Rural Health Awards

Awards 2016

Al Grant Award - Dennis Wolford

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Mr. Wolford has always supported ongoing professional education for the hospital staff.  Even in   financially lean times money was made available to keep the staff current with the standards of practice and certifications for their respective fields.  Mr. Wolford felt it was important that he set the example concerning professional improvement.  In August of 1988 he completed the requirements to obtain his board certification as a Fellow with the American College of Healthcare  Executives.  
Mr. Wolford also became a member of the Tennessee Hospital Association.  He has lent his support  to the various programs of THA and has served as a member of the THA Council on Clinical and  Professional Practices.  In conjunction with his work with THA, Mr. Wolford has met with various  political groups and individuals to voice the concerns and/or support of particular piece of  legislation that could impact small hospitals statewide.  As a result of Mr. Wolford's political  involvement, several of our elected officials have visited MCGH.  Mr. Wolford succeeded in putting  a face on small rural hospitals for those who cast the votes that can help or hurt at the local level. 


Collaboration Award - TN's CSH Initiative, TN Department of Education

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Coordinated School Health (CSH) is a collaborative approach to learning and health.  Establishing healthy behaviors during childhood is a more effective than trying to change unhealthy behaviors during adulthood. Schools play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people and also their families and the community.  To have the most positive impact on the health outcomes of young people, government agencies, community organizations, schools, and other community members must work together through a collaborative and comprehensive approach.
The CSH model serves as a strategy for shaping the future health, education and social well-being of students and ultimately the communities in which they live (Stolz, Coburn & Knickelbein, 2009).  A coordinated program promotes students’ optimal learning ability.  Its success depends on the  effective integration of these components and the subsequent academic success of childr




Rural Health Practitioner of the Year - Dr. Charles Alderson

Dr-Alderson.jpgThis year’s recipient is no stranger to rural healthcare. He has served over 40 years in his beloved county. Many who talk about the hospital say he is the hospital. Here are some of the kind words they have to sasy about him.  He is a special person to many in the county. This one thankful person, who had been in a terrible accident, was told the next morning that God and Dr. Alderson saved his life the night before. Later when I returned to the hospital to thank him, I found him making his rounds and he told me “that I had tried to sprout wings three times on us that night, I better not hear of you being in another stupid situation again or I’ll jerk you out myself (he takes his work seriously).” Another supporter states that her relationship with Dr. Alderson spans over 40 years. “He was first her family physician and surgeon when he arrived in Decatur County in 1970. Later after graduating nursing school, I returned to Decatur County and worked beside Dr. Alderson for 20 years. But this says it best of this rural healthcare doctor, “No doubt he could have practiced anywhere, but he chose instead to move to rural West Tennessee and serve Decatur and adjoining counties. For more than 40 years he has worked tirelessly to deliver quality healthcare to our area.  The impact of his contribution is immeasurable.  

Award of Merit - Cheryl Wooten

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standingThe person who submitted this individual for the Award of Merit made these comments “She will never buy a yacht but she will continue to pay it forward and make a difference in the lives of those that work to improve themselves and contribute to the medical field.  As a teacher of HOSA, you would expect that she works to insure her students became doctors, nurses, or others who work tirelessly in the field of medicine. But additionally, I know she does so much more than is expected in her job.  And she has worked to raise well over $150,000 to help rural students experience and to learn, which keeps them involved and interested in the field of medicine. 
Just some of the accomplishments of this recipient: In the community, outside of her responsibilities as the Health Science/HOSA instructor, she has taught the American Heart Association approved CPR and other first aid classes to former students and others who need to certification. She provides refresher information and tutoring for students enrolled in health-related programs in college and technology centers.  She worked to put together a program to teach all the bus drivers and about 40 of the teachers and coaches how to respond and then to properly apply CPR to any emergency situation. Our recipient has been the sponsor of an Eating Disorders program, was available during the Dover Halloween Festival for emergencies, above and beyond her job as HOSA instructor she has been the advisor to over 11 state officers, advisor to a national officer, served as TN HOSA Management team and 3 years on the National HOSA Board of Directors. 

