VNAA - Visiting Nurse Associations of America

2009 National Awards Gala

Awards Gala

Each year the Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) recognizes outstanding individuals who strive to advance VNAs and the home healthcare industry as a whole.

Award Recipients

Legislators of the Year - The Honorable Steve Kagen and Lee Terry
Congressman Steve Kagen, M.D., (D-WI) and Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE) have been named VNAA's Legislators of the Year. Congressmen Kagen and Terry emerged as leaders for nonprofit home healthcare workforce issues through their roles as lead House sponsors for VNAA's bill, the Home Healthcare Nurse Promotion Act, which specifically assists nonprofit home healthcare agencies recruit and retain nurses. Having visiting nurse agencies (VNAs) in both of their districts, Congressmen Kagen and Terry realize the importance of ensuring a sufficient home health workforce is a critical component of healthcare reform.

Congressman Terry (R-NE) began his service in the United States House of Representatives in 1998 and is a member of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Home Healthcare Nurse Promotion Act. Congressman Kagen was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2006 and is a member of the Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Congressman Kagen has strong feelings on healthcare and believes in guaranteed access to affordable healthcare for everyone. For more information about our Legislators of the Year, visit their Websites: and

Dick Anderton Mentor of the Year - Judy Duhl
During her 16-year career Judy Duhl, CSW, Director of Government Affairs at Visiting Nurse Services of New York (VNSNY), has led her colleagues in shaping awareness of home healthcare issues among policy makers at the highest levels of New York state and the U.S. Government. Some of Judy's leading education and advocacy efforts include guiding staff through the debut of the Part D Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, co-chairing the New York State Home Care Association's Policy Council, serving on the VNAA Board of Directors, organizing numerous VNSNY Lobby Days and her efforts to ensure continuation and enhancement of the Managed Long-term Care Program.

Her pioneering efforts have helped VNSNY exert a positive impact on healthcare policies. As our national healthcare crisis and the need for reform have deepened, Judy's knowledge has become an invaluable resource to key decision makers as they confront state and national healthcare problems. Along with leading by example, Judy is a vital and effective mentor who encourages colleagues within and beyond the VNSNY agency. She has fostered teamwork among several state homecare trade groups and serves on multiple Committee's and forums. Judy has also served on the VNAA's Government Affairs Committee since 2000 and continues to be a key resource in the lobbying activities in New York and Washington, D.C.

Judy was nominated and selected to receive the VNAA's Dick Anderton Mentor of the Year Award for the countless ways she has advocated to improve homecare in New York and nationwide.

  Listen to Judy's Acceptance Speech

Administrative Manager of the Year - Deb Mullen
Deb Mullen, PT, Vice President of Information Technology at Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association (CRVNA) in Concord, N.H., is best described as an 'IT Guru.' Deb actively seeks ways to keep CRVNA ahead of the technology curve, while also saving the agency money. Deb's leadership and ability to develop, implement and educate staff has led to significant accomplishments in the administrative management area at CRVNA. Her knowledge of clinical operations and patient-care needs enables her to excel with IT installations, testing and training.

Some of Deb's contributions include the development of a pre-op total joint replacement program within an orthopedic practice and affiliated hospitals, as well as the development of implementation plans for laptop use by CRVNA staff, which led to lower staff turnover rates and helped reduce costs of paper and filing.

She also developed and implemented the use of telephony for paraprofessional staff, in addition to developing an automated scheduling system to capture staff availability and the ability to match employees based on patient needs. Deb also successfully implemented a telehealth program to monitor patients with chronic illness and a physician portal system, which has significantly improved physician satisfaction and reduced staff time and cost.

Deb's dedication, expertise in the field, and her focused attention on staff's ability to use IT, is why she was nominated and selected as the VNAA's Administrative Manager of the Year.

  Listen to Deb's Acceptance Speech

Agency Board Member Volunteer of the Year - Deb Milligan
Registered nurse Deb Milligan has served on the Board of Directors for the Visiting Nurse Services (VNS), Des Moines, Iowa, for the past six years and is currently Board President. When she is not helping with the Board, she works for a pharmaceutical company. She completed a Master's in Public Health to better prepare herself to serve and advocate for public health needs in Polk County and in Iowa. Her master's practicum focused on depression in the hopes of benefiting VNS' adult health clients. She developed depression-screening tools that were integrated into various programs at the agency and also secured funding through her company to provide clinical depression training for staff.

For the past five years, Deb has also volunteered her time and expertise helping VNS administer flu shots during the busy flu season, which has fostered an important connection between the Board of Directors and VNS staff. She has gone above and beyond to develop an understanding of what VNS staff experience on a daily basis in order to develop better processes and services to enhance the VNS' overall standards of care.

