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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. (Photos of all Who's Who individuals can be seen in the June 2009 issue of ICT)
Cheryl Briggs, BSN, infection preventionist at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital in Houston, Texas has served as the facility’s “infection control guru” since 1994, says nominator Marti McAnulty, RN, MSN, director of clinical quality/risk management. “She has not only worked tirelessly as our infection preventionist, but has juggled those duties with being the employee health nurse for a few years during that time as well,” McAnulty says. “She has worked with various staff throughout the facility, with regard to updating policies in our environment of care manual, installing antibacterial hand gel dispensers throughout the facility, working with our pharmacy and ICU manager to round on pneumonia patients to make sure they are receiving the correct antibiotics. We, as do most hospitals nowadays, almost always have a serious amount of construction going on; she works with our plant operations personnel to ensure that these areas are safe for staff, visitors and patients. During Hurricane Ike, we all stayed in lockdown for three-plus days together and she was everywhere, doing whatever needed to be done, but always our infection prevention crusader.”
Thomas Button, RN, BSN, MA, CIC, is director of infection prevention at Medical Center of McKinney in McKinney, Texas and is president-elect of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of APIC. “Tom is a leader who is skilled at assisting and enabling the bedside nurse in infection prevention as well as enabling other infection preventionists to learn and grow in their duties,” says nominator Janet Glowicz, RN, MPH, CIC, director of infection prevention at Denton Regional Medical Center in Denton, Texas. Glowicz points to several of Button’s achievements: “The intensive care unit at his facility has experienced periods as long as 18 months without a ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) case, and Tom’s work has been accepted at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.” Button oversees the active surveillance cultures of various risk groups so that control measures can be put in place as soon as possible, and his experience came in handy. “Recently norovirus made an appearance at Medical Center McKinney,” Glowicz recalls. “Tom rallied the troops and prevented the illness from spreading to other units, and a minimal number of persons were affected. Tom has submitted this outbreak for presentation at the APIC national conference.”
Garnet Elliott is a team leader in sterile processing at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital in Bozeman, Mont. Roshelle Satterthwait, RN, BAN, MHSA, director of surgical services, says that Elliott was a champion of the process when the facility was “inundated with surveys” in 2008. Satterthwait explains: “Joint Commission, state department of health, ACOG and trauma surveyors came through the door. In preliminary assessments, it was determined some physician practices and other hospital departments were not compliant with sterile processing standards of practice. The decision was made to standardize and centralize sterile processing practices house-wide. Within six months, Garnet added nine additional departments and more than 1,000 instrument sets to her team's workload. She educated the physician offices on current practices, earned their trust and created a win-win situation. The patient care teams had more time for direct patient care and SPD took care of the instrumentation processing. Each team trusted the other's expertise and the benefit was to pa-tients’ safety.”
Satterthwait describes how Elliott encouraged her team to actively participate in this performance improvement project and made “a very colorful” presentation to the facility’s administrative and management team. “SPD designed a comic book, ‘SPD in the Case of Julie the Cootie,’ to present their performance project,” Satterthwait says. “Super ‘G’ truly was a superhero in advocating for patient safety. Garnet also arranged to assess the work environment so her team was safe even though their workload had increased by 20 percent. She implemented many of the recommendations from the ergo-nomic evaluation, for little to no money. The team capped off their success by hosting a values-statement contest. The winning entry truly represented the entire team's commitment to patient safety: ‘SPD, the Foundation of Patient Safety. We do the Right Thing; Even When No One is Looking.’ The success of this enormous patient safety project would not have been successful without Garnet's commitment to patient safety and service excellence to her peers.”
