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DPH Celebrates Nurses Leading the Way

May 19, 2014

During National Nurses Week, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) recognized more than 1,300 public health nurses in Georgia for the vital role they play in keeping Georgia healthy. Agency leaders attended a two-hour telehealth conference on May 8 to celebrate these professionals who are “leading the way,” the theme for National Nurses Week.

Carole Jakeway (right) recognizes Laurie Ross as the winner of the 2014 Public Health Nursing Practice Excellence Award.

“Our public health nurses continue to lead the way to promote a culture of health across disciplines and at every level – state, district and county,” said Diane Weems, M.D., district health director of the Coastal Health District, during the celebration. “Their leadership, expertise and passion are critical to the success of achieving healthier Georgia communities.”

DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., joined the celebration with a video message to the state’s public health nurses, calling these professionals “the backbone of the public health system.”

“You know the pulse of the community,” Fitzgerald said. “You have a great track record of being able to adjust to change, start new programs and tackle complex issues.”

Betty Dixon, DrPH, director of nursing and clinical services for the Coastal Health District, highlighted the leadership of the state’s nurses, linking their abilities to the department’s efforts to transform itself from a good organization into a great one. Based on a concept from “Good to Great,” a book by author Jim Collins, Dixon described the state’s nurses as “level five leaders,” those who develop humility, ask for help, take responsibility, develop discipline, find the right people and lead with passion.

"There is nothing as satisfying to me as being a public health nurse. Let's help each other reach our full potential," Dixon said.

Carole Jakeway, DPH’s district and county operations director, noted that Georgia’s public health nurses can be strong leaders no matter where they work within the organization.

“Every day, public health nurses are practicing excellent leadership when they teach families about the importance of breastfeeding or when they work with schools on how to make 30 minutes of physical exercise a routine part of the day or when they work with communities to prepare for how they will respond to an emergency or disaster,” Jakeway said. “We need to nurture the leadership within each public health nurse today in order to assure the leadership capacity for tomorrow.”

Meshell McCloud, DPH’s deputy director for nursing, presented the Public Health Nursing Practice Excellence Award for 2014 to Laurie Ross, a nurse from Cobb-Douglas Public Health. The annual award recognizes nurses for their leadership, contributions and commitment to public health nursing.

Lisa Crossman, director of the Center for Community Health in the Cobb-Douglas health department, said since she joined the district’s staff in 1998, Ross has provided innovative leadership to clinical health services, launched effective tobacco use prevention efforts and made significant improvements in the district’s Family Health Management programs.

“Laurie Ross has provided leadership, dedication, and commitment within our public health district and to the residents of Cobb & Douglas counties by engaging in innovative practices to provide high-caliber services through her seven Family Health Management public health programs,” Crossman said.

Ross said she was thrilled and honored to receive the award after 31 years as a public health nurse.

“I consider public health nursing to be a calling and have dedicated many happy years to the work,” said Ross. “It means so much to be nominated, never mind chosen. I salute all the public health nurses in Georgia for their dedication to our important work in public health and serving the citizens of Georgia.”