Legislator of the Year - Matthew Hill

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing and suitState Representative Matthew Hill of Jonesborough has been a strong advocate of improved healthcare in Tennessee during his tenure at the Tennessee General Assembly.  For many years Representative Hill has advocated for the expansion of scope of services for dental hygienists in Tennessee.   This expansion would lead to more dental services being offered in Tennessee, particularly in rural Tennessee where there is a shortage of dentists.  This past year, Representative Hill sponsored House Bill 976 that authorizes the expansion of Teledentistry in Tennessee.  This bill was one of RHAT’s legislative priority bills.  This bill was approved by the General Assembly and is now Public Chapter 918.   Representative Matthew Hill is from Jonesborough, TN.  He was elected to represent the 7th House District in 2004.  He is currently a member of the House Health Committee and the House Finance Ways and Means Committee. Representative Hill is married and lives in Jonesborough.  When he is not in Nashville working as a legislator, he works as a broadcaster in his community.Representative Matthews has worked very hard to support funding for the Department of Health and Tenncare.  He has a passion for improving his community and the lives of all Tennesseans.  

Presidential Awards -Bill Jolley                                 Walter Fletcher                                   

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President Randall Kirby had Sandy Hayes, RHAT ED, to present the 2016 presidential awards to Bill Jolley and Walter Fletcher. These awards go to individuals who have assisted th president  and the Association significantly through out the past year. Bill Jolley provided immeasurable support and guidance as the past president and Walter Fletcher, as a long standing board member, offered his knowledge of operations and encouragement to Randall throughout the year.

Outgoing Board Members -Deb Murph                           Jill Beason

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RHAT also recognized its outgoing Board Members Deb Murph and Jill Beason. These ladies have worked tirelessly for many years in support of the rural health of Tennesseans and the Rural Health Association as well. 

2015 Award Recipients

Al Grant Award - Pete DeBusk

Al Grant has been an instrumental figure in the birth and growth of State Rural Health Associations across the nation. There are 36 state associations in total. He is truly a proponent of rural life and is the ideal embodiment of the citizen legislator, combining his public health knowledge with political savvy and persistence to better the State of Tennessee and its citizens. This award is bestowed upon an individual who has exhibited above-and-beyond exemplary-initiative in forwarding the cause of rural health in Tennessee over the person’s career. This recipient should display the ability to bring together multi-faceted individuals to the common good of the health of all rural citizens of Tennessee. 

Dr. Pete DeBusk was raised on a farm in rural Appalachia where Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia meet in the Cumberland mountain range. Dr. DeBusk attended Lincoln Memorial University and University of Georgia.  He founded STAT Medical in 1973 which in 1982 has grown into DeRoyal Industries, Inc., and its affiliates. Today, it is one of the most well-known aggressive medical device manufacturers in the international healthcare market. Dr. DeBusk says that he is no great inventor, but is good at noticing needs and problems and finding solutions.  As Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) he set out to guide the university to meet the community education needs. In 2005, as part of the Med-Pac committee, he was educated about the shortage of primary care physicians in the region and nationally.  He saw an opportunity to leverage his experience and resources to develop a medical school at LMU.  Osteopathic medicine was chosen as the focus for the medical school, because 60 to 70 percent of graduates are estimated to become family practitioners, of which there is a shortage in Tennessee that is acutely felt in rural communities. Due to the additional need for health care professionals, in 2009 the LMU-DCOM Physician Assistant Program was established to assist in alleviating the shortage of mid-level health care providers. In 2012-2013, Dr. DeBusk personally approached several funders with the idea of bringing “One Health” and Veterinary Education to the Appalachian region in response to the shortage of Veterinarians.  In 2014, LMU opened the doors to the inaugural class of the LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine. There were 96 in the LMU-CVM Class of 2018. Thanks to Dr. Pete DeBusk, the regions residents are being provided with increased access to health care, health literacy, preventive services and health education by the physicians, faculty and students in rural areas of Tennessee, Appalachia and beyond. 

Eloise Q. Hatmaker Distinguished Service Award - Mary Vance

This award recognizes an individual who has contributed outstanding service to the Association and rural health over a period of years. Eloise Q. Hatmaker was instrumental in the establishment of the State Office of Rural Health. As its first director, Ms. Hatmaker worked toward alleviating health workforce shortages in rural areas and also helped establish the Rural Health Association of Tennessee.

