2017 Health Care Heroes include doctor who worked for 75 years.


I’m a sucker for schmaltz. I admit it.

My kids never let me forget how, years ago, I choked up at the end of “Freaky Friday,” when Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan escaped the fortune-cookie curse and un-switched bodies after showing selfless love for each other.

Well, I didn’t get that choked up.

There’s nothing schmaltzy, though, about the annual Health Care Heroes event. These folks are the real deal when it comes to selflessness, and each year when I hear their stories, I’m not a bit embarrassed to dab a few tears from my eyes.

This month’s edition of the Greater Knoxville Business Journal is dedicated to the 2017 heroes, honored Sept. 7 at a special awards luncheon.

You’ll find their full stories inside. But here’s a glimpse:

Health care provider: Barb Wright

As Tennova Healthcare’s director of volunteer services, Wright oversees volunteers who provided more than 37,000 hours of service last year. Her “pet” project, though, was bringing pet therapy into patient rooms. Her 17 four-legged helpers made 3,587 patient visits in 2016.

Physician: Dr. Mary Dillon

In medical school, Dillon couldn’t stop thinking about what happened to patients with brain injuries after they were discharged from the hospital. Today, she is medical director at the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. Next year, she’ll become Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center’s first female chief of staff.

Administrative excellence: Jim Decker

Since 2006, Decker has served as CEO of MEDIC Regional Blood Center. With its donor base changing, MEDIC has kept the blood supply flowing to Knoxville’s hospitals with creative approaches such a “Pint for Pint” ice cream-for-blood program.

Innovation: Dr. Stephen Prinz

After a neonatologist helped Prinz’s 4-pound-2-ounce daughter, he directed his own career in that direction. In 1980, he started the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and has cared for more than 32,000 babies since.

Community outreach: Charity Menefee

After Knox County got a grant to establish an Emergency Preparedness Division after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Menefee saw an chance to combine her military and public health backgrounds. Now, she oversees health programs at the National Guard base at McGhee Tyson and serves as the regional hospital coordinator for the Health Department.

Lifetime achievement: Larry Mauldin

When he was named to the Covenant Health board of directors in 2008, Mauldin wanted to make sure Covenant Health remained financially strong enough to provide comprehensive care, including such programs as Peninsula Behavioral Health. As chairman of Covenant, he applied his 30 years of banking experience to pull it off. 

Physician: Dr. Martin Davis

Here’s the one that brings tears to my eyes.

Davis’s career began more than 70 years ago when he graduated from University of Tennessee Medical School at age 22. He was the second board-certified Ob-Gyn in Knoxville and co-founder of Park West Hospital. But he considers the highlight of his work as starting in 1965 with the Florence Crittenton home for unwed mothers, the first facility of its kind in Knoxville.

Davis had five sons. One died in infancy, and another died of cystic fibrosis. The other three are doctors.

Jack McElroy is the executive editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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2017 Health Care Heroes include doctor who worked for 75 years.

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