Nurse of the Year Awards
Nurse of the Year Awards | March of Dimes – Music City Division, Nurse of the Year Awards, Patricia Scott, Deborah Evans, Shannon Ligon, Sharon Rottero, Amy O’Gorman, Barbara Tincher, Susie Adams, Avni Cirpili, Mary Jo Gilmer, Alisa Haushalter, Debbie Cothern, Terrah Foster, Ronlanda Foley, Cindy Bell, Roletha Pillow

A group of the evening’s nominees gathered to celebrate their profession and professional accomplishments during the annual Nurse of the Year event.
March of Dimes Honors Excellence in Nursing

In the more than seven decades since the March of Dimes was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to find a cure for polio, the national organization has championed a range of healthy initiatives to improve outcomes for infants and their families. Whether collaborating with pioneering physician researchers such as Jonas Salk, MD, who debuted the polio vaccine in 1955, or with legislators and child advocates to ensure passage of the State Child Health Insurance Program in 1998, the leadership of the March of Dimes has long recognized the power of partnerships.

Perhaps no partnership, however, is stronger than those formed with

Looking Ahead to the 2012 Awards

The date has already been set for this year’s popular gala awards ceremony. The 2012 Nurse of the Year Awards will be held Dec. 11 at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs. Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Dean Colleen Conway-Welch, PhD, CMN, RN, FAAN, FACN, has been named the 2012 honorary event chair and keynote speaker.

Nomination forms and additional information regarding the event will be available later this year online at

nurses. In 1954, 40,000 nurses cooperated with the field trials for the Salk polio vaccine, making the large-scale investigation possible. Today, nurses routinely advocate on behalf of patients too small to speak for themselves. The vast contributions of the nursing profession to research, clinical care and education has powered significant advances in maternal-child health.

On Dec. 1, the March of Dimes – Music City Division hosted the second annual “Nurse of the Year” gala awards to honor these frontline allies and invaluable partners who embody leadership, compassion and excellence in patient care and education across all specialties. The 15 honorees were selected from more than 115 nominees … all of whom represent the March of Dimes’ vision for a healthier, stronger generation of children and families.

Melanie Lutenbacher, MSN, PhD, APRN, an associate professor of nursing at Vanderbilt, chaired the 15-person selection committee comprised of healthcare professionals. Cindy Parrott, RN, MBA, vice president of Clinical Services for Community Health Systems, chaired the 2011 Nurse of the Year event, and noted, “Nurses are the patient advocates during healthcare situations for families. They are often the first line of information and comfort for families. We are honored to play a role in saluting them for the care they provide daily.”

WSMV news personalities Deanna Lambert and Dan Thomas emceed the event, which was held at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs. Lance Prince, MD, PhD, associate professor of Pediatrics and Cell & Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, provided the keynote discussion on his research into lung function improvement in premature infants, which is financially supported by the March of Dimes.

The 2011 Nurse of the Year celebration was sponsored by Curb Records, Community Health Systems, Center for Women’s Health Research at Meharry, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Women’s and Children’s Hospital at Centennial and Nashville Medical News.


2011 Award Recipients


Advanced Practice

Patricia A. Scott, DNP, APN, NNP-BC, C-NPT

Pediatrix Medical Group

Scott has been a practicing nurse for 26 years, and at the advanced level for nearly two decades. With an expertise in neonatal medicine, she provides excellent care in the clinical setting and also has made education of other healthcare professionals a priority. Three years ago she coordinated representation from numerous area hospitals to serve on a planning committee that combines educational efforts with fundraising to support the March of Dimes (MOD) mission. In 2011, a record $15,000 was donated to MOD. Her efforts have been duplicated in other areas and are shared as a best practice with other MOD chapters.


Behavioral Health

Deborah Evans, RN

Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital

Evans has been a practicing nurse in Tennessee for 20 years. In the often stressful field of behavioral health, she is recognized as a caring professional who is not only hands-on with patients while they are being treated onsite, but one who makes a great effort to follow up post-discharge. Equally, she is always available to families dealing with a debilitating psychiatric illness.



Shannon Ligon, RN, MSN

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

Ligon has spent the past decade focused on pediatric cardiology and has been a practicing nurse in Tennessee for more than 17 years. She has an extensive background in pediatric intensive care and is highly skilled in assessing and initiating treatment on a very unstable patient population. Colleagues say she makes serving her patients the highest priority and that she innately possesses an intuition beneficial to her patients that complements her vast clinical knowledge.


Critical Care

Sharon L. Rottero, RN, BSN

Summit Medical Center

Nominated both by a colleague and by a family who was the recipient of her skilled and compassionate care, Rottero is utterly committed to delivering the highest quality healthcare to babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Watching over her tiny patients as if they were her own children, she willing acts as a preceptor to young nurses and generously shares her broad knowledge base to improve outcomes. She is thrilled when parents report their infants are growing into thriving toddlers and school children hitting the key milestones of their peers.



Amy O’Gorman, RN

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

O’Gorman is noted among her colleagues as a great example of a nurse who not only knows best practices but as one who helps develop those practices and put them into use in spectacular fashion. She tends to see her young patients and their families in the most dire … and frightening … of circumstances. Yet, she often coaxes smiles and giggles from her patients by engaging them in play and utilizing techniques to lessen tension and allow the medical team to perform the necessary tests and procedures to optimize outcomes.


