Whether through offering a reassuring smile to those hospitalized, or leading a team of medical professionals, those honored at the Healthy Hall Awards Luncheon have improved the state of health care in Northeast Georgia — one patient at a time.
Hosted by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the Brenau Downtown Center, the second annual event recognized 15 health care professionals and providers who have made an impact on people’s quality of life through excellence in health and wellness.
Dr. David Westfall was bestowed with one of the highest honors of the ceremony, the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I look around and I see so many talented people in the room, people that I’ve enjoying working with ever since I came in 1978,” Westfall said. “I appreciate all the help and assistance.”
Kit Dunlap, the chamber’s president, said Westfall has made his mark on health care in Hall County since opening up his Gainesville-based private practice in 1978.
Seeing the need to offer medical care to low-income patients, homeless and those without health insurance, Dunlap said Westfall then became a founding physician for Good News Clinic.
He later tenured with the Department of Public Health in 2006, managing 13 county health departments and around 650,000 residents.
When Westfall retired in 2017, Dunlap said he hiked the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, covering approximately 2,200 miles.
Westfall currently works as an affiliated professor for the Emory-Rollins School of Public Health and serves as a clinical assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.
Carol Burrell, president and CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System, presented the Visionary Leader award to John Ferguson.
“His vision for high quality health care services, his heart for people who depend on Northeast Georgia have unquestionably made a lasting impact on the community health and quality of life for residents in Hall County and all of Northeast Georgia,” Burrell said. “When you think of John Ferguson, you think visionary leader.”
In 1968 at age 28, Burrell said Ferguson became the youngest hospital administrator and CEO in the state. He led Northeast Georgia Health Center for 36 years.
She said through Ferguson’s visionary leadership, the organization was able to expand its services across county lines and provide care throughout the region.
Dr. Sean Sumner, of Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic, won Primary Care Physician of the Year. He was nominated by his patients who wanted to recognize his dedication to his career.
Sumner said for his 21 years of living in Hall County, he has witnessed the close-knit ties of the people in the area, both in and out of the medical field.
“This is a phenomenal medical community. Let’s keep it that way. Let’s work together,” he said.
Philip Wilheit, president of Wilheit Packaging, was the keynote speaker of the awards luncheon. He dived into the nearly 70-year history of Hall County’s health care and its current economic impact.
He said Hall County health care employs 12,500 people, which makes up around 13 percent of the workforce in the county. He also shared that the Georgia Hospital Association estimates that the economic impact of Hall County hospitals alone amounts to around $2 billion.
“I truly believe that our health care providers are fulfilling the mission and vision set by the first pioneers, doing the right things for the right reasons to improve the lives of all in our community,” Wilheit said.
Healthy Hall award winners
- Outstanding Allied Health Professional: Mandy Reece, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
- Outstanding Health care Professional: Julie Abernathy, Northeast Georgia Medical Center
- Outstanding Health care Administrator: Heather Hayes, Edmondson Telford Child Advocacy Center and Longstreet Clinic
- Community Impact: Good News Clinics
- Senior Impact: ITN Lanier
- Corporate Innovation: Recro Pharma
- Health care Education: Lanier Technical College
- Outstanding Achievement in Behavioral Health: Reese Daniel, Twin Lakes Recovery
- Nurse (LPN) of the Year: Theresa Glidden, Longstreet Clinic
- Nurse (RN) of the Year: Katrina Bailey, Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic
- Dentist of the Year: Dr. Chris Childs, Parrish & Childs Dentistry
- Physician Specialist of the Year: Dr. Frank Lake, Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Radiation Oncology
- Primary Care Physician of the Year: Dr. Sean Sumner, Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic
- Visionary Leader: John Ferguson, retired CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. David Westfall, Emory-Rollins School of Public Health