Kayla Ericksen, RN, an infection preventionist in Fond du Lac, Wis. was nominated by her colleagues in her local chapter of APIC. Ericksen oversees infection prevention in an acute-care hospital, St Agnes in Fond du Lac, and a critical access hospital, Waupun Memorial Hospital in Waupun, Wis. Diane Cappozzo RN, a health officer of Fond du Lac County, says, “I have had the pleasure of working with Kayla, a dedicated professional who is able to look beyond her institution and understands that a coordinated effort is needed to decrease the impact of infectious diseases and improve the health of the community. Over the years, the Fond du Lac Health Department and our healthcare partners, with Kayla providing leadership for Agnesian HealthCare, have worked collaboratively to address such infection control issues as an eight-month, communitywide pertussis outbreak, influenza vaccine shortage, and diagnosis of a human rabies case with coordinated response for assessing post exposure and who should received post-exposure vaccine. Kayla is an active member of Fond du Lac County’s Administrative Review Committee, which enhances the community’s healthcare response to man-made and natural disasters, as well as influenza pandemic through preplanning and exercising of these plans. She was an integral part of in the development of a pandemic influenza plan template specifically for the businesses in our area. Kayla continues to champion incident command within her institution and takes a proactive position on such issues as respiratory etiquette and MRSA. In 2004, her facility started active surveillance cultures in the ICU. When Fond du Lac County was in the early throes of our pertussis outbreak asking patients to mask if they had respiratory symptoms was unheard of. Through Kayla’s leadership, healthcare systems and providers within our community were educated and adopted respiratory etiquette policies (which included patient masking) that continue today.”
Elizabeth Gillespie, MPH, CICP, is a sterilization and infection control co-director, editor of the Healthcare Infection journal and is a member of the Australian Infection Control Association (AICA) in Victoria, Australia. “Elizabeth strives to achieve reductions in HAIs in a number of areas within her facility,” says nominator Claire Boardman, BAppSc, MPH, CIC, president of the AICA. “Her achievements include designing and implementing a program, in conjunction with her staff, to substantially increase the uptake of the annual flu vaccination from 25 percent to 75 percent. Since commencing in the role in 2002, Elizabeth has standardized her health service sterilization services and practices, thus achieving significant cost savings, streamlining processes and increasing staff capacity and education. In other critical care areas such as the ICU and emergency department, Elizabeth has implemented projects to reduce HAIs and occupational exposures, and to improve staff knowledge and attitudes. She has done this in a way that provided staff with positive feedback of results which have motivated change.” Boardman points to a hand hygiene campaign Gillespie launched in two ICUs that improved staff compliance in a meaningful and sustainable way: “Staff undertook a hand-plating exercise and the results were made available to all ICU staff for discussion,” Boardman says. “Many were genuinely intrigued as to the number of potential pathogens that may be lurking on their uncleansed hands.” That degree of dialogue is replicated in Gillespie’s work as editor of Healthcare Infection. “Elizabeth has worked tirelessly to ensure readers receive a high-quality publication that covers all aspects of hospital-related infection. The international editorial board benefits from Elizabeth’s considerable experience in infection control that enables her to meet the needs of potential authors and readers alike. I commend Elizabeth for her achievements, both within her own facility and for the work she has done in developing our journal,” Boardman says.
Claire Grantham, RN, BSN, CIC, infection preventionist at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, Calif. single-handedly created her facility’s program. “Claire quickly garnered the support and enthusiasm of every clinical (and most of the non-clinical) hospital and medical staff member to put forward-thinking processes and standards into place to prevent and decrease the number of hospital-acquired infections at our facility,” says nominator Nicki Edwards, RN, PhD, director of quality and risk management. “Over the past year, she has been instrumental in bringing our catheter-acquired UTIs to almost zero with the utilization of standardized protocols to guide staff in monitoring insertion techniques, device days and appropriateness. As a result of her daily monitoring of devices and her education of the staff, our adult, pediatric and neonatal patients experienced far fewer infections of any kind than ever before and at a rate well below CDC benchmark numbers. For example, the hospital had no ventilator-associated infections and only two central line-associated infections in 2008.” Edwards points to Grantham’s enthusiasm for healthcare worker vaccination: “Claire has made it her personal crusade to administer flu shots to as many of the hospital staff, medical staff, volunteers and members of the community in San Luis Obispo County as humanly possible. And in this small county of only 275,000, she has made a huge difference in protecting individuals from the flu. For the past several years, she has held numerous flu shot clinics at the hospital, and then rounded up nurses and pharmacists to go out into the community and administer shots. She’s well-known in the county for making flu shots available at community organization meetings, nursing homes, fire stations and dozens of other groups.” Edwards continues, “Claire is respected by the hospital and medical staff as a resource for them in dealing with the difficult infection issues that occur at the hospital; they care for a variety of highrisk patients including critically ill neonates, pediatric patients, high risk OB patients, prison patients, neurosurgical patients and traumas. In spite of the diversity and complexity of these patients, Claire always knows where to get the best and most helpful information for staff. Clearly, our community is a healthier place to live because of Claire’s expertise and passion about infection prevention!”
