President’s Values in Action Awards celebrate ‘above and beyond employees’

December 02, 2022
Values in Action Respect awardees Keith Smalls, center, and Donnie Singleton, far right, celebrate with first lady Kathy Cole, from left, nominator Dr. Ashley Hink and MUSC President David Cole. Photos by Sarah Pack

Each year, the MUSC President’s Values in Action Awards provide the opportunity for employees across the organization to be recognized for outstanding service and significant contributions to the campus community, representing MUSC’s five core values, which fall under the categories of Compassion, Innovation, Integrity, Collaboration and Respect.

This year’s event was held at a special MUSC OurDay digital transformation and leadership training meeting at the MUSC Storm Eye Institute Auditorium on Nov. 7 in Charleston. President David Cole M.D., kicked off the supposed training, surprising participants when he later shifted to recognizing eight award honorees as their nominators and employee work teams gathered for the awards. 

For seven years, the president and first lady Kathy Cole have presented the VIA Awards to honor MUSC employees from across the enterprise for their resilience, commitment and leadership. Awardees in the five categories each received award certificates and a memento and new to 2022, a $1,000 bonus. The Impact Award was also presented for the third consecutive year. Similar to the VIA Awards, the Impact Award winner is selected by the president if a nominee has proved to go above and beyond to create positive impact for MUSC, in addition to exemplifying all of the core values. This honoree receives an award certificate and memento, plus a $5,000 bonus in appreciation of his or her work across the enterprise.

“The awards pay tribute to outstanding people who personify, in some manner, all of our five core values — collaboration, compassion, respect, integrity and innovation. I’m incredibly pleased to say that since we started giving out these awards in 2015, there have been so many extraordinary examples and nominations. I want to acknowledge how difficult it is to make a choice in selecting the winners and think it’s appropriate to recognize all those who are nominated,” said Cole.

An honoree was chosen in each category, with the exception of three awardees in the category of Respect. Cole also announced that this year’s award winners, as well as previous VIA winners, will be invited to a special spring 2023 unveiling of a VIA exhibit, honoring all awardees, in addition to a dedication ceremony at the MUSC Charleston campus. 


Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences’ Alyssa Rheingold, Ph.D., the 2021 VIA Impact Award winner, praised the work and efforts of colleague Tenelle Jones. Jones, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist and mental health clinician with the MUSC Resiliency Program, is known for her work with patients, health care team members and the Charleston community. 

Jones came to MUSC in 2016 as a mental health clinician working to provide evidence–based trauma treatment to victims of crime who were not able to access traditional mental health counseling due to a lack of insurance or  other barriers to services, through the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center. 

Working with Rheingold in the MUSC Resiliency Program, she has provided traumatic grief therapy, supportive counseling and resiliency programming services as well as a positive attitude for struggling team members. In the last few years, she has developed and led half–day trainings for nursing leaders and other MUSC health care team members.

VIA Compassion award presented to Tenelle Jones with MUSC Resiliency Program. 
The 2022 Values In Action Award for Compassion was presented to Tenelle Jones, center, a mental health clinician with the MUSC Resiliency Program, by Kathy Cole and President David Cole.

“Tenelle is one of the best mental health clinicians and well–being advocates that I have ever known,” said Rheingold. “She has exhibited the utmost highest level of professionalism, integrity and devotion to all those she interacts with. She embodies the true essence of compassion for some of the most underserved and marginalized populations that have experienced victimization and hate–based crimes to the significantly taxed and overwhelmed health care workforce over the past few years.”


Emma Vought, program director of digital marketing, Department of Business Development and Marketing Services, was recognized for her creative new ideas and leadership managing multiple system digital marketing projects for MUSC Health. She supervised the revamp of MUSC Health’s Find-A-Doctor app and guided the Mercury CRM implementation — helping MUSC Health to improve its relationships with patients and organizational needs using artificial intelligence and personalized messaging to patients while improving metrics tracking. Other projects she guided were the integration and Hootsuite social media launch, and she led the launch of the MUSC Health TikTok channel.

Her manager, Kelly Perritt, Ph.D., executive director of marketing campaigns, Department of Business Development and Marketing Services, spoke highly of Vought. “Emma reflects MUSC values. She’s diligent, organized, collaborative, helpful and adopts a team approach to her work. I’m so proud she’s being recognized with the VIA Innovation Award.”


Rene Cook was praised for the compassion she exhibits toward patients, their families and her co–workers and demonstrating MUSC’s values on a daily basis. With integrity, she has a reputation for being honest, and her moral principals are unquestionable as is seen in her day-to-day living. Cook is a coordinator of the Central Sterile Processing Department for the main OR at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center. 

Her supervisor, Sharon Thrasher, has worked with Cook for 15 years and wrote her nomination for this year’s VIA Award. “Rene has respect for everyone she comes into contact with and her ability to listen patiently to people’s concerns or issues is a hallmark of who she is and what she brings to her job. Cook constantly works and collaborates with others around her or in other areas to find new creative ways to get work done or make improvements that follows best practices and recommended guidelines. Always striving for excellence, she’s always working with others to get best practices into service.

In addition to her work dedication, Cook has strived for personal excellence, earning advanced certifications in her areas as well as her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. She’s currently working on her master’s degree while also being a busy mom to two daughters. 


Hollings Cancer Center’s Shanta Salzer has been a program manager with the Clinical Trials Office for 18-plus years. She is the manager of the Malignant Hematology and Pediatrics research staff and manages its trial studies. During this time, she has brought together physicians, clinical staff, study coordinators, patients and research sponsors to improve patient care and move forward clinical trial research at MUSC. 

