Employees celebrated with President's Values in Action Awards

December 15, 2023
Woman wearing a white coat and glasses shakes hands with a tall man. Another woman watches.
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences’ Ren Rountree receives the 2023 Values in Action Award for Compassion from President Cole and first lady Kathy Cole at the Nov. 13 event. Photos by Sarah Pack

The 2023 President’s Values in Action winners:

•Collaboration – Mike Mallah, M.D., and Patricia Carter McLeod, R.N. 

•Compassion – Ren Rountree 

•Respect – Malachi Nelson 

•Innovation – Jennifer Dahne, Ph.D.

•Integrity – Julie Anderson, R.N. 

•Impact – Gigi Smith, Ph.D., R.N. 

Each year, the MUSC President’s Values in Action (VIA) 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, Compassion, Innovation, Integrity, Collaboration and Respect as well as a special category — Impact. 

The Nov. 13 surprise event was held under the guise of a OneMUSC Strategic Planning meeting at the MUSC Storm Eye Institute Auditorium. President David J. Cole M.D., FACS, welcomed participants but soon shifted focus to celebrating VIA Award honorees, their nominators and some employee work teams gathered for the awards. 

This is the eighth year that he and first lady Kathy Cole have sponsored the VIA Awards to honor and recognize MUSC employees who embody the qualities of MUSC’s core values. Honored employees were recognized in five categories and received award plaques and $1,000 bonus checks. The 2023 awards also recognized the Impact Award winner. This special award is not presented annually but can be elevated by The Coles if a nomination highlights an individual who has made a significant and lasting impact for MUSC and the community. The Impact award winner received an award certificate and $5,000 bonus for her leadership and work across the enterprise.  


Since joining MUSC in fall 2022, trauma surgeon Mike Mallah, M.D., has developed and grown MUSC’s Department of Surgery’s Global Surgery Program to foster innovation on a global scale by connecting bright talent in the developing world with surgical excellence and resources through MUSC’s Department of Surgery, wrote Prabhakar Baliga, M.D., Department of Surgery chairman, who wrote Mallah’s nomination letter. 

“Few are as passionate as Dr. Mallah in the global surgery space,” wrote Baliga. “He firmly believes the establishment of a robust global surgery program is critical to MUSC’s ability to compete with elite surgical residency programs across the country. And he is correct. According to a recent survey performed at MUSC, surgical residency programs: 60% of graduating students said global health was either an extremely or significantly important factor when selecting residency programs.”

Three men and one woman stand in front of a screen. A man wearing a white medical coat gestures as he speaks while holding a microphone. 
Department of Surgery’s Dr. Mike Mallah being presented the VIA Collaboration Award.

The second honoree for collaboration was Patricia (Trish) Carter McLeod, R.N., assistant chief nursing officer at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center. According to Florence chief nursing officer Costa Cockfield, R.N., McLeod consistently exemplifies the qualities of an outstanding collaborator and “grew up” in the community hospital, serving in various roles from nursing assistant to staff R.N., nurse manager and other leadership positions. 

Three women and one man smile while standing in front of a bookshelf. The woman on the far right is holding an award. 
Collaboration Values Award winner Tish McLeod, far right, with MUSC Health Florence chief nursing officer Costa Cockfield, from left, Kathy Cole and President Cole.

“Trish was involved very early with the operational planning, created staffing models, knowing that it was imperative that we staff the new hospital with individuals with multiple skill sets. She worked collaboratively with physicians and staff to hire skilled care team members. She handled the planning and opening with a lot of finesse,” said Cockfield.


Ren Rountree was named the VIA Compassion awardee. Lindsay Squeglia, Ph.D., Addiction Sciences professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, nominated Rountree for this award. Rountree is the community outreach coordinator for the MUSC Youth Collaborative and director of the High School Teen Science Ambassador Program, a training program to introduce clinical research which she helped established.

Rountree joined MUSC in 2018 and has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion and is instrumental in developing strong partnerships with more than Title 1 schools and underserved groups in the Lowcountry. She works regularly and effectively as a “connector” to many such as school leaders, students, non-profit groups, health care providers and others. “I cannot overstate what an outstanding influence Ren’s compassionate spirit has had on the Ambassadors’ lives. Our students adore ‘Ms. Rountree’ because they care so deeply about her as she does them, said Squeglia. 