Brenda Helms, BSN, MBA/HCM, is infection control/employee health coordinator at The Heart Hospital-Baylor in Plano, Texas. “Brenda watches for issues before they are evident to the rest of us to prevent them from becoming a problem,” says nominator Susan Dorval, RN, director of healthcare improvement. “She noticed that we had an increase in positive urine cultures in July 2007. She formed a PI team and found several issues that could have been causing the increase. She developed care bundles for Foley catheters and provided aggressive education for the staff. She submitted an abstract to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) regarding her project and was accepted to present a poster at the national conference. While at the conference, she was asked if her facility would like to become a mentoring facility for the IHI. An application for mentorship was submitted and accepted. She has shared her Foley bundles with anyone who asks, including a facility in Australia.” Helms serves on the board of directors for the Texas Society of Infection Control and Prevention. She is active in the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of APIC and serves on three committees, two of which she is chairperson. Her service to her colleagues includes mentoring new infection preventionists, and her community service includes providing education about community-acquired MRSA and hand hygiene at public health screenings.
Bill Hepler, RN, BSN, MSH, CIC, is director of infection prevention at Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, Fla., where he has worked for the past 18 years. “During that time, Bill has made many significant contributions to infection prevention in our acute-care hospital environment and in the surrounding communities,” says nominator Patricia D. Moore, RN, PhD, vice president of the Life Institute in St. Augustine, Fla. Moore says that Hepler has launched a number of educational initiatives, including developing a clean-hands program for all employees who have direct contact with patients, as well as creating a “Cover Your Cough” campaign that included distributing signs throughout the hospital and providing teaching pamphlets for all patients. Hepler also incorporated personal protective equipment door hangers to resolve the issue of poor access to infection control supplies, for employees who have direct contact with patients, as well as revised and color-coded the facility’s isolation signs to reflect new isolation changes from the CDC. He also restructured the facility’s tuberculosis program to conform with new CDC regulations. Hepler’s education efforts include developing a hand hygiene seminar for Flagler as well as lecturing at other seminars on topics of infection prevention and bioterrorism. “Bill is currently serving as president of the Northeast Florida chapter of APIC and has been elected to the APIC education committee for Northeast Florida,” Moore reports. “Bill also currently chairs Flagler Hospital’s infection control committee and the hospital’s infection prevention team. He is also a member of the hospital’s value analysis and safety committees.”
Jette Hogenmiller, RN, BSN, MN, PhD, ARNP (cFNP), is CEO of Health Innovation and Research in Ft. Calhoun, Neb. and is a retired major in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Her nominator, Paula Swick, RN, BSN, an infection preventionist in Ketchikan, Alaska, says, “I have never met a more driven and capable medical professional in the lofty ranks of administration who remembers the bottom line — the patient.” Hogenmiller’s career encompasses numerous positions: serving as the system quality program manager for infection prevention and critical care for PeaceHealth’s seven hospitals and outpatient settings in three states; serving as an associate professor graduate nursing program for Clarkson College, an assistant professor at Creighton University, and an assistant professor at University of Nebraska Medical Center; working as an infection control practitioner and hospital epidemiologist at Nebraska Orthopedic Hospital; and serving as director of clinical research for Alegent Health, a nine-hospital system in Nebraska and Iowa. Hogenmiller holds membership in multiple professional societies such as the Washington State Department of Health, and the Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) Advisory Committee, and has chaired agencies like the Midwest Nursing Research Society. She also has been published in numerous professional journals, including Nursing Research. “Jette doesn’t just expend energy in pursuing the business of healthcare, she believes in giving back to the community, having volunteered for everything from Little League games, crisis counseling, and sitting on various boards like My Sister’s Keeper, the Wilderness Society and Sierra Club,” says Swick, who is new to infection prevention. “Jette is responsible for developing a system-wide infection prevention program involving six hospitals in three states, yet, she has endless patience and tireless energy in teaching me the ropes. With every challenge I encounter to implement basic infection prevention policies, she reminds me that it’s not about politics or policies; it’s about doing the right thing for the patient.”
