By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Staff
Cherokee Indian Hospital honored its outstanding employees at its annual awards ceremony, held virtually this year, on Tuesday, April 6, and two members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians took the top honors. Brooke Brown, Tsali Care performance improvement specialist, was named the 2020 Hayes Award recipient, and Dr. Blythe Winchester, Tsali Care Center medical director, was named Cherokee Indian Hospital Employee of the Year.
“Working with the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority (CIHA) has been a transformative process,” said Brown. “The connections I make and the impacts of those relationships are long lasting. In coming to this organization years ago, I assumed that I would help heal others being that it is a hospital. Very unexpectedly, in turn, this organization is also helping to heal me – teaching me to advocate, use my voice, when to lead and when to sit back, and engage in a healing journey.”
Brown went on to state, “There is power in getting to sit in community with our people – to bring strength and a sense of renewal from a hard year when we all took to survival skills rooted from our cultural history, grounded in residency. It is the true embrace of this organizational family, who welcomes being who I am meant to be, and who I am striving to be, as I proudly serve Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority.”
According to information from CIHA, “The Hayes Award for Quality and Safety is a perpetual award presented annually to an employee who has led or facilitated a system or process of change, resulting in risk mitigation, improved safety, or quality improvement.”
CIHA officials noted that Brown was an integral part of getting new processes going at Tsali Care Center after it moved under the auspices of CIHA. In addition, she worked at the COVID-19 testing site and helped in the development of policies and processes related to that effort as well as being a member of the CIHA Re-Opening Committee.
Past recipients of the Hayes Award include: Jason White (2019), Cynthia Lambert (2018), Dr. Laci Jamison (2017), Angel Squirrell (2016), Abigail White (2015), Sarah Wachacha (2014), Jonathan Dando (2013), Victoria Harlan (2012), Mary Beth Dorgan (2011), and Chad Cooper (2010).
A total of 13 CIHA employees were nominated for the Employee of the Year Award.
Dr. Winchester told the One Feather, “I am honored to win this and I consider it an award to everyone who provided services to elders this past year, especially in such a difficult time. Our amazing Geriatrics Clinic team, all of the staff at Tsali Care, leadership at CIHA, Tsali Manor, tribal in-home care, HELP, community clubs, Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute programs, and many others did such a wonderful job with coming together to support our elders and demonstrate our strength as a community. Our ability to keep people safe at Tsali Care is due to the work of everyone, and I can’t say how thankful I am for their commitment and acceptance of all of the difficult things we had to do.”
In a video announcing the winners, Casey Cooper, CIHA chief executive officer, read from Dr. Winchester’s nomination form, “Dr. Winchester is a leader who holds great integrity. She always accepts responsibility for her actions whether it is in patient care or in her work as medical director of the Tsali Care Center. She is proud to work for this organization and always strives to ensure that every patient has a great experience. As a member of the Eastern Band, her work is even more personal to her. She wants to ensure that every patient feels comfortable calling CIH their medical home.”
Cooper continued with the nomination stating, “Dr. Winchester has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with the highest level of responsiveness in order to protect the elders and vulnerable residents of Tsali (Care Center). Perhaps most impressive of all of Dr. Winchester’s successes is the fact that, as of today’s date, there have been no residents of the Tsali Care Center infected with COVID-19. This did not happen by chance. This is a direct reflection of the hard work, dedication, and countless hours that Dr. Winchester put forth into ensuring the health and safety of some of the Tribe’s most vulnerable elders.”