MUSC Sterile Processing Department’s Malachi Nelson is described as dedicated, honest, attentive and respectful by his coworkers. Colleague Cody Venters described work in the area of sterile processing as demanding and detailed, and Nelson’s work is impeccable. 

Three men wearing hair covering and protective covers smile. The man in the middle holds a certificate. 
MUSC Sterile Processing Department’s Malachi Nelson, center, receives the Values in Action Respect Award from President David Cole and nominator Cody Venters. Photo by Zheng Chia

“Malachi is a man of few words but is honest and sincere when he speaks,” said Venters. Venters cited a situation when they were both working together sterilizing instruments and noticed errors in some documentation. While a supervisor was unavailable to consult, Malachi took the initiative and reviewed every sterilization load and confirmed that all proper documentation and control guidelines were recorded correctly. “By the time our supervisor returned, Malachi had performed much of the work to solve the problem, and we knew his work could be trusted,” he said. 


Clinical researcher and psychologist Jennifer Dahne, Ph.D. is praised for her scientific and academic contributions in the area of digital mental health intervention, smoking and depression in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Hollings Cancer Center. 

Woman wearing a suit shakes the hand of a tall man who is also wearing a suit. Another women in dress clothes stands to the right. 
Researcher and psychologist Dr. Jennifer Dahne receives the VIA Innovation Award from President and Mrs. Cole at the Nov. 13 event.

She is a pioneer in the development of a self-guided digital mental health intervention app to provide evidence-based mental health treatment working with a variety of patient populations, including primary care patients, smokers and patients with cancer. Through SCTR, she’s also helped in advancing proactive patient recruitment strategies for remote and virtual clinical trials program and helped to provide innovative digital health solutions to support vulnerable populations in South Carolina. Most recently, she was appointed director of the new Innovative Sciences Unit within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health and serves as a resource for technological innovations.

“We could not think of a finer and more deserving candidate for the Values in Action Innovation award. Dr. Dahne advances MUSC’s clinical, research and educational missions via her own research and leadership in innovative technology solutions. We are certain that she has a bright future and will continue to be an innovative and influential leader at MUSC and beyon has continued to advance through the Transplant Program, demonstrating extraordinary commitment to her role through integrity and compassion.


Julie Anderson, R.N., is this year’s honoree for the Integrity award. Anderson is the director of quality for the Transplant Department at MUSC and is the direct supervisor of two quality teams across the health system. She is also a certified clinical transplant coordinator working directly with patients and their families. 

Three women and one man pose for a photo. They are all smiling and wearing dress clothes. There are bookshelves behind them. 
Transplant Department’s Julie Anderson, far right, is the 2023 Values in Action Award winner for Integrity. Presenting the award are Shannon Cassels, far left, Kathy Cole and President Cole.

Nominator and colleague Shannon Cassels, R.N., wrote, “Through Julie’s exceptional dedication in the deliverance of quality health care, she has continued to advance through the Transplant Program, demonstrating extraordinary commitment to her role through integrity and compassion.”


This year’s President’s VIA Impact Award was presented to Gigi Smith, Ph.D., R.N. Smith is a professor in the College of Nursing and associate provost for Education Innovation and Student Life. Barbara Bozarth and multiple colleagues and leaders across the MUSC enterprise submitted her nomination.

“Dr. Smith embodies OneMUSC, eschewing silos to make a significant impact on the MUSC community through her collaborative work with students, staff and faculty both in the Charleston area and throughout the MUSC Regional Health Network. Additionally, her influence reaches beyond MUSC. 

Three women and one man smile in front of a bookshelf. One of the women is holding an award. 
Impact Award winner Dr. Gigi Smith, left, was praised for her collaboration and leadership. She was presented the award by Kathy Cole, President David Cole and nominator Barbara Bozarth.

Her collaboration with national leaders contributes to the health and well-being of pediatric patients and their families nationwide who suffer from epilepsy. While Dr. Smith has made innovative collaboration a priority throughout her professional career, there are numerous cross-functional projects that Dr. Smith has spearheaded in 2023.

They include establishing a student health and well-being consortium for Charleston higher education faculty, staff and students to establishing valuable student clinical placements in the MUSC Regional Health Network. These projects highlight Dr. Smith’s exemplary collaborative and leadership abilities that enable her to ‘get good people to work together to get good work done.’”

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