VCU Health Administration Award Recipients Talk Leadership, Challenge, and Opportunities Ahead

This month, VCU Health Administration recognized four alumni – technically, one of them honorary yet just as significant — for their contributions to the field and the department. The ceremony was held at the VCU College of Health Professions and streamed via video.

HA Alumni Award Receipients with their awards

Young Professional Award

Jessica Macalino, MSHA 2018
Associate Vice President of Operations, Riverside Regional Medical Center | Newport News

Acknowledges an alum who exemplifies the department’s core values in their career in service to their community and organization.

Mike Doucette, a Riverside administrator, introduced Macalino, crediting her with leading efforts to improve operations and add new service lines since joining the system in 2017. Macalino has also lead construction and development of a new hospital in Smithfield, which received its Certificate of Public Need earlier this year.

“She pretty much single-handedly shepherded the COPN process, and we awarded that in a highly competitive environment,” Doucette said. “We weren't sure we were going to get a COPN for that, but we did because of her efforts…she personally got involved in the community to make that happen.”

Macalino, a Hampton Roads native who earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, is a member of the American College of Health Executives and Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce.

“It means so much to me to be recognized for my work in this way, especially because I don't really look at what I do is work. I genuinely love what I do,” said Macalino, a mother of three and Smithfield resident. “I always say that it takes a village to raise us young professionals and I owe so much of my success and my career to the health administration department at VCU.”

Alumnus of the Year Award

Alan Keesee, FACHE, MHA 2009
Chief Executive Officer, HCA Florida Capital Hospital | Tallahassee, Fla.

Recognizes uncommon excellence in his or her health care career and his or her service to the community into the department

Paige Laughlin, chief operating officer at Florida Blake Hospital in Bradenton, Fla., introduced her former boss, Alan Keesee, FACHE, as Alumnus of the Year.

Laughlin described Keesee as an advocate for his community “by addressing disparities and basic necessities including access to health care, to housing and early development, stabilizing safety-net services, and development of educational needs for future employment.”

She recognized his leadership during “incredible times of uncertainty and unimaginable, unimaginable circumstances,” specifically the response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting when he was serving as chief operating officer at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. He also oversaw the receiving facility during a Category 5 hurricane in 2018 at HCA Florida Capital Hospital. “And he led his team through the unknown of the pandemic that we all faced together,” she said.

“We're all focused on caring for and improving human life. There is no higher call for us to pursue as leaders in healthcare,” said Keesee, a board member of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and president-elect for the United Way of the Big Bend in the Florida capital. “I'm super humbled by this award. I do not deserve it; my team is really what's upheld me all these years and many different hospitals.”

Keesee moved to Richmond for his wife, Jackie, who joined nursing school at VCU. And he stumbled across the health administration program. “I came to VCU for love,” he said, “and I left a leader.”

The immediate past president of the department’s Alumni Advisory Council issued a challenge to the room of students, faculty, and fellow alumni:

“Always raise the bar for your community, for your teams, yourself. Care like family for your doctors, your teams, your community, yourself. It really matters. Always keep that mission at heart no matter what, no matter what's going on, and show up,” he said. “Show up during shootings, show up during hurricanes, show up every day to care for your community.”

Lifetime Achievement & Service Award

Sheryl Garland, FACHE, MHA 1988
Chief of Health Impact, VCU Health and Executive Director, VCU Office of Health Equity | Richmond

Recognizes the alumni for a lifetime of strong dedication and contributions to the departments and faculty and students

Sheryl Garland joined the VCU Health System in 1988 after completing an administrative residency at MCV Hospitals. Prior to her current appointment as Chief of Health Impact, Garland held numerous positions at VCU.

She thanked her daughters and husband, Chris, before sharing a story. In 1984, she was laid off from her first full-time job as a quality-control technician at the now-defunct Famous Foods of Virginia. “That job in that cookie factory meant the world to me,” she said. “And I was devastated when I was laid off.”

Immediately after the layoff, she visited her grandparents, and her grandfather – “one of the wisest people I've ever known” — told her: “It’s not what you wanted to do with the rest of your life anyway. So why don't you go back to school and pursue your destiny?”

That started her on a journey to figure out what, exactly, that destiny was. At a career event, she met the late Jerry Norville, past chair and professor emeritus of VCU Health Administration. He introduced her to the master’s program at VCU and shared with her the benefits and value of a career in healthcare leadership.

“The rest is history,” she said. “I'm a living testament to something that my pastor often shares in his sermons: ‘A new door cannot open until an old door closes.’ So you just got to let the old stuff go.”

She said her healthcare journey taught her that “character is defined in the midst of a storm, not when everything is going well.” And she said a true leader “is not afraid to be vulnerable and accept guidance from the angels who've been placed along their path to ensure that they keep going in the right direction.”

She jokingly thanked “the people of Famous Foods of Virginia for laying me off,” then recognized the department for “giving me a chance and continuing to allow me to engage with the faculty and the students.”

Inaugural VCU Health Administration Honorary Alumni Award

J. Stephen Lindsey, FACHE
Principal, Ivy Ventures LLC | Richmond

The department also bestowed a new award to an honorary alumnus — someone who may not technically have a degree from the department, but is engaged and contributes “in extraordinary ways that support our students, faculty, and alumni,” said Paula Song, Ph.D., the Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor of the department.

She listed off a number of ways the first Honorary Alumni Award recipient, Stephen Lindsey, has contributed to VCU — as a preceptor during his time as CEO of Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, as an instructor in the department’s executive skills course, as a counselor when serving as residency placement director, through his student scholarship, or simply as a LinkedIn connection and mentor to students and alums.

“You may be familiar with Steve because he's a legend in the department,” Song said. “The kind of person whose name comes up in every conversation because he's had such an impact on so many of us in this room and beyond. Steve has truly been steadfast in his commitment to the VCU Department of Health Administration and as an exemplar role model.”

In accepting the award, Lindsey said he had an idea when he first got into health administration: “If I can improve patient care every day, that will be good, and if I can help somebody every day, that will be good. And I can say, I still believe that today. That's my mission statement. And I hope I passed that onto a number of students over the years.”

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