"Deb has a deep commitment to the health and well-being of Iowans. She has provided leadership, mentorship, and direction for me and the VNS as an agency... volunteered her time and talents not only on the Board and various committees, but also her time to provide flu shots and work directly with agency staff," said Jen Van Liew, VNS President and CEO. During Deb's tenure on the VNS Board of Directors, Deb's important guidance and support on a weekly basis to the President/CEO has allowed the VNS to address critical community needs through direct services for women, children and families in Polk County, Iowa. Deb's dedication, expertise in her field and her focused attention on staff's ability to use IT are the reasons why she was nominated and selected as the VNAA's Agency Board Member of the Year.

  Listen to Deb's Acceptance Speech

Clinician of the Year - Lisa Zwerdling
Registered nurse Lisa Zwerdling has been providing homecare to VNA of Central Jersey (VNACJ) in Red Bank, N.J., for more than 15 years. She was nominated for her holistic approach to patient care that focuses on the whole person - physical, psychological and spiritual. Lisa's nursing excellence comes from incorporating her superb clinical skills and ability to bond and connect with families and caregivers providing them the support and understanding they need. As a nursing preceptor for new VNACJ nurses, Lisa uses her passion and commitment for the nursing profession to introduce and mentor new nurses into the homecare and VNACJ Neighborhood Nursing model of care. She was also selected to be a VNACJ General Orientation Ambassador and takes a leadership role in welcoming and orienting new employees to the agency.

"Lisa is one of the most outstanding, caring and compassionate professionals I know. She is an example of the best in nursing and exemplifies community health nursing at its best," said Mary Beth Kenney, VNACJ Clinical Manager.

Lisa is also a Red Cross volunteer nurse; she went to New Orleans to assist victims during Hurricane Katrina where she initiated her own outreach program for visiting displaced and homebound patients. Lisa always goes above and beyond to help, not only her patients but also her fellow colleagues at VNACJ, which is why she was nominated and selected for the VNAA's Clinician of the Year.

  Listen to Lisa's Acceptance Speech

Program Manager of the Year - Emily Raymond
Emily Raymond, Clinical Manager of Maternal and Child Health Services, has served as a leader not only at Home Health VNA in Lawrence, Mass., but also in the surrounding communities. Her commitment to excellence and desire to serve a vulnerable population makes her the personification of leading by example.

Emily's leadership and passion for improving care to children with life-limiting conditions has led to an expansion in hospice and palliative care services to children cared for by Home Health VNA and its sister agency, the Merrimack Valley Hospice. Not only has Emily's work increased her agency's capacity to care for maternal and child cases but she has also encouraged and mentored the nurses on her own team. She serves as one of three homecare maternal-child program managers on a task force sponsored by the Jimmy Fund Clinic of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute of Boston. This work fosters effective communication and care coordination so that children with cancer can spend the maximum amount of time at home with their families. From team-building activities to assisting one of her nurses to pursue a leadership opportunity within the agency, Emily has the incredible ability to motivate and lead her peers.

Emily was nominate and selected to receive the VNAA's Program Manager of the Year award because she fosters an understanding of the role and benefits of homecare in the provider community, actively develops programs and the individual members on her team and is a strong patient advocate.

  Listen to Emily's Acceptance Speech

Individual Care Provider Volunteer of the Year - Clare Foley
Clare Foley has been an Administrative/Clerical Hospice Volunteer with the VNA of St. Louis in St. Louis, Mo., for the past four and a half years. As a cancer survivor, Clare is able to relate to the hospice philosophy and is an inspiration to staff and volunteers and a reminder that "there is always hope in hospice." As a 22-year-old with Downs Syndrome, Clare originally came to the VNA with a job coach but after a year and a half was able to volunteer independently.

From mailings to filing, special projects to assisting in arranging and facilitating the VNA's monthly volunteer meetings, Clare is a diverse and effective volunteer. Hospice work can be difficult and emotionally draining yet Clare provides encouragement and hope. She is also famous for her 'contagious laughter' and its ability to lift spirits when others may be feeling down.

"She has encouraged me - that nothing is impossible if you have a passion. Clare is an inspiration. Volunteers are an important part of the hospice team and from knowing Clare we are all a better team to serve our patients and families," said Sue Risch, VNA Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, on why she nominated Clare for the VNA's Volunteer of the Year award.

Check out last year's Annual Meeting Award Recipients - photos, stories, videos and more!

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