Mary Vance is the Executive Director of the Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic and was instrumental in its development. Although the clinic is not located in a rural area of Sevier County, patients come from the rural corners of the county as well as other adjacent rural counties.  Others who know Mary tell us that she has always had a deep passion for anything that is about rural health and access to it. In addition to her position at her clinic, Mary has held the chair position on the Rural Health Association of Tennessee’s Legislative and Policy Committee and is current Chair of the East Tennessee Regional Health Council which represents 15 counties in East Tennessee.nShe has guided the policy  positions which support rural healthcare for the state.  Mary was instrumental in the formation of the Tennessee Charitable Care Network (TCCN) and is committed to our vision of a strong, compassionate health care safety net for all Tennesseans in need. A founding board member, she currently serves on the TCCN Board of Directors and as the Chair of the TCCN Public Policy Committee. In this role, she is a tireless advocate for the uninsured and underserved all across Tennessee. 

Rural Health Practitioner of the Year - Dr. Jim Shine

This award is given to a direct service provider honored for leadership in bringing health services to citizens of rural Tennessee. Factors considered: must be a provider (physician or mid-level provider); must provide outstanding care; must be involved in the community; and must be providing a lasting contribution to the rural health care system in Tennessee.

Dr. Jim Shine is an integral part of the inter-professional Rural Training Track associated with the East Tennessee State University College of Nursing and the Quillen College of Medicine, training nursing and medical students in Johnson County, Tennessee for many years.  He is a leader in his community who inspirers leadership in his mentees.  He is a quietly passionate and expert physician who know how to move each learner along the development continuum toward professional expertise.  Dr. Shine is the epitome of what a rural family doctor should look like.  His personal commitment to evidence-based patient-centered care is exemplary.  His patients clearly love and respect him.  The students who work with him can see what a difference his care model can make in the outcomes of his patients.  His students have had this to say, “It's hard to put in to words but you just knew that he cared about you as a student and as a person. He taught us a lot about compassion, team work and leadership.”

Rural Health Worker of the Year - Tonya Garner

This award is bestowed upon an individual who has made an outstanding contribution of major significance to rural health and is a member of the Association. Consideration shall be given to all areas of rural health. Nomination information should indicate that the individual’s efforts have surpassed normal expectations and that efforts are exemplary of the dedication to the advancement of the health of the public.

Tonya Garner’s name is synonymous with public health and wellness initiatives in Grundy County.  She is known and trusted throughout the county as one who has the knowledge, skills, compassion and care to deliver effective programs that are improving outcomes for residents of rural Grundy and Franklin Counties.  Tonya goes far above and beyond in providing Grundy County residents with health and wellness activities.  Not only does she provide public health education programs offered by the Tennessee Department of Health (such as Baby and Me and Smoking Cessation), but she collaborates with other agencies, businesses, universities and individuals to offer even more opportunities to residents of Grundy County.  Tonya Garner is working hard to improve health statistics in Grundy and Franklin counties.  In part due to her efforts, Grundy County’s health rankings have improved from ranking 87 out of 95 for health factors (health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment) in 2014, to 84 out of 95 health factors in 2015.

Collaboration Award - South Cumberland Health Network

This award recognizes an outstanding individual, organization, company, governmental unit or other entity that has worked jointly with others to develop a process to achieve a common goal toward the betterment of rural health. This awardee demonstrates a team spirit that has motivated others to work with a positive synergy to cross disciplines or regions. This positive attitude and spirit of cooperation has transcended boundaries to ensure progress toward meeting the needs of our rural health communities.

Collaboration has been a key priority of the South Cumberland Health Network.  In the beginning, the group consisted of representatives of the Grundy Health Council, the University of the South, Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System, the Beersheba Springs Medical Clinic, Delta Dental, Southern Tennessee Regional Health System and Mountain TOP Ministries.  As we have grown, we have increasingly developed cross-sector collaborations, including the local public schools, churches, government officials, law enforcement agencies, public universities (UTK, UTC and MTSU)  and regional hospitals (Erlanger and Park Ridge).  We collaborated with the Chattanooga Medical Foundation to conduct six ACA Marketplace enrollment events in three counties, assisting over sixty previously-uninsured people.  We partnered with Yale University to host two interns who assisted us with analysis of local data collected over the course of the year.  We completed application for Grundy County’s designation as a Healthier Tennessee Community.  And we are proud to have been selected to participate in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Roadmaps to Health Coaching Program.  We are committed to the program’s goal “to strengthen communities’ capacity to create a culture of health for all residents.”

