This year’s winners of the University of Virginia’s Leonard W. Sandridge Outstanding Contribution Awards are not just team players, they’re community builders. They treat others – whether coworkers, students, faculty, administrators, clients, patients or other UVA visitors – with respect and compassion. In response, others trust them for advice and problem-solving. They are a group of employees driven to excel and improve not only themselves, but also their departments and the University.
The Sandridge Awards are the highest honors the University bestows upon its employees. The winners – five employees from the Academic Division, five from the Medical Center and one from UVA’s College at Wise – are being honored at one of two Service Award dinners. Those from the Academic Division were recognized Tuesday alongside employees who have 25-plus years of service. Health System awardees and employees with similarly long careers will be honored at a second dinner on Monday. Awardees also will attend a Board of Visitors luncheon on Friday.
2017 Outstanding Contributors
- Terry Bennett, Department of Medicine
- Leslie M. Booren, Curry School of Education
- John Carter, UVA’s College at Wise
- Ruth Cowan, Teen and Young Adult Health Clinic
- Kimberly C. Gregg, Engineering School
- April Howell, Heart and Vascular Center
- Stacey E. Rittenhouse, Finance
- Courtney C. Salaway, Elson Student Health Center
- Dawn Shaver, Neurosurgery Clinic
- Daniel Stonesifer, Health Information Technology Technical Services
- Jessica S. Wenger, Facilities Management
“It was Terry’s excellent work record and reputation that prompted me to heavily recruit her to apply for an education coordinator position in our department over seven years ago,” nominator Nowoka Joy Hilton, director of education in the Department of Medicine, wrote. Hilton was spot-on in her assessment, and Bennett has been promoted several times, most recently to compliance manager of medical education.
Bennett is responsible for making sure the School of Medicine’s programs adhere to accreditation requirements and a complicated array of rules and required tasks. She supports the internal medicine residency program – the largest of the Medical School’s residency programs – plus subspecialty fellowship programs and the department’s overall graduate medical education efforts. She plans training for more than 100 residents going through more than 1,000 monthly rotations per year with more than 3,000 clinic sessions.
Bennett became the first (and only) member of the centralized education administrative team to successfully complete the training and examination process for certification from Training Administrators of Graduate Medical Education, which administers a national certification for program coordinators. She is recognized nationally as an administrator who is committed to promoting excellence in the management of graduate medical education training programs.
Bennett also provides exceptional leadership and orientation to new program directors and coordinators. Coworkers, house staff and faculty alike rely on her extensive knowledge and skills. She led the department’s Staff Employee Advisory Committee and now the Graduate Medical Education Coordinators’ Council.
“Not only does she execute these tasks remarkably well, but she does it with aplomb – unflappable, always smiling, always with a ‘can-do’ attitude, no matter how daunting the task,” one nominator wrote.
Leslie Booren, managing director of the education policy research group EdPolicy Works in the Curry School of Education, has been called a master of efficiency and organization.
Veronica Katz, who nominated Booren for the Outstanding Contribution Award, said she does not know how Booren stays on top of so many things. “In the past week alone,” she said, “Leslie promoted our conference presentations via social media, scheduled a dinner for nearly 40 people at a restaurant in D.C., coordinated visits for three job candidates, processed travel workbooks from our conference participation, sent us reminders about upcoming speakers and PolicyLab presentations, and more.”
Katz, who just earned her Ph.D. from the Curry School, also credits Booren’s work with attracting national recognition for the program.
Booren manages grants, coordinates travel and more for at least 10 faculty members. She also helps approximately 30 graduate students and a handful of post-doctoral staff members with everything from funding to room reservations. She’s also the point person for visiting speakers and job candidates.
In addition, Booren’s powers of organization and observation make her loved around the office. Not only did she plan an office baby shower for Katz, but she also makes smaller gestures, such as noting the food items her coworkers like or dislike so she can revise future orders. Actions like these make her a valuable employee and friend.
John Carter is the person to know when there is a problem to be solved or a question to be answered, his nominators wrote.
Carter has managed capital projects at UVA’s College at Wise since 2007, including the construction of Commonwealth Hall, Hunter Smith Dining Commons, the information technology wing of Smiddy Hall, Ely Health and Wellness Center and the library. He also managed renovations of Crockett and Smiddy halls and Greear Gym.
His most recent projects showcase his dedication to his duties, they wrote.
