2008 Who's Who in Infection Prevention

We present our annual list of exceptional individuals working in infection prevention and control, as nominated by Infection Control Today magazine readers.

Congratulations to these dedicated professionals who are working hard to advance the infection prevention agenda. (This article, with winners' photos, originally appears in the November issue of ICT.) It's not too soon to start thinking about submitting a nomination to ICT's 2009 who's who section. Watch this site for details to come.

Tim Brooks

Tim Brooks is director of surgical services material management at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Yuma, Ariz. Nominating Brooks is a trio of his colleagues, Julie Lubecki, RN, MSN, director of surgery; Kim Maryniak, RNC, BN, MSN, clinical lab specialist educator; and Leslie Morin, RN, perioperative interim UBE. “Tim is one of the most dedicated professionals I have ever had the opportunity to know,” Lubecki says. “He has been at the facility for over 20 years. One of his multiple responsibilities is the service end of the department of surgery. He assisted me with the design of four new fully integrated ORs; Tim went to the state of Arizona and proved to them that we did not require sub-sterile rooms between each OR. Turnaround time in the OR is an average of 20 minutes with the assistance of his staff. He implemented a data-entry position for the OR so all the OR charges are done when they occur in the OR, not across town in an office where the staff is unfamiliar with surgical procedures. The SPD department is one of the most organized I have ever seen and I have worked in hospitals across the nation for the past 20 years.”

Maryniak comments, “Tim is always ready and able to help anyone in the hospital. He was a vital part of developing a solution for improving the sterilization of hospital equipment. In leading the decontamination surgical instrument process team, Tim was able to reduce costs and manual instrument washing, as well as expedite instrument turnover. He reduced flash sterilization by 90 percent over six years for the department of surgery, and introduced a new racking system to improve the cleaning process for surgical instruments. Tim is an asset to the sterilization industry.”

“The relationship he and his team have with the operating room and the rest of the hospital is No. 1,” notes Morin. “Because he changed our hospital to a ‘no flash-sterilization facility,’ we have a less than 1 percent infection rate for SSIs, which is extraordinary. He runs a great department and I am proud to have him on our team.”

Brooks has been published in Infection Control Today magazine, and has presented at industry conferences and served as a Webcast speaker. This year he launched a Web site devoted to central sterilization and OR materials management issues.

Walter Campbell, Jr

Walter Campbell, Jr., MD, is both a staff and contract physician for a number of clinics in and around the New Orleans area, including Lallie Kemp Medical Center and Bogalusa Hospital in Independence, La., for which he draws upon his experience with infectious diseases and infection control practices.

“He is the kind of doctor who will spend an hour with you if necessary to diagnose, talk, encourage or just plain let you gripe,” says La’Nette T. Morris, LPN II, who nominated Campbell with colleague Joanne Hamm, administrative assistant. “His compassion with the HIV/AIDS patients he works with is amazing. He works at two different hospitals, taking call duty, doing all critical labs on his patients, being at the clinics two days a week, and in general, just being the doctor everyone adores! He also conducts a tuberculosis clinic on Fridays at the local public health unit. Patients will wait for hours to see him just because they know he will give them the same level of attention. Dr. Campbell’s diagnostic skills are amazing. His patients are loyal, testifying to his wonderful and professional manner. We truly enjoy working with Dr. Campbell.”

Deb Paul-Cheadle 

Deb Paul-Cheadle, RN, CIC, is senior infection control prevention officer Metro Health Hospital in Wyoming, Mich.

“Deb does an outstanding job of educating our healthcare workers on disease prevention, but also our community with knowledge, passion and enthusiasm,” says Ingrid Cheslek, MPA, BSN, RN, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. Cheslek says Paul-Cheadle has been instrumental in creating a number of educational programs and initiatives, such as the “GI: Where Am I?” program that educates HCWs about the gastrointestinal system as it relates to transmission of infections; the “Get to the Point” program about immunizations; “The Nose Knows” program about the olfactory tract and transmission of disease which required students to make a 5-foot-tall plaster nose for staff to “pick the nose” for a prize. Paul-Cheadle also developed an infection control pocket-guide for all new employees and physicians; coordinated training for a HCW vaccination program that boosted compliance to 80 percent; made numerous presentations to community organizations on topics such as MDROs, bloodborne pathogens, hand hygiene and pandemic flu; and has been published in industry publications such as Infection Control Today magazine.

