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Outstanding Health Care Providers from UTHSC Named 2019 Health Care Heroes

Dr. Neil Hayes and Dr. Sara Day of UTHSC received 2019 Health Care Heroes Awards from the Memphis Business Journal.

A physician-scientist working on cancer treatment and cure and a nurse-advocate advancing nursing practice and community and global health, both from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, were named among winners of the 21st annual Health Care Heroes Awards presented by the Memphis Business Journal Tuesday.

Neil Hayes, MD, MS, MPH, Van Vleet Endowed Professor in Medical Oncology and the division chief of Hematology and Oncology at UTHSC, was named a 2019 Health Care Hero in the Health Care Innovations category. Recruited to UTHSC roughly two years ago, Dr. Hayes played a major role in developing The Cancer Genome Atlas, one of the most dramatic breakthroughs in understanding cancer to date.

Sara Day, PhD, RN, FAAN, associate professor and assistant dean in the UTHSC College of Nursing, was named a Health Care Hero in the Healthcare Provider-Non-Physician Category. She leads the college’s Center for Community and Global Partnerships, which develops sustainable partnerships with clinical, research, and health care institutions in the Mid-South to advance health care, foster innovative nursing strategies, reduce health disparities, and improve patient outcomes.

Dr. Hayes was one of the leaders of The Cancer Genome Atlas, a flagship team science effort of the National Institutes of Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute to understand cancer at its molecular level by using genome sequencing and extensive data analysis.

The project, which began more than a decade ago, wrapped up a major phase in May 2018 with much fanfare. It published findings identifying genomic changes or mutations in cells of 33 types of cancer from head and neck cancer, to breast cancer, to stomach cancer. Armed with this knowledge, researchers and clinicians can move closer to the goal of personalized treatment for cancer patients.

Dr. Hayes was a leader of a site at the University of North Carolina, one of 11 sites for the study and the site that did all the sequencing of RNA, which controls abnormal genetic expressions in cancer cells.

Since joining the College of Medicine at UTHSC, Dr. Hayes has become a key figure in the effort to build the university’s stature in cancer care, research, and education. As a chemotherapy physician, he sees patients with head and neck cancers, and tumors of the mouth, throat, tonsils, tongue, and salivary glands. He also conducts and oversees research in his labs at UTHSC and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Dr. Day and the Center for Community and Global Partnerships are working to integrate academic nursing into population health initiatives, offer education and support for evidence-based practice, expand academic leadership in clinical practice, and grow academic nursing research programs. The center also supports nurse preceptors and provides nurse scholar programs in specialty areas.

Dr. Day is well-versed in the benefits of partnering academic and clinical nursing in the community. She has served as the director of Nursing Education and the director of International Nursing at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and as an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Nursing, and director of Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice at Children’s Hospital of Alabama.

Dr. Day’s career has focused on the development, implementation, and management of nursing programs and models. Her work has improved the outcomes of underserved children and has been implemented nationally, as well as internationally in 20 countries. She has worked to empower nurses to provide quality nursing care and created programs to advance the nursing work environment.

In 2014, she was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing for her significant national and international contributions to nursing and health care.

The Center for Community and Global Partnerships in collaboration with Regional One Health was recently awarded a grant to train nurses and other health care providers to recognize and defuse crisis situations. This not only makes the hospital environment safer for health care providers, but also for patients and visitors.

The center is also working with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare to facilitate nursing research, collaborating with the Shelby County Health Department on a nurse residency partnership, and working with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on global nursing initiatives.

The awards were presented at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis. Finalists in the categories of Administrative Excellence, Community Outreach, Health Care Innovations, Health Care Provider-Physician, and Health Care Provider-Non-Physician were recognized. UTHSC College of Dentistry Dean James C. Ragain, DDS, MS, PhD, FICD, FACD, was a finalist in the Administrative Excellence category. Drs. Hayes, Day and Ragain were nominated by UTHSC.

Dr. Yasser Khaled

Yasser Khaled, MD, received a Health Care Heroes Award in the Health Care Provider-Physician category. Dr. Khaled, an associate professor, Medicine-Hematology at UTHSC, was nominated by Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and Methodist University Hospital. He is the program director for the Blood & Marrow Transplant Program for the Methodist Healthcare Blood & Marrow Transplant Center at Methodist University Hospital. The program has grown from its first patient in 2015 to an expected 140 patients this year.

According to Methodist, the program has received a ranking of 17 out of 135 programs across the country  achieving the highest survival rates. This ranking is from Be The Match®, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, which manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world.