2017 Nurse Assessment Coordinator of the Year

Aida Alvarez-Gruter, RN, RAC-CT With more than 20 years of MDS expertise, Aida continuously challenges the interdisciplinary team. She sets high standards and expectations, and she leads by example. Authentic in her interactions, Aida gives staff the support, encouragement, and training they need to improve care for each resident, to improve resident satisfaction, and to become the best employees they can possibly be. She loves being a NAC and is never satisfied with the status quo. She not only uses the comprehensive resident assessments for care coordination and planning, but she also uses the MDS for resident advocacy, teaching, and facilitating open communication among care team members, residents, and families.

2017 Director of Nursing of the Year

Kari Gawrych, RN, RAC-CT is currently the director of nursing at Bright Gardens. Previously, Kari worked at Azria Heath Montclair, also in Omaha. During her time at Azria, Kari was instrumental in implementing electronic care plans, as well as improving the care planning process. She also incorporated nursing assessments into the electronic medical record. This helped to trigger care and documentation based on care issues that can be a correlation to illnesses or declines in residents. In her nomination of Kari, reimbursement manager Jeri Lewis, at Azria, wrote, “There aren’t a lot of awards to win that truly represent someone who takes on an almost impossible challenge to improve the care at a struggling SNF, but Kari has done just that. She inspires her staff, promotes from within, recruits the best of the best to come be part of this turnaround, and has an incredible way of making residents and family feel cared for in every moment no matter how chaotic it is around her.”

2017 Nursing Home Administrator of the Year

David Simha is the administrator of The Palm Gardens Center for Nursing and Rehabilitaion, a 240-bed skilled-nursing facility with a two-shift, daily adult day care program for the community, a 53-bed dedicated ventilator unit, and a dialysis center. With his open door policy, David encourages staff, residents, and patients to visit and voice their concerns. He seeks input from the entire team on important issues. When problems are identified, he encourages staff to do a QA and report back to the team. David is particularly knowledgeable and sensitive to residents’ care as related to their cultures. MDS coordinator, Yoge Pa-halan, who nominated David, wrote, “Mr. Simha is very kind, generous, and supportive. With him as an administrator, it makes my job as an MDS coordinator definitely easier.”

2017 AANAC Outstanding Contributor of the Year

Andrea Otis-Higgins, MBA, RN, CDONA, RAC-MT, As the current chair of the Nurse Assessment Coordinator Expert Advisory Panel, Andrea has contributed significantly to the work of AANAC. Under her leadership, the NAC-EAP continues to advocate with government regulators on MDS related items, and advises on the organization’s education programs. Andrea has been a dedicated member of AANAC for nearly 15 years and has been a sought after RAC-CT master teacher since 2006. Last year, the panel grappled with the CMS roll-out of the new section GG and NPE assessment. Andrea was instrumental in guiding the panel’s discussion and developing questions for CMS related to the new assessment. With her direction at NAC-EAP meetings, the panel provided input on tools and resources to assist members to increase their knowledge and comply with the new regulations. As AANAC’s VP of Curriculum Development, Judi Kulus, shares “Andrea’s leadership is punctuated by her warm professionalism and calm demeanor. It is an honor and privilege to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Andrea to further the organization’s support to AANAC members.”

Cerner Nursing Assistant of the Year Scholarship

Amber Jasper is a CNA at Garden Valley where she started in the social services department seven years ago before becoming a CNA and a full time nursing student. She approaches her work not only as a responsibility but as a passion for healing others and aiding them in meeting their fullest potential. Every resident is family to her. Amber's primary passion is for the resident's care and safety. She has perfect attendance and an attitude of gratitude. She is always willing to help someone else meet their goals and responsibilities. It doesn't matter the time, the weather, or the day of the week, Amber puts her co-workers above herself, as she does with her residents. In her nomination of Amber, Diona Kern, director of human resource and payroll, wrote “Amber knows that hard work and determination will achieve success. When everyone around her sees no way, Amber finds a way and is an encourager! The world of nursing will be a much greater place because she is in it.”

Cheryl M. Thomas Scholarship (provided with support from Cerner and the friends and family of Cheryl M. Thomas)

Stacey Poldervaart RN, RAC-CT, is the staff development coordinator at Friendship Haven. In her position, she is responsible for the onboarding and orientation of new team members as well as coordinating a skills fair. She works closely with the direct caregivers and their supervisors to ensure that quality care is provided in all areas of the campus. A strong supporter of person-directed care, Stacey feels that it is important to ensure team members understand that we are guests in our residents’ homes and that the art of compromise is necessary to find the balance between regulatory demands and the needs of the person. Stacey is pursuing an MSN in Nursing Education. Her goal is to assist others in the learning process, meeting them where they are at in their journey. She hopes to help long-term care build stronger relationships with local community colleges and to attract students to work in the long-term care field.