“Deb lives and breathes infection prevention,” Cheslek adds. “Her vigilance and wealth of knowledge has led our hospital to extremely low infection rates.”

DeAnn Flanders 

DeAnn Flanders, RN, CIC, is the director of quality management at Bacon County Hospital and Health System in Alma, Ga. Flanders earned her nursing degree in 1990 and became certified in infection control in 1996.

“We are a small rural critical access hospital and are fortunate to have a CIC on staff,” says colleague Connie Tyre, RN, PI coordinator. “DeAnn oversees infection control at Bacon County Hospital, which is a 25-bed critical access facility, our 88-bed long-term care facility, and our daycare facility, which enrolls an average of 98 children. DeAnn is an asset, and our physicians and staff look to her for assistance with infection control concerns.”

Tyre continues, “DeAnn is a delight to work with. She is a motivator, educator and a dedicated professional who knows how to get things done. She’s always looking for ways to improve patient care in the facility and community. She has an open-door policy for staff, physicians, patients and visitors. She has vision, creativity, focus, and great people skills. DeAnn keeps ongoing education for staff on all types of outbreaks or infection control issues and has them under control within a reasonable amount of time.”

Sandra Gage

Sandra Gage, RN, is the infection control officer at the 92-bed, acute-care Hill Regional Hospital in Hillsboro, Texas.

“We are most fortunate to have someone of Sandra’s experience, knowledge and abilities in this key role,” says colleague Cecily G. Bramlet, RN, BSN, director of QMRC. “Her work ethic, attention to detail and her commitment to patient and staff safety make her a valuable asset to the healthcare team and to the community we serve. Sandra takes the time to be well informed on the latest information and practices in infection control. She uses education, observation and continuous hands on involvement to teach and enforce excellent infection control practices. As a result of Sandra’s efforts we enjoy low healthcare-acquired infection rates. Sandra enjoys the respect and trust of medical staff and employees at Hill Regional Hospital. I enjoy working with her and appreciate her efforts more than I can say.”

Patty Gray

Patty Gray, RN, BA, CIC, is an infection preventionist at Scottsdale Healthcare in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Patty has been an infection preventionist for many years and has taken a special interest in compliance and legislative issues,” says colleague Kevin Waldrop, BSMT(ASCP), CIC, an infection preventionist and surveillance specialist. “She is a dedicated member of the infection prevention community at the local and state levels, and displays a level of knowledge and experience that is a resource to those around her. She is an active participant in the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association and was instrumental in providing infection prevention guidance to help craft recent state legislation on an infection prevention study bill. She was also involved in the development of a MRSA toolkit for statewide use. She’s been a past president of the Arizona APIC chapter, and continues to support the local chapter by keeping us up to date on such compliance issues as CMS reimbursement pertaining to infections. Patty was instrumental in creating the infection prevention program for the opening of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. As part of the infection prevention team at Scottsdale Healthcare, Patty helped to establish baseline rates to reduce bloodstream infections and ventilator associated pneumonias. She has been an invaluable asset in strengthening the overall infection control program structure. She has benefited the entire system by spearheading efforts to prepare for CMS reimbursement changes, being an active proponent on our Antibiotic Stewardship Committee, and assuring compliance with state and CMS regulations in hospital policies and procedures. She has been instrumental in making sure our facilities successfully passed recent state inspections, including the opening of our new Thompson Peak facility last fall and new services at our outpatient dental clinics. On a personal level, Patty was one of my strongest mentors in helping me start out in infection prevention, and she never tired of answering questions and providing guidance for me in my solitary role as a new infection preventionist at a 130-bed hospital. I think Patty deserves recognition for her contributions, hard work, and dedication to infection prevention in our community.”

Molly Hale

Molly Hale, MPH, CIC, has established herself as a leader in infection control after just two years in the infection prevention profession. She is employed at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, one of the 10 largest acute-care hospitals in California. She has shown her dedication by working hard on everything, including a weekend seminar for board-and-care employees about how to reduce cross transmission in their facility. Even though that seminar was conducted during a heat wave in which the air conditioning malfunctioned, Hale powered through her talk which lasted several hours. She has also helped mentor new infection preventionists at her facility, and has published two articles.