Award of Merit - Karen & Steve Wickham

This award recognizes any individual, group of individuals, or agency, which made an outstanding contribution of major significance to the rural health movement. Nominees need not be association members. Factors taken into consideration include: broad benefits to health, innovative programs, unusual contributions or activities that provide outstanding benefit to the public’s health and are consistent with the goals and objectives of the Association. The nominating agency should not consider longevity, discipline, popularity, and service generally expected in one’s job. There will be no special consideration given to nominees who are anticipating retirement or have just retired.

Karen and Steve are both registered nurses and have dedicated their lives to helping others. After moving to Grundy County, Karen became involved with the health council and learned about a grant available through Marshall University for programs supporting chronic disease self-management.  She and her husband were passionate about educating the community about diabetes and ways to possibly reverse it. Karen spent endless hours gathering data, writing objectives and getting letters of support from the community. The grant application was turned in and $160,000 was awarded to the county for Diabetes Prevention and Control.

Karen has worked with Friends of South Cumberland Plateau and the state parks to leverage monies to put in new playground equipment at the park in Tracy City. She also assists in serving healthy, diabetic friendly samples to the Food Bank on Tuesdays. Since February Karen has written about 42 health articles for the Grundy County Herald.  She always includes activities going on in the community and ways for people to get healthier. Steve and Karen are relentless when it comes to working for this community. They are dedicated to sharing the knowledge that they work so hard to gain. They have touched the lives of close to 100 people in this community. Together, Stephen and Karen Wickham have dedicated over 216 hours of class time, at least 400 hours in curriculum hours, 100 hours of training and planning and 25 hours in community outreach events, for a total of close to 750 hours. There is no one in this county more deserving of an award more than this couple.

Presidential Awards - Angie Dotson                     Elaine Jackson                                      Aaron Haynes


President Bill Jolley bestowed these awards to individuals who have assisted him and the Association significantly through out the past year. Both Angie Dotson and Elaine Jackson provided valuable support in their roles as conference chair and Middle Tennessee Vice President.

In recognition of the long-standing support from the UT Offices of Graduate and Continuing Medical Education, Aaron Haynes, Director, was presented with a special Presidential Award.  Thank you for your many years of support which has contributed to the success of the Rural Health Association of Tennessee.

Legislator of the Year - Steve McDaniel

Nominated by the Rural Health Association of Tennessee Legislative Committee Representative Steve McDaniel was selected to receive the 2015 Legislator of the Year award.  Representative Steve McDaniel (R—Parkers Crossroads) represents the 72nd House District in West Tennessee.  Representative McDaniel lives in rural Tennessee and knows the issues and challenges of rural Tennesseans.  He also knows the strength, beauty and values of rural Tennessee and is people.  Last winter, Representative McDaniel introduced SB411/HB309, known as the “Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco and Vapor Products Act”, and was successful in addressing as many concerns as possible in one single piece of legislation by working with a variety of interested organizations including The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the Rural Health Association of Tennessee, Children’s Hospital Alliance of Tennessee, the tobacco industry, and many other organizations.  The Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco and Vapor Products Act was the culmination of his efforts to establish the legal framework to protect Tennessee’s youth and the general public.  This bill expanded the definition of “vapor products” and imposed restrictions to access to vapor products in the retail markets across Tennessee.  One purpose was to prohibit the sale or distribution of vapor products to, or purchase of vapor products on behalf of, persons under eighteen (18) years of age.  This bill was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly and signed into law as Public Chapter 353 by Governor Bill Haslam.

Representative McDaniel is the epitome of a public servant he serves for the common good.  He has represented the 72nd House District since 1989.  Representative McDaniel has always been available to RHAT and its policy concerns.  He is a true friend of Rural Tennessee.

Awards 2014

Nominate a deserving individual or entity for a 2014 award. Click here for the categories and descriptions.