Lisa Huber, BA, CRCST, FCS, ACE, is sterile processing director at Anderson Hospital in Maryville, Ill. and president of the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM). “Lisa fights infection on two very different fronts,” explains nominator Natalie Lind, CRCST, CHL, educational director for IAHCSMM. “At the local level she directs a sterile processing department which serves a busy operating room (OR). Lisa strives to ensure that her department’s practices keep patients safe by reducing the risk of infection associated with instruments, supplies and equipment. She works diligently to provide her staff with the education they need to keep abreast of today’s ever-changing technologies and standards. Lisa is very active in her local central service (CS) chapter which provides education to CS, OR and infection prevention professionals in her region.” Lind continues, “On a larger scale, Lisa impacts infection prevention at the national and international levels as president of IAHCSMM. She has presented programs on sterile processing techniques, CS education and infection control as it related to the sterile processing department at several venues throughout the United States and has also presented internationally in such places as Taiwan and Abu Dhabi. Lisa is dedicated to infection prevention and her efforts locally and nationally show it. Whether it is supporting and mentoring someone new to the field, providing written and spoken educational offerings, reaching out to partner with other healthcare professional associations, or working on initiatives to strengthen and enhance the knowledge of sterile processing professionals, Lisa is a strong voice for patient safety. Her commitment to infection prevention is strong and her efforts make an impact.”
John James, PhD, MPH, CIC, ABMM, is the microbial epidemiologist at The Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colo. “John provides a wealth of knowledge, expertise and insight into many areas and issues impacted by infection prevention,” says nominator Susan Dolan, RN, MS, CIC, hospital epidemiologist. “He is a leading expert in environmental infection control and had contributed immensely to the safety of the environment for our patients. He took a lead role in the design of our new facility as it relates to infection prevention and works collaboratively with our environment of care (EOC) staff to assure that additional construction activities adhere to proper infection control procedures. In addition to educating staff about infection control principles related to construction and renovation, he assists them when the environment is compromised, such as when a water leak occurs. He recently has facilitated the process of addressing water quality and has been successful in the addition of a facility-wide chlorine dioxide system being installed. He directs the testing of environmental samples for various areas such as dialysis water and the bone marrow transplant unit, etc.” Dolan says James has been instrumental to infection prevention staff in the solving of outbreak investigations. “He was the individual who determined that a nasal spray was contaminated when others were unable to detect organisms in the product,” Dolan explains. “He used his microbiology expertise to neutralize the preservative in the product which then facilitated the organism’s ability to grow in culture media. He also performs DNA testing of organisms to help direct the flow of a suspected outbreak. In some instances, he has shown that organisms all match each other and even links them to product contamination isolates.” Dolan also points to James’ willingness to help others grow in their careers. “John mentors students and provides them with a hands-on experience all while showing them the critical link between microbiology and infection prevention and control,” Dolan says. “His students assist in current situations and they contribute to the active daily infection detection. Largely due to his amazing mentoring abilities, most of his students have gone on to be successful in their studies and careers.” Dolan adds further, “John is a true team player and a person who gets things done. He performs authentic ‘shoe leather’ epidemiology and we have all benefited by his example. His knowledge base as it pertains to the fields of microbiology, infectious diseases and infection control is astounding and he continues to improve his arsenal by his savvy utilization of the internet. Taking infection control call is part of John’s responsibilities and his ability to explain things to staff is yet another reason he is so valued by the infection prevention team. Most importantly, John is always about the patient and works to protect them from infections. He is great at explaining things to parents and they express their ability to be at ease with situations John has explained to them. John is the best and we are so fortunate to get to work with him!”