Hale has always taken a keen interest in Clostridium difficile, and when she noted that staff were cleaning up fecally incontinent patients that allowed cross-contamination of items, she worked with 3M to develop an animated training video that is now required for all employees who care for patients at her facility. This has helped keep Clostridium difficile-associated disease well under control. Additionally, Hale was among those who, after reading an article on cleaning of high-touch surfaces in the Infection Control Hospital Epidemiology journal this year, began training environmental services staff using the methods described in the study.

Nancy Hansen

Nancy Hansen, RN, BSN, CIC, is infection control manager at Southwest Florida Regional Medical Center and Gulf Coast Medical Center in Ft Myers, Fla., two acute-care facilities in the five-hospital Lee Memorial Health System.

“I work with Nancy at both of these facilities and I feel we make quite a team together,” says infection preventionist Brenda Kelley, LPN, CIC. “Nancy came to my hospital two years ago from Wisconsin with more than 17 years’ experience in infection control, a background in critical care, and a working knowledge of sterile processing. Since day one she has been a wonderful mentor and role model to a new infection preventionist and has coordinated, implemented and brought our program up to current practice, earning the respect of leadership and staff throughout both facilities. Her experience has brought invaluable insights and she works daily one on one with staff and physicians to achieve the safest environment of care for our patients and staff. Always looking for an educational opportunity, she will involve our staff in developing their knowledge of infection control current guidelines and — never missing a beat — will remind them of missed opportunities to improve for the future. Involving family members during ICU daily rounds, she also uses that opportunity for education, providing them with another invaluable resource. The scope of my knowledge has been brought to a level that I was able to obtain my CIC this past year with Nancy’s guidance and patient mentorship.”

Marti Heinze

Marti Heinze, RN, is the infection control nurse at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, N.M.

“I have had the privilege of working with Marti since March 2003,” says Donna Miller, RN, BSN, director of case management. “She was hired as a staff nurse in the ICU, but because of her professionalism and her years of experience, she was promoted to a charge nurse after only a few months. She kept that position for several years and in April 2007 she accepted the infection control nurse position.”

Miller adds, “Marti is a true leader and the staff looks up to her. She is a hard worker and is committed to improving the quality of care delivered by nurses. Marti organized a MRSA prevention team, revising policies and protocols and re-educating nurses and staff. Marti worked with the clinical IS department to tag charts, so that every time someone opens a chart of a patient with MRSA, a MRSA warning tag pops up. She worked with environmental services to change the process of cleaning the isolation rooms to help prevent accidental patient exposure. Because of Marti, we not only decreased our MRSA infection rate, we actually went four months without a single healthcare-associated MRSA infection!”

Claudette Johnson

Claudette Johnson, RN, BScN, CIC, is the assistant director of infection control at Florida Hospital in Orlando, a 2,000-bed, eight-hospital and multiple ancillary service healthcare system.

“Claudette is a rare gem as a leader,” says Barbara Ann Hohf, RN, CIC, infection control coordinator for ambulatory care. “She is always willing to acknowledge your work or contribution to either the organization or team. She is an excellent team leader, encouraging the growth of each individual and maximizing their potential. She leads by example, involving staff and engaging management. She communicates eloquently in all situations and is able to express her passion for infection control and her compassion for staff. Her focus is patient safety and infection prevention. She is a mentor who has the patience and skill to educate and communicate, whether to a new or experienced ICP in such a forthright and kind manner, that you embrace it wholeheartedly.”

“Claudette brings to our organization many years of infection prevention and control experience from the U.S. and abroad,” says Jennifer Gauldin, RN, clinical decision support analysis. “She has tremendous challenges with a facility this large, but manages to keep her entire team of 12-plus on track and consistent with best practices across this vast organization. With the increased focus on infection control, Claudette leads by example, first educating herself, and then promoting a team spirit in tackling the problems. She goes out of her way to recognize each of her staff members for their own unique abilities and empowers each to build and develop skills to better serve the organization. She’s honest, and has the ability to give positive feedback with a sense of humor and passion that I so admire. When I think about her leadership qualities, I say to myself, ‘I want to be just like her when I grow up.’”

Hohf adds, “She is able to have a standard of infection control practice that goes through eight campuses, with consistent delivery yet is individualized to their specific needs and population. I have been in healthcare for over 26 years, yet when I think of the ideal infection control professional, Claudette ranks up there as No. 1.”

