVID – stitching together the materials, sewing machines and talent too.

They’re not just any old pillowcases – they’re whimsical designs that delight children afflicted with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. They provide a moment of silliness to offset the pain and sadness.

It’s all part of her ethos to find a need and fill it. Salvo is also the founder of the Sea Island Hunger Awareness Foundation to help low-income citizens of Johns Island access healthy food and clean water.