Tracy Louis, RN, BSN, MSN, is infection preventionist at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville and has been charged with overseeing infection prevention, control and surveillance for the last five years. “She is involved in every aspect of the facility, from the patient care arena to construction and everything in between,” says nominator Kathie Wilkerson, BSN, RN, CIC, a fellow infection preventionist at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. “Tracy worked as a pediatric critical care nurse prior to her current position in infection prevention and thus has an excellent clinical background. Tracy is well respected by her colleagues both within and outside the medical center.” Louis is currently the president-elect of the local APIC chapter and speaks frequently to local groups and regional meetings. “Tracy has developed unique characters to aid her in some of her presentations, including a character called ‘MRS. A,’ who talks specifically about MRSA and its prevention,” Wilkerson says. “MRS. A has many boils, abscesses and other wounds typical of MRSA infections seen in the children admitted with community-acquired MRSA infections. Tracy has worked to educate staff and physicians about the need to proactively place on contact precautions any child being admitted with boils, abscesses and infected skin lesions, since a majority of these turn out to be culture-positive for MRSA. Her efforts have paid off, since it is extremely rare to have the microbiology lab identify MRSA in a child not already proactively isolated.” Wilkerson continues, “She also makes it a priority to talk to new nurses, residents, and other staff during their orientation,”. “This puts a face with her name as well as providing information needed to keep patients and staff safe. Making daily rounds of the inpatient nursing units, Tracy takes advantage of this opportunity to offer positive feedback as well as education on best practices. Staff will see her on rounds and feel free to ask her questions or bring situations to her attention. Within the last few years, infection prevention has taken on a major role in environmental rounds as well as in construction rounds on active projects. While increasing the demand on Tracy’s time, it has also expanded her knowledge and influence. All this takes much energy and Tracy rises to the occasion.”
Jeremias Murillo, MD, is vice president of clinical services for Saint Barnabas Health Care System and the former medical director of infection control and epidemiology at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in New Jersey. Nominator Caren Malone, director of public relations at Saint Barnabas Health Care System, says Dr. Murillo can encourage and inspire other hospital administrators, physicians, nurses and hospital workers to make changes to improve patient safety and protect their communities from the spread of MRSA.” Malone explains: “In July 2005, Newark Beth Israel experienced an outbreak of MRSA in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The outbreak alarmed staff, causing them to leap into action with Dr. Murillo at the helm. He worked to form a team mandated to develop aggressive infection prevention and control initiatives. After convincing hospital administration that intervention costs would be less than the cost of not implementing a MRSA control program, Dr. Murillo and the infection control team began a risk assessment that included active surveillance — screening all NICU admissions promptly, followed by isolation and treatment of those testing positive to prevent MRSA transmission.” Malone continues, “Dr. Murillo met with the chair of laboratory medicine and pathology to determine the best testing method for active surveillance. Deeming the 24 to 72 hours needed for results from traditional culture-based tests far too long for fragile premature infants in the NICU to spend in isolation, the laboratory chair recommended adopting a polymerase chain reaction-based MRSA assay. The rapid test in the NICU led to faster detection of MRSA colonization in patients and allowed swift implementation of interventions, such as isolation and contact precautions. This is important in units populated primarily by patients with weakened and susceptible immune systems. Faster detection is believed to have translated to fewer infections, avoided isolation days and costs related to increased workload and occupied beds, as well as reduced transmission rates of MRSA. Six months after implementing the MRSA control program with active surveillance cultures, the infection control team at Newark Beth Israel found the rate of MRSA infections in the NICU had dropped to zero. The hospital expanded its active screening program to the adult ICU, with future plans to expand the program to step-down units and other units with lower turnover. The hospital has seen no cases of hospital- acquired MRSA in over a year. Dr. Murillo’s leadership against MRSA are his latest in a long and distinguished career of infection prevention that also includes leading a six-hospital healthcare system in reducing healthcare-associated infections resulting in one hospital having no ventilator-associated pneumonia for 24 consecutive months and a pediatric intensive care unit with no central line-associated bloodstream infection for 655 consecutive days.”