Value Action Collaboration winner is Shanta Salzer 
Hollings Cancer Center’s Shanta Salzer, second left, Values in Action Collaboration winner, celebrates with her family and the Coles.

A dedicated listener and mentor, perseverance, compassion, positive, dependable and respectful are some of the words shared by colleagues to describe Salzer, wrote Tricia Adrales Bentz, Clinical Trials Office administrative director.

“Your dedication, commitment and collaboration with others have shown that it takes people like you to build a team that is so impactful. You are our ‘shining star’ that we really want to emulate, and we’re so thankful and proud that you’re on our team, and we want to recognize that. There are so many moments where you’ve been our unsung hero, and we want to sing your praises today,” Bentz said. 


Donnie Singleton and Keith Smalls are both client advocates for MUSC’s Turning the Tide Violence Intervention Program, a hospital-based program that aims to reduce the odds of re-victimization and improve physical and social mental health outcomes after a young person is shot. The program is part of MUSC Health’s adult and pediatric Level 1 trauma centers. 

Ashley Hink, M.D., trauma surgeon and medical director of MUSC’s Turning the Tide Violence Intervention Program, recruited both Singleton and Smalls when the program launched in the summer of 2021 and wrote nomination letters for both for the VIA Awards.

“Donnie embodies Respect. He exemplifies what it means to show respect to our patients, colleagues and community members through his work as a client advocate. He was our first member of this very new program and was doing this work in multiple ways in the Charleston and North Charleston communities before stepping into this role. I recruited Donnie to join our effort, as he has a passion and dedication for violence intervention, and provided a formalized opportunity to do this work serving our community. He stepped into the role with patience and ease and has, from day one, prioritized supporting our patients. He goes above and beyond for our patients in providing them support and navigating and accessing resources to meet their needs and risks. He sees value in all individuals, often speaks about how many of the at-risk teens he serves haven’t felt valued or respected in their lives.”

Turning to Smalls, Hink continued to sing her team’s praises. “Keith’s passion and commitment to the work of violence intervention and prevention is impressive. His dedication to supporting the patients we serve as our trauma center is truly inspiring and is noticed by all who meet him. Keith goes above and beyond for the patients who come into our trauma center, showing compassion and education to them the moment they arrive and beyond discharge from the hospital. He commits to coming in early to visit his patients, responding to trauma alerts and pages at all hours of the night and doesn’t think twice when it comes to participating in after-hour work events from providing mentorship to patients, team meetings, legislative meeting and community events.

Tatiana Davidson, Ph.D., was the third employee to receive the Respect award. Davidson was recognized for her numerous digital health initiatives to address behavioral health needs of traumatic injury patients and the health needs of firefighters.

As an associate professor in the College of Nursing, Davidson is co-director of the MUSC Trauma Resilience and Recovery Program, an innovative technology-enhanced clinical service launched in 2015 as a model program at MUSC and adopted by 11 other trauma centers in the Carolinas under her leadership as principal investigator of two Duke Endowment grants. She’s also director of the MUSC Center for Firefighter Behavioral Health.

Colleague and mentor Kenneth Ruggiero, Ph.D., professor and SmartState chairman for the Technology Applications Center for Healthful Lifestyles in the College of Nursing, wrote Davidson’s nomination letter, describing the commitment, collaboration and resourcefulness of his colleague. “Where Dr. Davidson has excelled in a unique way is in her successful efforts to promote adoption and adaptation of digital health resources in a wide range of diverse settings and with diverse populations. Without her dedication and commitment to meeting these unique needs of diverse settings and populations, the reach and impact of the digital health resources we have launched over the past decade would have been far less significant,” said Ruggiero.


For the President’s VIA Impact Award, the Coles selected Russell “Chip” Norris, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology. 

Stephen Duncan, D.Phil., professor and chairman of the Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology, wrote the nomination and spoke at the awards celebration about Norris’ many attributes as an outstanding research scientist and collaborator.

“Chip excels at team science, is extremely collaborative and can compete at the very highest level. Many of his studies have been so impactful in the community,” said Duncan. 

Values in Action Impact winner Dr. Chip Norris. 
Dr. Chip Norris, second from right, receives the Values in Action Impact Award presented by the Coles and Dr. Stephen Duncan.

Norris’ primary research focus is studying the mechanisms underlying cardiac valve disease and more recently, Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS). Norris established multiple international collaborations between basic scientists and physician scientists that led to the identification of a series of genes whose expression contributed to cardiac valve formation as well as new biomarkers for rheumatoid disease, working with scientists in Europe, Africa, Brazil and the United States, including MUSC. 

For his work with hEDS, a connective tissue disorder that can effect every organ system in the human body, Norris was inspired to study details and the impact of this disease through Cortney Gensemer, Ph.D., a then-doctoral student diagnosed with EDS who works in his lab. He wanted to understand this chronic disease and its effects on men and women and their quality of life. In a 2018 study, the Norris lab was the first to identify a gene mutation association with hEDS and has since been recognized as leaders in EDS research. 

“It’s so rare to see somebody that can take truly fundamental studies that you make in the laboratory and bring in all these people to see its impact in a positive way with patients. Chip really has done that with his work,” Duncan said. 

Following the presentation of the awards, Cole thanked all award winners, nominators and other supporters.

“All of you can see the incredible dedication and talent here that represents MUSC. I thank each one of this year’s award winners for making a significant impact and for who they are, how they carry themselves and what they do.”

For information or to nominate someone, visit the president's Values in Action page.

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