Salley, Carroll, White Earn Alumni Honors

Verlon Salley (MHA ‘02), Alumnus of the Year

By Sean Gorman

When he walked across the graduation stage in 2002 to accept his MHA, Verlon Salley had a plaque under his gown that said, “Thank you for allowing me to achieve all your dreams.”

Kenneth White, Michele Caroll, Paula Song and Verlon Salley
(from left to right) Kenneth White, Michele Carroll, Paula Song and Verlon Salley

The plaque was for his father, the son a sharecropper and a maid, and for his mother, the daughter of a yard man and a cook.

“I handed the plaque to my dad,” said Salley, vice president of community health equity at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System. “He looked at me and said ‘Son, these are not our dreams for you … this is God’s will, and we’re only here to give you direction.’” 

That path led Salley to the Nov. 9 VCU Health Administration ceremony, where he was presented the Alumnus of the Year award. The honor recognizes “uncommon excellence” and service to the community.

At UAB, Salley has successfully instituted a dedicated service line focused on rectifying the socioeconomic disparities impacting community health outcomes. Under his guidance, the community health equity team devised and executed comprehensive strategies to further that pivotal mission. Salley’s focus entails forging robust partnerships with internal and external stakeholders to offer direction, education and resources vital for the assessment, growth and enactment of the organization's health equity blueprint.

“He really uses his leadership to address underlying social and economic disparities across the health communities he serves,” said Paige Laughlin (MSHA ‘17), chief operating officer at HCA Florida Blake Hospital in Bradenton, Fla. and chair of Health Administration’s Alumni Advisory Council.

Before his current position, Salley played a pivotal role in the development, orchestration and implementation of all enterprise-wide radiology operation initiatives for UAB Medicine. In addition to receiving his MHA, Salley holds a Bachelor’s in Health Services Management from Florida Atlantic University. His extensive professional journey includes significant roles at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, University of Virginia Medical Center and Sentara Healthcare.

With two decades of administrative expertise, Salley is also president of the Alabama chapter of the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE), promoting growth of Black healthcare leaders and elevating the standard of care for marginalized communities. Under his leadership, UAB Medicine collaborates closely with NAHSE to confront implicit biases within healthcare and their profound influence on health disparities.

Shortly after accepting his award, Salley told those gathered that he is a product of his parents’ courage, competence, wisdom and — most of all — their empathy.

“I give back because I was taught to,” he said.

Michele Carroll (MHA ‘14), Young Professional Award

You’re not in control of your life.

That’s the greatest lesson Michele Carroll (MHA ‘14), says she’s learned during her career. 

“VCU prepares you very well for your career and was the launching pad for me,” Carroll, vice president at Sentara Martha Jefferson in Charlottesville, said after accepting the department’s Young Professional Award. “But no matter how well-prepared you are, it doesn’t matter. Things are going to happen, and life happens.”

Carroll initially didn’t get accepted to VCU after applying in 2010. But she tried again, got in, earned her MHA, and eventually became vice president of operations at Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk right before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.

“We went through some of the greatest challenges ever,” she said. “ But I learned a lot.” 

Joanne Inman, president of Sentara Leigh, worked with Carroll during the pandemic and recalled her ability to stay calm, steady and even optimistic in the face of challenges.

“She is a friend, mentor, role model, and an inspiration to many, including myself,” Inman said. “Michele is the rare type of leader who is a gift that continues to give.”

Moments later, Inman presented Carroll the award that recognizes an alumnus whose early career reflects the department’s core values serving their organization and community.

At Sentara Leigh, Carroll facilitated significant growth in operations and programs. Her leadership improved workplace safety, enhanced community access to imaging services and streamlined operations within the OR and cardiovascular service line. Before that, she played key roles in Sentara's orthopaedic service line, focusing on clinical performance improvement and service line growth.

Carroll started her current role at Sentara Martha Jefferson earlier this year,  managing critical services like surgery, radiology, facilities, food, materials and environmental services. She also oversees the hospital's oncology program, strategizes the hospital's direction and supervises campus construction.

Carroll was past president of the Healthcare Administrators of Tidewater, the local chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives, and is an active volunteer for the United Way, serving on the Women’s United Volunteer Council. Newly settled in Charlottesville with her husband, Jon, and daughter, Kate, Carroll continues to contribute to her community on the women's committee and the physical therapy board at ACAC.

“What I want to leave you with is: have fun, love what you do,” Carroll said. “Love the people you work with. This exact moment is where you’re supposed to be at this time. And when it’s time to move on, you’ll know.”

Kenneth White (VCU ‘96), Lifetime Achievement Award

Kenneth R. White, Ph.D. (VCU ’96), received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Read Advocate for patient-centered care earns Health Administration Lifetime Achievement Award for more information.

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