Gregg Pullen, MT(ASCP)M, RM(NRM), CIC, is manager of infection prevention and control at Children’s Hospital Central California (CHCC) in Madera, Calif. “Gregg has been doing infection prevention and epidemiology at CHCC for 30 years,” says nominator Renata S. Briones, CLS, CIC, an infection control specialist at the facility. “He has always been the ‘go-to guy’ for anything remotely related to infection control because he will always get the job done in a complete and professional manner. He always has a positive attitude and a smile when dealing with everyone. Each year he has taken the CDC guidelines and recommendations from SHEA and APIC, mixed with solid common sense and applied them to the health, safety and wellbeing of every child who enters our facility. Gregg has always been the gold standard for all things relating to infection control. He has been known to take a statistics text to lunch for some ‘light reading’ to be sure his p values, t tests and Fisher exact are properly applied to his various endeavors.” Briones continues, “He has served on the editorial board of AJIC. He is well known and respected with the local and state public health departments. He has often collected data on syndromes and disease states (such as HUS and viral myositis) on children from as many as six or seven counties and reported to the state level, alerting of a possible cluster. Gregg is a treasure trove of information on the evolution of infection control in our state and has changed and added to his program as technology, laboratory testing abilities and medical progress has moved forward. He controls outbreaks, defines clusters and writes incredible risk assessments for CHCC that help us move into the future of patient safety and infection prevention.”
Keith Ramsey, MD, medical director of infection control at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C. “exemplifies a hospital administrator taking immediate charge to lead and make a significant difference in preventing the spread of a dangerous yet preventable epidemic – MRSA,” says nominator Barbara D. Dunn, director of public and customer relations at the University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina. “Like many U.S. hospitals, PCMH was experiencing an increase in MRSA rate incidence,” Dunn explains. “Hospital executives tapped Dr. Ramsey to lead their efforts in understanding the impact of MRSA on the hospital population while realizing the need to take action to protect patients. Dr. Ramsey and the hospital’s leadership team worked together to implement a comprehensive MRSA infection prevention program that involved active surveillance of patient admissions using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. The active surveillance program for MRSA advanced from concept to full implementation in approximately six months, beginning with a pilot program launched in early January 2007, specifically focusing on reducing healthcare-associated infections due to MRSA. In February 2007 the program was expanded to the whole hospital. Now PCMH performs approximately 2,000 MRSA assay tests each month, bringing the program’s total since inception to nearly 50,000 patients. Dr. Ramsey found that successfully tackling HAIs necessitates collaboration, not only between infection control and the laboratory, but also by engaging medical affairs, physicians, the nursing staff, and even patients and their families.” Dunn reports that during the 12-month intervention period, all HAIs were reduced, while VAP rates due to MRSA decreased by 68 percent; additionally, since implementing the program, the hospital has experienced very few cases of MRSA. “Dr. Ramsey’s actions against MRSA are his latest in a long and distinguished career of infection control that also includes multiple presentations at national and international meetings, peer-reviewed publications, and serving as Secretary of the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America and on the CDC’s Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee,” Dunn says.
Robin Riley, RN, BSN, is the infection control nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Ind. “Robin not only does surveillance duties but teaches staff, patients and our community about infection and infection prevention,” says nominator Brenda Lammert, RN, BSN, staff development specialist. “Robin’s expertise guides nursing and hospital-wide policies. Robin helps implement evidence-based care for patients with infections and to prevent or contain infections in our community and hospital.”