Rena R. Shephard Scholarship

Nancy Turner, RN, RAC-CT, is a skilled insurance specialist at Friendship Health and Rehab North in Roanoke, VA. In her position, she serves as a liaison for residents with insurance companies to advocate for appropriate coverage. Additionally, she sets and manages the MDS schedules for long-term and rehab residents, runs her facility’s skilled meetings, completes MDSs, and provides ICD-10 coding for those admitted to the facility. As Nancy explained in her application, “It is my joy to be able to say to residents, I can help you with your insurance coverage.” Or to say to another nurse assessment coordinator, “I can show you the answer to your question in the RAI manual.” And then be able to follow through on these statements. I am grateful for this opportunity to learn and share with others. This scholarship will positively impact my facility, residents, and co-workers in so many ways. I look forward to being able to share what I learn with my co-workers so that we can work together to incorporate this information in our daily work schedules. I feel we would all benefit from the renewed sense of vision.”

Founder's Scholarship

Tracey Robinson, LPN, RAC-CT, is a clinical reimbursement supervisor at Sholom Community Alliance. Supervising RAI departments at two facilities, Tracey provides ongoing education on survey preparation, quality indicators and measures, 5-Star reporting, and Triple Check. She serves as a resource within her facilities for Medicare A coverage, MDS questions, care planning, and quality. As Tracey wrote in her application, “My attendance at this conference will have a very large impact on our facilities in many areas… I learn something new almost every single day, and that is what I find exciting in this profession. The need for growth, change, and improvement never stops.”

President’s Scholarship

Angelika Dobkin, MPH, BSN, RN, is an MDS coordinator assistant. With this scholarship, she looks forward to earning her RAC-CT certification. In her application, Angelika wrote, “I feel most rewarded when my job positively impacts a resident’s quality of life and that I am able to make recommendations in guiding the care we provide based on my MDS assessment. Nothing makes me feel more satisfied in this role. I am so excited to move my career in this direction and look forward to many years with AANAC. Thanks for investing in me!”



Previous Award Recipients (1999 – 2016)

Nurse Assessment Coordinator of the Year 

Deborah Kriegh, RN, RAC-CT, DNS-CT, WCC, CHPN, GRN
Lori Martin, LPN, RAC-CT
Tracy Holder, LPN, RAC-CT  
Virginia Hopkins, RN, BSN 
Sandra Reed-Bryant, RN, MSN, RAC-CT 
Jane Barbour, LPN, RAC-CT
Heather Hirons, RN
Sheryl Nelson, BSN, RAC-CT 
Katherine Sanders, RN, DNS-CT, RAC-CT 
Linda Chetley, RN, RAC-CT  
Wendy Brown, RN  
Jill Knight, BSN, RN
Holly Sox, RN 
Debbie Frias, LPN, RAC-CT  

Outstanding AANAC Contributor of the Year

Sandy Biggi, RN, BSN, SNT, RAC-MT, DNS-MT
Judy Wilhide Brandt, RN, RAC-MT, DNS-CT
Jennifer LaBay, RN, RAC-MT
Jennifer Pettis, RN, WCC, DNS-CT, RAC-CT
Rebecca LaBarge, RN, RAC-CT
Carol Job, RN, RAC-CT
Caralyn Davis
Carol Maher, RN-BC, RAC-CT
Ron Orth, RN, NHA, CPC
Judy Bagby, RN, LNHA, DNS-CT, RAC-CT
Darla K Watson, RN
Renay Smith
Roberta Reed, RN, MSN, LNHA, DNS-CT, RAC-CT
Chyris Glass, RN 

Nursing Home Administrator of the Year

Richard Cornwell
Carol Gilbertson, RN, RAC-CT
Richard Cartney
Bill Pierce
Jalane White
Sara Dent
Jane Hull
Mivic Hirose
Tina Strimbu
Gene Williams
Ronald Graybeal
Nancy White
Shellie Ducommon, RN, NHA 

Director of Nursing of the Year

Rhonda Hanan, MS, RN, DNS-CT, CDONA, GRN
Wendy Jobe, RN, MSH
Andrea Morgan
Patricia Long, RN, BSW, RAC-CT
Nancy Chila, RN
Susan McDonald, RN, BSN, RAC-CT
Amy Higgins, RN, RAC-CT 

Best Practice of the Year

Friendship Retirement Community
Ebenezer Ridges Campus
Pleasant View Home
Karen Scaturo, RN, RAC-CT 

Cerner Nursing Assistant of the Year

Amanda Jones
Terri Morris
Kendra Cooper 

Cheryl M. Thomas Scholarship

Stacie Howe, RN, RAC-CT
LaCreesha Louis, RN, RAC-CT
Mindy Van Beek, RN
Lisa L. Chubb, RN, ASN 
Cheryl Druce, RN, RAC-CT