Nancy Johnson

Nancy Johnson, RN, is the infection control/employee health nurse at Harris Methodist Southlake Center for Diagnostics and Surgery in Southlake, Texas.

“My experience with Nancy is that she is very conscientious, considerate, caring and highly competent as our infection control nurse,” says Alayna Chambers, RN, in radiology. “She is consistent with what she expects from employees as far as our yearly requirements. Her record-keeping is such that nothing or no one will fall through the cracks. She has been so involved with our expansion project that our president has commended her, saying how it could not have been done without her. And we could not have done as well as we did on our first Joint Commission survey without her. She was steadfast and true, right down to the actual steps of the survey. Personally, she is a wonderful person, with quick wit and a great sense of humor. Nancy is an absolute pleasure to work with, and the best infection control nurse I have worked with in my 25 years of nursing.”

Wanda Lamm

Wanda W. Lamm, RN, BSN, CIC, is infection control coordinator at Nash Healthcare System in Rocky Mount, N.C. Libbe Sasser, RN, BSN, CIC, who also works in infection prevention at Nash, says she nominated Lamm because of her dedication to educating the community on pertinent infection prevention topics such as pandemic flu and MRSA.

“Wanda seeks out and takes advantage of every opportunity she can to further educate herself and those around her on these subjects,” Sasser says. “She has spoken to area community service organizations, our local community colleges, local businesses and outreach classes for the community held at our hospital. Wanda has done all this on her own time and had received no compensation for any of these efforts.”

Sasser continues, “An example of Wanda taking advantage of an opportunity to learn something new which she knew would benefit the hospital was her participation in our county health department’s first drive-thru flu clinic last fall. Wanda assisted on her own time after a full day’s work; she was an observer to document the key issues, and note what worked well and what could be improved. Her help was invaluable to the health department, as its staff was much too busy directing traffic, getting consents signed, taking patient histories, and administering the vaccines to evaluate their process. They specifically asked for Wanda’s assistance in this endeavor. Wanda knew that what she learned on this day would be essential to our hospital’s plan of dispensing medications from the Strategic National Stockpile if we ever have to do mass drug dispensing or vaccination to our employees.”

Kathy Liberatore

Kathy Liberatore, RN, BSN, CIC, is infection control manager at Monongahela Valley Hospital in Monongahela, Pa.

“She has done an exceptional job with infection control,” says Georgina Koslosky, RN, a colleague in the employee health department who nominated Liberatore with co-worker Anita Bloore, RN. “Our infection rates are the lowest in the region. She is always there to answer any question and is a fountain of knowledge.”

Several years ago Liberatore developed the hospital’s “Foam In, Foam Out” program which boosted hand hygiene compliance by 90 percent, in addition to the observance of other core prevention measures. The program was embraced by top management, with the CEO sending out notices supporting all hand hygiene policies and procedures to every department in the hospital and distributing copies to employees at meals in the cafeteria. Information about the program was included in the monthly hospital-wide newsletter and in the quarterly infection control newsletter, and seasonal educational posters about hand hygiene decorated the infection control office door. Small rewards for proper hand hygiene practice were given to employees, and pocket-sized hand hygiene products were distributed throughout the facility. Also addressed were areas in the hospital where handwashing sinks needed to be installed and where alcohol-based handrub needed to be available.

“Every day Kathy promotes, encourages, corrects and rewards hand hygiene behavior,” Koslosky says. “Foaming in and foaming out of every patient room or exam area is her mission and her passion.”

Karen Owens

Karen Owens, RN, is the manager of CPD and distribution at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville, Ky. Frank Smith, RN, MSN, director of surgical services, says that in five short years, Owens has accomplished “some extraordinary things,” including budgeting for and installing the facility’s state-of-the-art sterilization equipment, developed a surgical perpetual inventory system, and opened the CPD and distribution department in an ambulatory surgery center. But for Smith, Owens’ most significant accomplishment is helping the facility avert disaster not once, but three times.

“Baptist East has 24 ORs and completes an average of 80 cases per day,” Smith explains. “In 2004, the steam generators blew a pressure plate and were shut down for about eight hours. All steam sterilizers were down until about 3 a.m. the morning before surgery. In 2005, the steam generators had to be shut down for a vital repair; all steam sterilizers were out of service for four hours, until about midnight. In 2006, a malfunction of a case cart washer sets off the CPD’s fire sprinkler system and floods it with four inches of water. I have been a director of surgical services for 17 years and have never experienced these types of disasters. Each disaster happened the night before a busy day of surgery. Each time, Karen and her staff recovered — no cases were delayed or cancelled. There are staff, surgeons and patients who have no knowledge that these events happened. Karen and her staff made the cases for the next day seamless because of her leadership. Lastly, there was no increase in surgical infections after these events.”