Tom Shirk, BSN, is an infection control officer at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Bremerton, Wash., believes in going the extra mile for the sake of infection prevention, says nominator Liz Drake, BSN, a Navy nurse and fellow infection control officer. “Tom volunteered to fly across the world to Okinawa, Japan from Seattle to lend his expertise in infection control principles to USNH Okinawa,” Drake explains. “Our facility had recently received information that our infection control program was in need of immediate attention. I was selected by our commanding officer to become the new infection control nurse without any previous background. In addition, our facility had just learned that we were undergoing a survey by The Joint Commission in six weeks. Our hospital is the largest military installation in the Pacific and can expand to a 120-bed hospital with nine branch clinics in our area of responsibility. We had a very large task before us and Tom went to all of our facilities. Without Tom’s gentle guidance, strong recommendations and going beyond the call of duty, our facility very well might have failed our survey due to infection control. Instead, we shined and our program now is growing by leaps and bounds. Even now, from across the miles, he continues to mentor me and share information to ensure service members are protected in our facilities. Tom received no extra money for this and is truly dedicated to the cause of preventing infections. I often feel as if we work in the same office and not across the Pacific. He has made a tremendous impact in the role of infection prevention and control in Southeast Asia.”
Brenda Simpson, RN, is director of risk management, infection control and patient safety at Russellville Hospital in Russellville, Ala. and is a big supporter of the infection community, says nominator Angie Bretherick, RN, BSN, MA, CIC, CHES, the facility’s emergency planning/surveillance nurse. “Brenda is one of the founding members of the Tennessee Valley chapter of APIC. She was very instrumental in establishing a chapter locally and has supported it by providing a meeting room and audiovisual equipment. Before we had a chapter, we had to travel four hours to attend APIC meetings. She is a mentor to new infection preventionists across the region. She is often asked to travel to other hospitals that are owned by Life Point. She provides expertise in infection control, risk management and Joint Commission compliance. She serves her community by providing education on subjects such as influenza and emergency preparedness. At one of my educational sessions on pandemic influenza for a big corporation in our area, one of the employees mentioned, ‘This must be important, one of the nurses at my church gave out booklets last Sunday on pandemic influenza to our congregation.’ I knew right away who he was talking about and it was Brenda!”
Julie Spallino, CNA, CRCST, AGTS, is special procedures technician at the Flamingo Campus of Kindred Hospital in Las Vegas. “Although Julie’s profession is not strictly infection prevention, she has had much influence on the practices of infection control/prevention in regards to endoscopy and sterilization techniques for what used to be her facility only that is now the entire city of Las Vegas,” says nominator Valle Oberg, RN, MS, NEdC, CIC, who works in infection control/occupational medicine at Kindred. “Julie is responsible for the infection prevention and control activities for the endoscopy and sterilization programs at Kindred Hospital. There have been no infections or other untoward events since 2001 when she began. Julie single-handedly set up the endoscopy program for Kindred hospitals, including the protocols and procedural complication tracking. As of this date, there have been no infections that have been tracked back to any of her procedures. The program Julie set up includes pre-procedure checks of the physician’s order, progress notes as to the reason for the procedure, consent of the patient and patient history at the bedside. Julie changed the program from procedures performed at the bedside to procedures done in a separate procedure room with more environmental controls. Julie is an excellent patient advocate; she visits the patient the day before the procedure when possible and discusses the procedure and why the patient is undergoing the testing. This allays any fears the patient may have.” Oberg continues, “When Julie senses something is amiss, she ensures patient safety by notifying the appropriate person so that action can be taken. Julie instituted a time-out, just as is performed in operating suites to ensure that the correct patient is receiving the correct procedure. I am fortunate enough to know Julie and worked with her during the CDC investigation of the ambulatory surgery centers of Las Vegas in 2008 during the hepatitis crisis. Julie educated several of the state and CDC investigators of particular items to look for when observing various procedures and sterilization techniques. I was at lunch with Julie when one of the investigators called her for advice; Julie offered to assist at any time. Julie’s knowledge of endoscopy and sterilization is never-ending. Even though I no longer work directly with Julie, she is always available for advice and offers assistance in any way that she can. I see her as a true hero that goes above and beyond her job duties to improve processes and ensure patient safety.”
