2020 Visionary Award Winner for East Tennessee, Teresa Thayer

Teresa Thayer

The Tennessee Public Health Association congratulates Teresa Thayer, this year’s recipient of its Visionary Award for East Tennessee.  Teresa was nominated by TPHA member Dana Kembel.  Teresa has served the State of Tennessee for over 36 years and currently works as an Advanced Practice Nurse for the Tennessee Department of Health at the Blount County Health Department.  Teresa’s desire to improve her patients’ quality of life led her to find a solution for those with Hepatitis C who are uninsured and could not afford treatment.  In 2016, she worked with Dr. Deborah Allen to develop a treatment plan for individuals with Hepatitis C who would have otherwise fallen through the cracks of the health care system.  Her program has now expanded to all four of the primary care health departments in the East Region.  Teresa’s efforts have cured over 200 uninsured patients with HCV, preventing HCV from progressing to chronic liver problems, failure and hepatocellular carcinoma.   These individuals now experience a much better quality of life than they would have without Teresa’s care.

Teresa is an avid bicyclist and camper.  She is also an accomplished seamstress who uses her talents to give to others even more.  She makes quilts for fundraisers in support of breast cancer survivors and seasonal matching lab coats for the primary care staff.   Teresa Thayer was chosen as the 2020 Visionary Award recipient for East Tennessee because of her unfailing example of loving care for her patients, the staff she works with daily, and her community.

2020 Visionary Award Winner for Middle Tennessee, William Noah, MD

William Noah, MD. and TPHA member Cynthia Chafin

The Tennessee Public Health Association congratulates its 2020 Visionary Award recipient, William Noah, MD.  Dr. Noah was nominated by TPHA member Cynthia Chafin, pictured together below. 

Dr. Noah, an internal medicine and board-certified sleep medicine practitioner, not only is an incredible physician, but is a true visionary with a heart for the underserved.   He offers direct care to the underserved in Rutherford County through his medical practice and recently launched a telemedicine program in multiple rural Tennessee counties.   Additionally, through his efforts and forward thinking, Dr. Noah’s vision of creating a research consortium to identify ways to promote better health through better sleep is being realized and making tremendous contributions to the future of medicine for underserved populations.

It is well-documented that poor sleep is connected to poor health and that medical conditions that can result from or be worsened by poor sleep include coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, and many others – those same issues that those of us in public health spend tremendous time, effort, and dollars on to address.   In 2017 Dr. Noah and his team co-founded the MTSU Sleep Research Consortium (SRC) to facilitate research projects, community-based programs, and initiatives that promote population health and individual wellness through healthy sleep and sleep-related chronic disease prevention and reduction.  The SRC is the vehicle through which Dr. Noah conducts research that benefits all Tennesseans.  Dr. Noah led the SRC’s first study that examined the CPAP usage of over 4,000 patients for compliance and for which inequities were identified that may have national impact for the underserved Medicare/Medicaid population, those who typically have the least resources.  CPAP machines – continuous positive airway pressure – help people breathe more easily and regularly while they are sleeping and work best when they are used properly and with counseling and ongoing follow-up.   Better CPAP compliance leads to more favorable health outcomes for the patient.  One aim of Dr. Noah’s research was to determine if patients who received follow-up care from a health care professional were more compliant in their prescribed CPAP usage than those who received follow-up care from medical equipment providers (CPAP equipment providers).  This is important because for those on Medicare or Medicaid, they will only have their necessary equipment and follow-up covered if it is provided by a CPAP equipment provider.  Dr. Noah’s study found that those receiving follow-up from a CPAP provider had less favorable rates of compliance than those receiving follow-up from a healthcare professional (32% adherent vs. 50% at one year), which may translate into poorer health outcomes that extend well beyond sleep.  These findings have the potential to change federal policy, which may lead to better health outcomes of millions who are served by Medicare or Medicaid.    Dr. Noah’s vision of creating this research consortium in part to identify opportunities to impact the underserved, is paving the way for more equitable coverage for those seeking help with sleep disorders regardless of their income or insurance and has the potential for national impact. 

2020 Visionary Award for West Tennessee, Mr. Billy Brown

Mr. Billy Brown

Tennessee Public Health Association congratulates Billy Brown as this year’s recipient of its Visionary Award for West Tennessee.  Billy was nominated by TPHA member Beth Hamilton.

Two years ago, retired business executive Billy Brown had a vision to develop a center for victims of drug, alcohol and physical abuse in one of the most economically distressed counties in Tennessee.  This center would provide practical assistance, counseling and worship opportunities for those who did not feel comfortable in a “church” setting.  Today, that center exists thanks to Billy who donated the use of his building and personally financed its renovations.   The McNairy Family Center is now a hub of resources for assistance and ministry.  In less than two years, Billy has brought together community partners including the First Baptist Church, Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, Mid-South Food Bank Giveaways, the Community Health Council, the Community Advisory Board, Rotary Club, Juvenile Court Youth Vaping Offenders Class, the Department of Children Services and University of Tennessee Family and Community Education (FCE) Club McNairy County among others to set a course for positive growth and change in McNairy County.  Community partners work together in the “movement” to strengthen families and address the county’s health priorities of Substance/Nicotine Abuse, Mental Health, Adverse Childhood Experiences and opportunities for Physical Activity.  

The Mission of the McNairy Family Center is to break multi-generational cycles of child abuse, neglect and trauma.  Center director Billy Brown and community partners achieve this mission through Sunday morning worship services, hosting community meetings and direct service programming at the center, organizing donation drives for families in need, and collaborative grant-funded projects.  Notable among the Center’s achievements are efforts to re-establish the county prevention coalition that had been inactive for years.  The new McNairy Substance Abuse Alliance (MSAA) has Officers, By-Laws, Vision and Mission Statements and meets monthly.  In November 2019, members sponsored a Hidden in Plain Sight presentation and Narcan training.  During 2020, the local alliance plans to sponsor county-wide Hidden in Plain Sight presentations, Suicide Prevention and Narcan trainings.    Billy holds the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) Instructor certification from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and serves on the West Tennessee ACEs Acknowledgement Committee.  He regularly gives Building Strong Brains presentations in school, church and community settings.