Three outstanding employees from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center are among 14 honored with the 2023 UT President’s Awards announced today by UT System President Randy Boyd during the UT Board of Trustees meeting in Memphis.
Jim Bailey, MD, MPH, a champion for improving health care delivery; Melissa Smith, MS, an advocate for improving the student experience; and Patricia Page, a facilitator for the university’s research efforts, were among winners of the awards.
The awards are presented in seven categories based on the UT Systems Be One UT values — Bold and Impactful, Embrace Diversity, Optimistic and Visionary, Nimble and Innovative, Excel In All We Do, United and Connected, Transparent and Trusted. Honorees are selected from across the system from nominations by campus and institute leaders. Two winners are selected in each category. The President’s Awards are the highest honor given by the UT System to employees. Winners receive a plaque and $3,000.
All the winners will be honored by President Boyd and his Be One UT cabinet at a luncheon on August 3 in Nashville.
Delivering Patient-Centered Health Care
Dr. Jim Bailey, the Robert S. Pearce Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine, was recognized with the Bold and Impactful (Faculty) Award. Dr. Bailey serves as the principal investigator for the Tennessee Heart Health Network, a statewide initiative to test interventions to improve the cardiovascular health of Tennesseans.
In 2021, UTHSC and Dr. Bailey received $4.5 million from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to build a network of primary care providers across the state and arm them with effective, patient-centered methods to encourage better management of blood pressure and smoking cessation, two primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The goal is to reduce strokes and heart attacks in Tennessee, which ranks third in the United States in cardiovascular events, sixth in deaths from cardiovascular disease and fifth in deaths from stroke.
In 2016, Dr. Bailey received a $5.2 million award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to study the effectiveness of patient-centered approaches to improve health care for African Americans who lived in underserved areas and had uncontrolled diabetes. He brought together a coalition of Memphis primary care providers to test whether motivational text messaging, health coaching, and patient-vetted educational material improved patients taking medication and making better self-care decisions. All three approaches helped patients.
Building off that research, the Tennessee Heart Health Network, which now includes 65 primary care practices across the state, will assist participating medical practices learn how to offer health coaching and motivational text messaging, which have been proven to help people eat better, move more, take medications regularly and stop smoking, all of which impact cardiovascular health. The network offers toolkits, learning collaboratives, newsletters, and practice support to assist participating care providers across the state.
“We’re putting all this money into health care, and every primary care clinic can be an outpost for delivering the most life-saving population health services, like getting blood pressure under control,” Dr. Bailey said. “We know how to do much better, but it takes expanding the activities of primary care beyond the walls of the clinic, reaching out into the community.”
Impacting Student Services
For almost two decades of fostering an engaging and outstanding student experience, Melissa Smith, MS, student affairs coordinator in the UTHSC College of Pharmacy in Knoxville, was honored with the Bold and Impactful (Staff) Award.
“Melissa focuses on building trusting relationships with each student individually. As a result, our Knoxville students view Melissa as their first point of contact for any challenges that they face,” Bradley Boucher, PharmD, FCCP, FNAP, MCCM, professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Translational Science in the college, wrote in his letter of nomination.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Rhodes College in Memphis, and a master’s in College Student Personnel from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Smith has served in the college for 17 years and continues to strive for maintaining a supportive system for students. Smith has been described as welcoming, and consistently works to help meet students’ needs, from driving students to counseling, to providing a safe space for students to address their concerns.
She works to expand opportunities for students at the Knoxville campus through efforts such as student recruitment; coordinating ceremonies, events, and orientations; and ensuring students have the information and access to on-campus services. She also held an essential role in establishing student support services on the campus upon its arrival in Knoxville.
“I love my job, the students, and the relationships I can have with them,” Smith said.
Helping Researchers Suceed
Patricia Page, senior program manager in Electronic Research Administration, was honored with the Nimble and Innovative (Staff) Award. Page is known for making tasks easier and more efficient for the people with whom she works.
Page works with the UTHSC Institutional Review Board to simplify the submission process and develop procedures for researchers and officials at affiliate institutions. She also receives and implements feedback to improve the system.
“Her willingness to try new things to achieve a better outcome has significantly impacted the sponsored projects and research compliance areas,” UTHSC Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, wrote in his letter of nomination.
Page is being honored for inspiring creative and transformational action with behaviors including trying new things and keeping what works, embracing change, and removing barriers.
For example, Page played a major role in the extensive task of digitizing records, avoiding an infrastructure problem that arose when paper records were no longer adequate for keeping pace with the growing number of research projects.
Another successful project in which Page demonstrated her adaptability involved working with UTHSC’s Information Technology Services to streamline the entry of non-UTHSC personnel who are affiliated with UTHSC research into the Electronic Research Administration directory to be included in the IRB protocol system. Page created a process that cut down the request turnaround time from months to under 24 hours.