Epidemiologist Bonnie Barnard, MPH, CIC, nominated Pam Webb, RN, BSN, CIC, infection control coordinator at Benefis Healthcare in Great Falls, Mont., whom she calls “a forward-thinking infection preventionist and performance improvement professional for many years.” Barnard says that Webb served as a champion for her hospital’s participation in the CMS/IHI Surgical Infection Prevention Project when the project was in its infancy. “She was able to not only get her physician champion enrolled in the project, but excited and evangelistic about the improvements related to the project.” She has also championed other Institute for Healthcare Improvement and VHA improvement projects for her hospital, including the Transforming the ICU project and the use of bundles for infection prevention. Her innovative thinking and sense of humor provides her facility with interesting teaching approaches (e.g., her program recorded its own educational video about infection control practices). Her influence in her hospital crosses all professional levels and has survived many administrative re-organizations. She is highly respected amongst her professional peers and is called by many novice and experienced infection preventionists around the state of Montana for advice and mentoring. Her commitment to teaching and sharing her knowledge is very apparent in everything she does. She has served in various leadership positions with the Montana chapter of APIC over the years, including a very long period serving as president of the group when volunteerism was waning. She has been instrumental in ensuring that infection preventionists in Montana are provided quality educational programs by either coordinating or serving on the committee that plans and conducts spring and fall educational programs. She frequently speaks at local APIC chapter meetings and Montana Hospital Association meeting, and assists many of the critical access hospitals with infection prevention and control activities by providing as needed coaching. She is a passionate patient advocate and will do whatever it takes to ensure that patients are protected against healthcare associated infections. I am proud to call her a professional colleague and friend.”
Although Theresa Williamson, RN, the lead infection control practitioner at Tucson Heart Hospital and Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital has 30-plus years of experience in everything from medical/surgical nursing to staff development and working as a college instructor and consultant, “infection control is her true passion in nursing,” says nominator Mary Ann Boher, RN, who works in infection prevention and control for Carondelet Health Network. “Theresa displays a ‘brainiac’ knowledge of infection control and can readily converse about epidemiology and the latest trends in infection management,” Boher says. “Her work influences patients, staff, physicians, students and all healthcare providers. She is recognized as a leader among her peers in the infection control community, having been a charter member and adviser to the original Tucson, Ariz. chapter of APIC.” Boher continues, “Her greatest concern is making sure patients have the safest environment possible. In order to meet that goal, she is focused on ensuring that our staff has a safe environment in which to practice and allowing them to concentrate on taking care of their patients. She considers each preventable infection a serious system breakdown and strives to instill this attitude in all those she meets on a daily basis. She quietly influences how we all practice, teaching about prevention and coordinating care for patient with infections when necessary. Also, she does a great deal of behind the scenes work via daily monitoring and reviewing of data. She is constantly looking for trends and opportunities to improve our care. Theresa is the ultimate professional, always treating those with whom she interacts respectfully and kindly. As a nursing faculty member, Theresa taught her students to focus on care delivery, including concentrating on the little things, the details necessary for a successful patient outcome. She encouraged them to ask themselves at the end of the day, ‘How did I deal with patients, not how many tasks did I complete?’” Boher says that Williamson has been instrumental in designing and setting up infection control programs, and in doing so, assesses needs, develops program materials and implements infection control practices for 600-plus beds in the Tucson, Ariz. community. “At one point, Theresa has mentored and trained approximately 15 to 20 area infection control professionals,” Boher adds. “One of her greatest joys is to identify a promising staff member with an interest in infection control and mentor her to a successful career. At least 10 of her former students currently practice in the Tucson area. She states it is joyful to ‘see the light go on.’ She does not employ an authoritative manner with those she teaches and mentors; she helps them evolve and to understand and incorporate evidence-based practices into their everyday work.”