AHA Solutions, Inc., and ASHHRA Announce the 2014 Gary Willis Leadership Award Winners

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Prestigious Award Honors HR Professionals Who Achieve Operational Excellence in Health Care

AHA Solutions, Inc., a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association (AHA), and the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA) today announce the 2014 Gary Willis Leadership (GWL) Award winners. This year’s honorees are Eileen Brown, MPPM, director of HR transitions management for Conifer Health Solutions in Frisco, Tex., and Tonya Richards, PHR, MS, director of human resources for Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The GWL Award recognizes managers and directors who have made outstanding leadership and operations contributions to their organizations. In addition, it honors those who have demonstrated a commitment to participating in continuous educational opportunities that promote operational excellence. The GWL Award honors the memory of Gary Willis, an ASHHRA board member, who passed away in 2010 after a battle with cancer.

“The GWL Award is a tribute to the winners’ devotion to advancing the health care human resources profession,” said Anthony J. Burke, senior vice president of the AHA and president and CEO of AHA Solutions. “Both AHA Solutions and ASHHRA have deep respect for Eileen and Tonya’s contributions to the field. They truly exemplify the type of commitment for which the Gary Willis Leadership Award was created.”

ASHHRA Interim Executive Director Mary Anne Kelly said, “The individuals honored with the GWL Award should know it is a terrific achievement. Gary was a leader and role model who was passionately committed to furthering the health care human resources field. ASHHRA and AHA Solutions recognize that quality in the Award winners as they follow in his footsteps.”

Eileen Brown
Brown has more than 12 years of leadership experience in human resources and 19 in health care. She has helped Conifer Health Solutions maintain operational excellence by smoothly transitioning 1,500 Vanguard Health System employees in five states to Conifer (which is jointly owned by Tenet Healthcare and Catholic Health Initiatives) following the merger of Tenet and Vanguard. To bring staff with regional differences in benefits and policies into a centralized organization with standardized procedures, Brown rolled out extensive training and communication programs to make each employee’s experience as stress-free as possible.

“Eileen’s work ethic and ability to lead are familiar to everyone her work touches. I knew Gary Willis personally, and Eileen shares with Gary a kindness of spirit — a willingness to let everyone be a part of their family,” said Irma L. Pye, SPHR, CHHR, chief human resources officer at Valley Baptist Health System (acquired by Vanguard Health System in 2011).

“With the rapid changes in health care I’ve witnessed, I’ve seen that HR professionals must be open to change,” Brown explained. “If you can’t change, you can’t expect employees to. You need to lead by example, and always be honest and transparent.” She continued, “I am so excited to be selected for this award, and am gratified that my efforts to be a role model helped me to earn it.”

Tonya Richards
After interning at various health care organizations, including Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Richards spent four years in the utility industry as a labor relations specialist before eagerly returning to health care as Kingsbrook’s HR director. The only non-senior executive on Kingsbrook’s Leadership Institute Steering Committee, in the past two years she has successfully improved supervisors’ skills by presenting lectures and navigating 130 participants through the program. Richards also has boosted employee engagement through a variety of creative programs, including an extremely popular concert series by and for employees. She has further demonstrated her HR excellence by increasing efforts across the institution to improve patient satisfaction scores.

“Tonya has effectively reshaped the human resources organization to help Kingsbrook become greater than the sum of its parts,” stated John McKeon, Kingsbrook’s vice president of human resources.

Richards said, “One of the rewards of my role at Kingsbrook has been to help our employees continue to provide for our community in an environment of health care transformation. Throughout this transformation, I’ve learned that HR leaders need to focus on continual growth and share their experiences with others so they can learn and excel.” Regarding winning the award, she continued, “I fell in love with the human resources field back in college, so getting the news was very emotional for me. I’ve worked hard on improving my leadership skills, and since I’m younger than most directors, the award will give me added credibility.”

Applications for the 2015 GWL Award can be submitted online beginning January 2015 at http://www.aha-solutions.org or http://www.ashhra.org.

About the AHA
The American Hospital Association (AHA) is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the improvement of health in their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, who include nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations and 43,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. Visit http://www.aha.org to learn more.

Founded in 1964, ASHHRA is a personal membership group of the American Hospital Association (AHA) and has more than 3,500 members nationwide. It leads the way for members to become more effective, valued, and credible leaders in health care human resources. As the foremost authority in health care human resources, it provides timely and critical support through research, learning and knowledge sharing, professional development, products and resources, and provides opportunities for networking and collaboration. For more information about ASHHRA, visit our website at http://www.ashhra.org.

About AHA Solutions
AHA Solutions, Inc. is a resource to hospitals pursuing operational excellence. As an AHA member service, AHA Solutions collaborates with hospital leaders to identify key challenges the field faces. We then work with market consultants to conduct the proprietary AHA Signature Due Diligence ProcessTM and identify solutions. AHA Solutions provides access to content experts and education to support product decision making. As a subsidiary of the AHA, the organization convenes people with like interests for knowledge sharing that is centered on timely information and research.

AHA Solutions is proud to reinvest its profits in the AHA Mission: To advance the health of individuals and communities. For more information, contact AHA Solutions at 800.242.4677 or visit http://www.aha-solutions.org.

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Marie Watteau