CBJ reveals Health Care Heroes award winners at uptown Charlotte event – The Business Journals

Charlotte’s health-care leaders gathered last night to recognize the best in the profession at The Westin Charlotte, an in-person celebration that demonstrated just how much work has been done to move beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nearly 160 people came together for the Charlotte Business Journal’s second annual Health Care Heroes Awards event to recognize medical innovations and remarkable dedication to patients. The event was sponsored by Atrium Health, First Citizens Bank and the NC Healthcare Association.
The awards were presented by Jennifer Sullivan, senior vice president for strategic operations at Atrium Health, and Kristi Stevenson, senior vice president of retail banking for First Citizens Bank. T.J. McCullough, president and publisher of CBJ, presented the lifetime achievement award.
As an emergency room doctor, Sullivan addressed the unique challenges to the profession over the past two and a half years as health-care workers faced down a novel new virus. The global pandemic has sickened and killed millions and left a mental-health crisis in its wake.
“Even though the world seems to have moved on, our health-care professionals have not and cannot,” Sullivan said. “But through those challenges, we saw their true character. These health-care heroes combatted the challenge and will emerge on the other side.”
Sullivan and Stevenson took turns introducing the nominees in nine categories, then announced the winners, Academy Awards-style.
These are the winners in each award category:
Community Outreach: Dr. Nikita Lindsay, a pediatrician with Atrium Health’s Rock Hill Pediatrics, won the award for her work creating Kid Doc Summer Camp. The camp introduces children from underrepresented minority groups to medical professions so they know they, too, can become doctors.
“Kid Doc Summer Camp plants the seed so that one day these students will become my colleagues,” Lindsay said.
Healthcare Innovator: Michael Estramonte, CEO of StarMed Healthcare, received the award for building an organization that played a vital part of the local response to the Covid-19 pandemic. StarMed administered more than 900,000 Covid-19 tests, 500,000 vaccinations and 18,000 antiviral treatments, often to patients who routinely face barriers to quality health care.
Health Care Manager: Michael Vaccaro was named the winner for work he has done advocating for frontline nurses within Novant Health. Vaccaro is senior vice president of acute inpatient nursing at Novant. He thanked his “work family.”
“You don’t go through the last two years as a nurse and not feel a tremendous connection to the people you work with,” Vaccaro said. “This is an industry that requires that you give so much of yourself to your patients. The compassion is truly extraordinary. I am in a sea of heroes.”
Non-Physician Medical Professional: Grace Buttriss, program director and clinical professor for Northeastern University’s new ABSN program, was honored with the top award. On the weekends, Buttriss still works as a critical care nurse in Novant’s neonatal unit. In her acceptance remarks, Buttriss recognized her daughter, a nurse with Atrium.
Nurse: Karen Price, an oncology nurse with Levine Cancer Institute, won the top award. Price completed a certificate program to champion a new treatment option for patients. Price said she’s humbled to spend five hours with each patient.
“Every day we have patients who put their care in our hands,” Price said. “I treat each one like family.”
Physician: Kathryn Mileham was recognized with the top award for her work treating patients for lung cancer. Dr. Mileham is chief of thoracic medical oncology and associate professor at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute, and she serves as the principal investigator for clinical research trials.
Mileham said she was inspired to be a doctor by her father, a retired OBGYN, and that her son prefers reading scans to bedtime stories.
Rising Star: Dr. Roshan Prabhu, the medical director of radiation oncology research at Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute, received the top award. Under his tenure, the department became the first in the region to offer a newly approved FDA drug for neuroendocrine disease, and a radioactive pharmaceutical medication for prostate cancer.
Support Services Executive: Tiffany Burton, a nurse manager in clinical resources staffing for Atrium Health, was recognized with the top award. Early in the pandemic, Burton hired nearly 100 people to offer testing services and later vaccinations. When the testing and vaccine clinics were over, Burton retained nearly all of those employees within the Atrium organization.
“Those teammates tested when no one really knew how Covid was transmitted,” Burton said. “All of their work helped us get back to life.”
Volunteer: Susan Tolle received the top award. Tolle volunteers as a local field advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, providing mental-health education and resources to schools, community groups and health-care providers in Iredell County.
Tolle thanked her daughter, Emily, in attendance, whose struggles brought Tolle to the volunteer work.
“To know this passion helps save lives and give hope to those affected by suicide means so much,” Tolle said.
The evening concluded with the lifetime achievement award presentation for Dr. Robyn Stacy-Humphries, a partner with Charlotte Radiology and a three-time lymphoma survivor. Stacy-Humphries made a significant contribution to science and the treatment of cancer as a patient. In 2016, she was the first person from the Carolinas to receive CAR-T therapy, a ground-breaking cancer treatment where the patient’s T cells are removed from their blood, sent to a special laboratory to be genetically altered to destroy the cancer and then reinfused into the patient. Stacy-Humphries is in long-term remission and is seeing patients again.
She and her husband were celebrating six years of remission with a trip to Europe and her son, Michael Humphries, accepted on her behalf.
“I could talk about my mother for 60 days, not the 60 seconds we have here,” Humphries said. “She has had an amazing life as a mother and as a radiologist. Her work discovering a new treatment for cancer has made life better for everyone.”
Laura Williams-Tracy is a Charlotte-based freelance writer who can be reached at laura@lwtcommunications.bz.
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