Suzanne Pear

Suzanne Pear, RN, PhD, CIC, is the associate director for infection prevention practices within Kimberly-Clark’s Scientific Affairs and Clinical Education Department. As a healthcare epidemiologist with extensive experience in clinical infection prevention and control practice and outbreak investigations, Pear has dedicated her life to the betterment and diffusion of cutting-edge medical education. She is chiefly responsible for the research, development and presentation of countless medical educational programs on a variety of healthcare issues, which provide continuing education and continuing medical education credits to clinicians worldwide on topics such as ventilator-associated pneumonia, MRSA, disinfection and sterilization, and surgical site infections. With a healthcare career spanning 30-plus years, Pear received her nursing degree from Long Island University and earned a master’s degree in science and a doctorate in epidemiology at the University of Arizona. Pear has presented accredited clinical education at several international conferences as well as scientific abstracts at APIC, AORN and SHEA meetings. In January 2008, she was appointed to the editorial board of the American Journal of Infection Control, where she is a manuscript reviewer.

Martha Rediger

Martha Rediger, RN, BSN, is an infection preventionist at Community Hospitals of Williams County in Montpelier, Ohio, who, among her accomplishments, helped raise influenza vaccine rates from 16 percent in the 2006-2007 season to 52 percent in 2007-2008 season by holding in-services and introducing a “rolling cart” concept.

“Martha is a born educator,” says Sue LaPointe, RN, MSEd, CIC, of St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. “As a person responsible for infection prevention in several facilities, she uses her creative talents to bring out the point that organisms are everywhere – even where you least expect it.” LaPointe describes a recent project: “One of her more creative ideas to promote hand hygiene is to hand different people in a room paper bags with assorted colors of M&M’s candies. One person, unbeknownst to the group has just one color of candy. The participants are instructed not to look into the bag but to circulate the room, shaking hands with others in the room and after shaking hands each person it to reach in a take a candy from the other person to put in their bag. At the end of the exercise participants are directed to look in their bags and see how many have the “designated” color in their bag. That color is to signify a resistant organism and to let people have a visual clue how easy an organism can spread throughout an area if hand hygiene is not performed.” LaPointe adds, “Her quiet manner and gentle approach make it easy for people to learn without feeling threatened.”

Lara Strick

Lara Strick, MD, MSc, spends the majority of her time working as an infectious disease physician for the Washington State Department of Corrections. She is also part of the clinical faculty at the University of Washington and spends half a day per week at Harborview Medical Center’s HIV clinic. In addition, she gives university students and fellows the opportunity to see HIV infected patients in the prison setting. The rest of her time is spent working for the Northwest AIDS Education Training Center as the corrections program director. She is involved in clinical education and has a HIV preceptorship available in the correctional setting.

“Dr. Strick travels to all the major prison facilities and oversees all the patients who are involved in the hepatitis C treatment program,” says Barbara B. Curtis, RN, MSN, utilization review manager in the Department of Corrections, Health Services. “She puts on numerous workshops and training sessions and is always available by email/pager/cell phone. We are so lucky to have her and I am amazed at how she can juggle all she does and also has a baby a little over a year old at home to care for.”

Carolyn Vaught

Carolyn Vaught, RN, CIC, works in the epidemiology department at Sparks Regional Medical Center, Fort Smith, Ark.

“I have had the privilege to work with Carolyn for the past 19 years,” says Trish Lewis, LPN, who works in the infectious disease department. “The last 15 years I have served on the infection control committee with her. Carolyn is instrumental to the epidemiology department, running very effectively for a 400-bed hospital, as she is the only full-time employee. She is always up to date on Joint Commission standards and emerging products that allow the committee to make educated decisions to keep our patients and employees safe, as well as being cost-effective for our health system. She is always very pleasant with a positive attitude. As healthcare is ever-changing, she meets the challenge daily with receptiveness. She has been an employee of our system for 36 years and we are so fortunate to have her on our team. She is an example to our mission statement of ‘Making Sparks Better Everyday.‘"

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