“During one of his first projects, the construction of Commonwealth Hall, unforeseen circumstances had caused the construction to fall behind schedule,” their nomination letter said. “As the summer months drew near, it seemed that the new residence hall would not be completed and available to house the incoming residential students who were booked into the rooms. However, through John’s phenomenal efforts and dogged determination in the final weeks of the project, construction was completed, bureaucratic hurdles were overcome and students were able to move into the new residence hall.”
“Designed to be built, literally, in the side of a hill, this project disrupted the heart of campus for over three years of construction,” wrote his nominators. “It has resulted in a majestic, award-winning campus showpiece and was spearheaded by the tireless, patient leadership of John and the relationships he built with architects, engineers, contractors and campus constituents.”
— By Kathy Still
As the Teen and Young Adult Health Clinic’s access associate, Ruth Cowan is the first person patients and their families talk to on the phone, and the first person they meet when they walk in the front door. They know they can count on her, her nominators wrote.
“Ruth’s compassion and welcoming attitude knows no bounds. She welcomes equally all of our new patients, whether they identify as transgender, speak Dari or are currently homeless. She is an amazing example of what it means to value and respect each individual, regardless of our differences.”
Cowan, who has worked for the Health System for more than 30 years, has shown dedication to constantly improving and excelling in all she does. She also helps train new coworkers and ensures they also find ways to excel and improve.
Kimberly C. Gregg
Kimberly C. Gregg joined the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Computer Science in 1992, when she was hired as a receptionist and quickly moved into a fiscal technician role. “Her years of experience here make her a font of wisdom,” said Kevin Skadron, Harry Douglas Forsyth Professor and department chair.
“Kim takes everything she does to a new level of excellence and creates new, improved processes that others can adopt,” he said.
She has managed new online systems for faculty searches in the Engineering School, making the processing of handling hundreds of documents and the ensuing job interviews more efficient. She coordinated the move of the entire department into newly completed Rice Hall six years ago, impressing Facilities Management and the moving company so much that a project manager with the former asked to share her spreadsheets with others planning complicated moves.
After she worked on a required Facilities and Administration space survey, the manager made a point of writing a complimentary letter, something he had not done for anyone else. “Kim is much more than a fiscal technician; she is a business manager who demonstrates thoughtfulness and strategic abilities,” analyst John Wallace Smith said.
As Robin Fisher, the Engineering School’s director of human resources, wrote: “Kim Gregg is the epitome of talent. She is an innovator who is dedicated to continuous improvement while being a consensus-builder. The combination of her institutional knowledge and the ability to integrate efficiency into workflows with the customer at the top of mind, makes her invaluable.”
In the five years that April Howell, manager of cardiology clinical practice at the Health System’s Heart and Vascular Center, has worked there, “The changes and improvements she has made in the operational organization of the cardiovascular surgical services are beyond measure,” her nominators wrote.
“She does not see boundaries in the continuum of care which serves our patients. She never shies from difficult or complicated situations or challenges, and she has an innate ability to make all of our team members feel welcomed and included in our efforts to serve the patient.”
When she finds new ways to streamline processes, especially those that improve patient care and recovery from heart surgery, she implements them. Her coworkers appreciate her compassion and say she goes out of her way on a daily basis to make sure patients are being cared for compassionately and that all of the unit’s processes are being followed correctly.
Howell routinely “spreads cheer” among the staff by arranging special “thank you” breakfasts and lunches, as well as other employee recognition events. One nominator said, “She senses when someone is having a bad day and always manages to cheer them up.”
Another nominator said, “She has single-handedly (through the use of daily and weekly huddles) improved the communication amongst all team members of the cardiac and vascular surgery service lines. April is a team-builder.”
Stacey E. Rittenhouse
Steve Kimata, interim assistant vice president of finance and University comptroller, said people trust business manager Stacey Rittenhouse. Kimata has worked with her since she first started at the University 30 years ago, and has watched her grow professionally, witnessing “her positive contributions to the University and the commonwealth,” he wrote in support of the nomination made by Lorie Strother, a contract administrator in Procurement And Supplier Diversity Services.
Rittenhouse's job entails access to confidential financial matters that she handles with “absolute discretion,” Kimata said – so much so that she is a liaison to the Seven Society, a secret group that bestows monetary gifts to UVA in ingenious ways.
“She handles their financial affairs behind the scenes quickly and in total confidence,” Kimata said. “When one of the Seven Society’s gifts shows up at a University event, Stacey is the one who made that happen.”