2013 Awardees

Award of Merit - Reverend Sheldon Livesay and the 'Of One Accord Ministry'

Reverend Livesay was recognized for his work, which began in 1988, to establish a community-wide food pantry in Rogersville. This grew to a multi-faceted endeavor which serves over 100,000 people in Hawkins and Hancock Counties and includes free medical care, dental and vision fairs, food pantries, thrift stores, senior meal program, summer feeding program, home repair, and Christmas for the Children.


Eloise Q. Hatmaker Distinguished Service Award and Presidential Award - Cindy J. Siler

The Eloise Q. Hatmaker Distinguished Service award recognizes an individual who has contributed outstanding service to the Association and rural health over a period of years. Eloise Q. Hatmaker was instrumental in the establishment of the State Office of Rural Health. As its first director, Ms. Hatmaker worked toward alleviating health workforce shortages in rural areas and also helped establish the Rural Health Association of Tennessee. The RHAT Board of Directors was very pleased to award Ms. Siler for her unwavering support and love for rural people and their health over many years.

Cindy Siler stated, “It is an undeserved and humbling experience to be nominated for anything bearing Eloise Hatmaker’s name. I want to express my sincere thanks to all of my colleagues that I’ve had the honor to work with through the years who are so dedicated to improving health care in rural Tennessee..."


Presidential Awards

President, Angie Dotson, BSN, RN, bestowed these awards to individuals who have significantly assisted her and the Association through the year.

Bill Moats


Mr. Moats is President and CEO for Ocoee Regional Health Corporation in Southeast Tennessee, a HRSA-funded organization of six Community Health Centers serving the rural areas around Chattanooga. He is a past president and has been a member of the Rural Health Association of Tennessee since it began in 1995 serving on the Membership and Conference Committees. He has been on the Board of Directors since 2009. Mr. Moats stated, “I am pleased to work alongside so many dedicated people whose passion it is to expand healthcare coverage in all the rural areas of Tennessee.” 



J. Mark Wilson 

Copy_2-RHAT_Presidential_awards_2013_0969_1_.jpgMr. Wilson, CEO of Wiseprogess, Inc., is also a rodeo bullfighter, and was the International Finals Rode 35 Showcase Champion, as well as being the American BullRiders Tour Finals Bullfighter for 2007-2012.  He is currently the pastor of the Rafter H. Cowboy Church which is based in Oakland, Tennessee.  J. Mark is also widely recognized in the professional business community as a motivational speaker and seminar leader. His website is  Mr. Wilson stated, "I am so very humbled and surprised by this honor. To have the opportunity of contributing in some way to the success of RHAT and Mrs. Dotson's awesome leadership was a privilege. I will cherish her kind words and this moment for years to come."

(Pictured left to right: President Angie Dotson, BSN, RN and J. Mark Wilson)





Award of Merit
Reverend Sheldon Livesay and the Of One Accord Ministry

Reverend Livesay received his award at a special luncheon on November 21, 2013 at the Music Road Hotel in Pigeon Forge, TN. He was recognized for his work, which began in 1988, to establish a community-wide food pantry in Rogersville. This grew to a multi-faceted endeavor which serves over 100,000 people in Hawkins and Hancock Counties and includes free medical care, dental and vision fairs, food pantries, thrift stores, senior meal program, summer feeding program, home repair and Christmas for the Children. (Pictured left to right: Reverend Sheldon Livesay and nominator Dr. Joe Florence, ETSU)

Rural Health Practitioner of the Year
Hanna Ilia, MD

Mary Ann Watson, of the Tennessee Rural Partnership, says: "Dr. Ilia, with his training and background, could easily practice in any urban area within the United States but chooses to practice in Macon County where he has clinics in two separate locations, actively participates in the community and works hard in many capacities for Macon County General Hospital." Dr. Ilia also enjoys precepting rural rotations for medical students for the Tennessee Rural Partnership, a nonprofit entity that helps place providers in underserved areas, and as a result of this, one medical resident decided to practice in a rural health center in West Tennessee.




2012 Awardees

Rural Health Worker of the Year
Mrs. Elizabeth Dick, RN


Rural Health Practitioner of the Year
Darryl Adams, APN and Mary Beth Davis, APN

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Above Photo: Left to Right, Art Miller, Mary Beth Davis, APN 

and TN Department of Health Commissioner, John Dreyzehner


Award of Merit
Mary Winslow



Special Exemplary Project Award
Mornings in Motion



Al Grant Award
Peggy Grant