January 18, 2019

Carrying on the Spirit of Dr. King: Mission Health Team Members Awarded for Diversity and Inclusion

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pictured (l to r): Lakesha McDay with recipients Tracey Harper and Lori Wagner, MD, and keynote speaker Dr. Scharmaine Lawson

By Ferriss Roberts

It was an inspiring afternoon on Thursday, January 17, when Mission Health held its annual celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and members of our community who keep his light shining bright here in western North Carolina. Lakesha McDay, director of diversity, inclusion and healthy equity at Mission Health, carried us through the program’s events with words of inspiration, “Dr. King’s dream, his hope, his purpose, still calls on us today to seek out those things that make us all better.”

This event celebrates the work being done in our community to create positive change and opportunity for all, and reminds us that that this continued work is only possible when we are unified in our intention to create and embrace a truly diverse community.

The event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Scharmaine Lawson, author of the widely popular children’s book series Nola the Nurse® (pictured below) and a nationally recognized and award-winning nurse practitioner, entertained and touched our hearts with her stories and experience of “providing care without barriers” in her hometown, New Orleans, Louisiana, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Dr. King inspires Dr. Lawson in her journey of serving others by educating youth and healthcare professionals about the opportunities we have to “leave a legacy.”

If you couldn’t catch her speech, you can watch it here.

In between speakers, Stephen Blount, the director of the Mars Hill University Gospel Choir, filled the room with his voice while playing musical numbers on the piano, “Bridge over Troubled Water” and “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

After music and storytelling, we honored our team members with the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards to recognize those who carry on the light, vision and legacy of Dr. King in our workplace and communities. Among 16 nominees from across Mission Health, two individuals were awarded for Workplace Excellence and Community Impact. These team members demonstrate what it means to truly care for every person and create change one person at a time. Read more about our award winners and nominees below. To watch the full event, click here.

Tracey Harper – Guest Services Specialist I at Mission Hospital
Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award – Workplace Excellence

Spirit of MLK Award Recipients: Lori Wagner, MD, Pediatric Endocrinologist, Mission Children’s (left) and Tracey Harper, Guest Services Specialist I, Mission Hospital

Tracey Harper’s impact at Mission Hospital extends beyond her own department in Guest Services and is felt by team members and volunteers of all generations and walks of life. Nominated by a colleague outside of her department, Tracey’s warmth, professionalism, thoughtfulness and awareness of those around her makes a big difference in the patient and team member experiences. Most noticeably in the spirit of Dr. King is Tracey’s engagement with members of Project SEARCH – a program Mission Health offers to provide work opportunities for individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. Tracey has a unique way of fostering the professional development of our Project SEARCH interns, including working with them directly while also helping others, such as older adult volunteers, understand how to work with and embrace neurological diversity in the workplace. In addition to her advocacy of Project SEARCH, Tracey’s inclusivity could be overlooked but to talk to her is to feel as though you are on her team. She is collaborative, inclusive and most impressive of all, she is not silent – she uses her voice and meets the sentiment with kind bravery, and respectfully corrects the faults of others. Her nomination said, “This person might seem ‘low key’ courageous, but to spend any amount of time with them is to know they are a hero of inclusion.”

Lori Wagner, MD – Pediatric Endocrinology at Mission Children’s
Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award – Community Impact

Lori Wagner, MD, is dedicated to our diverse community and to providing safe, evidence-based medical care for transgender and gender nonconforming youth as a pediatric endocrinologist. Through her work, she has improved care and outcomes for this often vulnerable population to create gender-affirming environments that ensure access to medical services and connect our youth with community resources. She has also helped create educational resources for staff and community members to gain a better understanding about gender identity. Dr. Wagner serves as part of a community healthcare network, including medical and behavioral healthcare providers, who share a passion to offer services to support youth and help them feel empowered to be whom they are. We know that transgender individuals face discrimination, violence and victimization, delays in seeking healthcare and have a lifetime prevalence of attempted suicide of greater than 40 percent; and for a youth working through gender identity, having a safe and accepting provider who understands and can address these risks early can make all the difference. Dr. Wagner is kind and accepting in her approach to care, community connections and outreach; she shares her knowledge and experiences with others to help reduce suffering among a population that has historically and continues to face discrimination in our society. In her acceptance speech, Dr. Wagner said, “The kids that I see, they’re the heroes. The parents that are with them, they’re the heroes.” Though Dr. Wagner says she “doesn’t think her part in this work is any more special or important than any other providers in the community,” her work is a critical component in a community of providers caring for this vulnerable population through a challenging time in their lives.


Mission Health Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award Nominees

Amanda Ramsey, Mission Medical Associates
Beverly Jones, Angel Medical Center
Dereck Lindsey, Mission Hospital
Doreen Wilburn-Smith, Mission Health
Ericka Douglas, Mission Health
Fabio Correa, Mission Hospital
Jartavius Gaston, Mission Health
Keva Morgan, Mission Health
Lori Wagner, Mission Children’s Specialist
Michael McIntosh, CarePartners
Michelle Rabideaux, Mission Medical Associates
Nelson Torres, Mission Health
Rose English, Transylvania Regional Hospital
Tawanda Tucker, Mission Hospital
Tracey Harper, Mission Hospital
Vanessa Funderburk, Mission Hospital


Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity at Mission Health – Many Differences, One Mission

Mission Health is committed to diversity, inclusion and health equity by fostering a culture that values differences and similarities. Our standard practice is to exist as a fair, equitable, health and inclusive organization that aligns with and supports our patients, our workforce and the communities we serve. Learn more at missionhealth.org/diversity.