Rittenhouse has consistently provided exemplary service and support not only to the Finance staff of more than 70 employees over the years, but also to the University’s schools and departments and to guests from outside the University.
“As she has told me, everybody deserves an answer and she simply enjoys helping people,” Kimata said.
Since 2014, Courtney Salaway has worked as a nurse practitioner in the general medicine division of UVA Student Health. Enthusiastic about her work and the health of her students, Salaway can always be found reading diligently from sources such as New England Journal of Medicine, Travex and the Centers for Disease Control, and attending conferences so she can provide current, evidence-based care to students.
Known to embrace new initiatives and learning experiences, Salaway has been heavily involved in the Eating Disorder Treatment Team, which provides collaborative, interdepartmental services to students affected by eating disorders, and has also assisted in the Travel Clinic, a service for students who need travel-related counseling, immunizations or prescriptions.
She has a non-judgmental attitude toward patients with eating disorders, who are often seen as not having a “real” illness, and treats them with warmth, understanding and humility, her nominators wrote. As a result, Salaway is now a key medical provider for patients with eating disorders.
“Courtney is engaged and professional and exceeds expectations in her willingness to participate in new initiatives and clinics, particularly the Eating Disorder Treatment Team and Travel Medicine,” said her nomination letter. “She cares!”
Nurse Dawn Shaver is an integral part of the combined neuroendocrine and neurosurgery pituitary program, working with patients who have pituitary disorders or tumors, including surgical and postsurgical care. She’s known for her expertise in her field, her attention to detail and her easy-to-follow medical advice, crucial since a majority of her patients require long-term follow-up for both endocrine and neurosurgical issues.
As a national – and international – referral center for pituitary disorders, the program sees a majority of its patients from outside the region, traveling from New York to Florida to Wisconsin, as well as overseas. Shaver’s work provides extended care and early intervention if problems arise, and helps prevent re-hospitalization for many patients – which is especially helpful for out-of-town patients.
“This level of supervision is so necessary,” Dr. Mary Lee Vance wrote in nominating her, “because most local physicians [when patients return home] are not experienced with managing post-operative issues and hormone issues.
“To put things in perspective, last year 131 patients underwent pituitary surgery; there were 14,159 outpatient visits which required Ms. Shaver’s attention,” Vance wrote, concluding, “She is the best nurse with whom I have worked for over 37 years of medical practice.”
Daniel Stonesifer, a systems engineer associate at the UVA Health System, is one of those workers behind the scenes who keeps the computers – and especially the servers – up and running. He’s responsible for several Medical Center departments, including pharmacy, medical billing, the Transplant Center and telemedicine.
“In the world of health system informatics and information technology, the folks working behind the scenes are often called upon at all hours of the day to restore service for technical systems or to provide support for important initiatives,” one nominator wrote.
“Dan always goes above and beyond to help with server needs for implementation of IT projects,” wrote his nominators in the Health System’s Department of Pharmacy. That involves monitoring and improving server performance, ensuring the tightest security and working with internal and external clients to resolve problems.
Stonesifer is not just a determined problem-solver who figures out what was slowing down a system or saves a department the expense of buying new servers. He also takes the time to explain what the employees impacted by a downtime need to know. The results inevitably improve patient care and satisfaction.
“In all of his interactions, he is courteous, collaborative and creative in finding solutions to needs,” the nominators wrote.
“As near as I can tell, her commitment to UVA began as a student and has grown steadily over the past 13 years working here as a professional,” said Jeffrey Sitler of Jessica Wenger, the environmental projects manager in Facilities Management Operations.
Wenger has dedicated her time to assisting UVA, as well as the Charlottesville community, in implementing zero-waste initiatives and other environmentally friendly projects. She was responsible for implementing composting operations at the dining halls, for example.
She has taken an active role in promoting zero-waste goals at UVA athletics events, to the point of sorting garbage at the Game Day Challenges, something Sitler describes as “a task that only the really committed would volunteer for.”
Wenger is also an active and original member of the Rivanna Stormwater Education Partnership, which brings together professionals to develop education programs directly related to stormwater pollution prevention.
Her dedication to volunteering has also led her to a position on the Staff Senate.
Wenger’s dedication to environmentally friendly projects has been noticed and appreciated by both UVA staff and students; there were no less than 12 letters nominating Wenger for the Outstanding Contribution Award.