Entry to Practice Nursing Education

Barbara Tincher, BSN, MSN

Cumberland University Jeanette C. Rudy School of Nursing

An educator for more than 25 years, this nursing instructor was nominated for her tireless work in the field of nursing education and service. In addition to ensuring students are well equipped to excel in their field, she also recently led the development of an on-campus wellness center for staff and students to provide better care within the university community. Recently, she completed a mission trip with students to Haiti to assist in instruction at a nursing school that was severely damaged by the 2010 earthquake. As a result of that trip, Cumberland University has committed to continuing to help their Haitian colleagues rebuild the nursing program. Tincher also cares for uninsured patients through the faith-based Salvus Center. In both the classroom and the clinic, she promotes wellness as the primary bullet to fight illness and chronic disease.


Graduate Nursing Education

Susie Adams, PhD, RN, PMHNP, FAANP

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

Holding both a masters and doctorate in nursing, Adams brings 35 years of behavioral health clinical and teaching experience to her role as director of Vanderbilt’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program. A widely published author and renowned researcher, Adams is currently studying the efficacy of trauma-informed interventions and sustained recovery for women with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders in community-based programs. She has said it is both the greatest challenge and opportunity of nurse educators to prepare nurses who not only have the necessary knowledge but also have the skills to effect change.


Nursing Administration

Avni Cirpili, MSN, RN, NEA-BC

Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital

Cirpili is described by colleagues as an “unfailing advocate for both psychiatric patients and nurses who has worked diligently to ensure improvements in patient care and to provide opportunities for every nurse to grow and flourish.” His leadership style is that of encourager and supporter to bring people together to develop the best policies to meet the needs of patients and staff. He is part of the leadership team overseeing improvements in the physical plant, addition of specialty services, incorporation of personalized medicine and delivery of evidence-based care in the quest to make Vanderbilt one of the premier psychiatric hospitals in the South.



Mary Jo Gilmer, PhD, MBA, CNS

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

Gilmer’s work and influence in the field of palliative care is felt on an international basis. She has dedicated herself to improving the lives of children and families dealing with a life-threatening diagnosis. Her work is specifically focused on helping bereaved families deal with the psychological difficulties that occur with the stress of caring for and losing a child with chronic and terminal illnesses. Standards of care implemented within her practice have been adopted in a number of countries including Brazil, Uganda and Singapore. Furthermore, those standards are also being utilized in training graduate-level nurses in more than 40 states in this country.


Public Health

Alisa Haushalter, DNP, RN

Metro Public Health Department

A doctorate-prepared nurse with nearly three decades of practice in Tennessee, Haushalter’s numerous professional accomplishments include leadership in Tennessee’s public health association, serving as a nurse instructor at the university level, and participation in the development and implementation of multiple community health initiatives. Her work has encompassed a broad range of public health threats including tuberculosis, obesity, and work inequity. Among her duties, Haushalter oversees Nashville’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CCPW) grant. Her goal, she has said, is to make the healthy option the default choice.


Quality & Risk Management

Debbie Cothern, BSN

Community Health Systems

With four decades of practice experience, Cothern recognizes the importance of considering the long-term impact of departmental decisions on patients, staff members, and the larger community. Prior to joining CHS in 1997, Cothern worked in a variety of settings including critical care, med-surg, and home health. As vice president of Quality and Resource Management for CHS, she puts that broad experience to work and encourages her staff to think about direct outcomes and to work collaboratively to maximize success. Her leadership impacts more than 130 healthcare facilities throughout the nation, including many in the local Middle Tennessee community.



Terrah Foster, PhD, RN, CPNP

Vanderbilt School of Nursing

Over the past two years, Foster has developed a behavioral research intervention to help children living with cancer and their families decrease physical, psychological, social and spiritual suffering by encouraging legacy-making — the practice of “doing and saying things to be remembered” after a child has died. Her work has been presented internationally, and Foster was selected as one of 12 national faculty scholars by a national research foundation. The assistant professor of Nursing has also had multiple articles on the science of pediatric palliative care published in noted medical journals and was recently honored by the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association for her investigative work.


Student Nurse of the Year

Ronlanda Foley, BS, LPN

Meharry Medical College

Student in TSU Nursing Program

The honoree in this category epitomizes the quality of persistence. She began her career as a dietitian but always dreamed of becoming a nurse. Seven years ago, while still working in her original field of study, Foley became an LPN. However, she temporarily put her desire to become an RN on hold with the birth of her two sons, while her husband completed his Masters in Nursing. Proving that a dream deferred is not a dream derailed, Foley uses her LPN training at her position with Meharry while completing her nursing degree in the evenings and on weekends at TSU. A nontraditional student, she was pleased and proud to be elected class president by her peers and to serve as the facilitator between students and faculty.


Surgical Services

Cindy Bell, RNC

Sumner Regional Medical Center

An enthusiastic patient advocate, Bell has used her voice to improve care over a career that spans more than two decades. As part of her clinical practice in the surgical setting, Bell has become a strong proponent of appropriate pain management for patients who need it and an active advocate for protocols to prevent abuse by patients who do not. Never one to simply work her shift and clock out, Bell continually invests in the nursing profession by seeking ways to strengthen outcomes and better serve those in her care.


Women’s Health

Roletha Pillow, NP

Women’s & Children’s Hospital at Centennial Medical Center

In addition to her full-time clinical position caring for patients, Pillow also trains nursing students to instill in them her fervent belief that outcomes are maximized when nurses step up and maximize their performance. Whether encouraging a young mom who might be feeling inadequate or providing comfort to a mother concerned about her child’s prognosis, Pillow said simply knowing she is making a difference is the greatest outcome of all.