Deborah Austin, RN, BSN
MA Health Department, Coordinator, Health Careers High School
Deborah Austin’s professional nursing experience includes 17 years in a variety of fields and teaching at the community college level. She has taught for the past 28 years at Health Careers High School where she organized and implemented an innovative sterile processing certification program, in conjunction with local hospitals, for high school students.
Weston “Hank” Balch,
CRCST, CIS, CHL
Managing Director, Sterile Processing, Alpha Consulting LLC
Weston “Hank” Balch is the director of sterile processing operations at University Health System and president of the South Texas Association of Sterile Processing. His department was named “2016 SPD of the Year” by Healthcare Purchasing News and his articles have been published in Infection Control Today, Outpatient Surgery Magazine, AAMI News and Becker’s Hospital Review. He is also the co-founder and co-host of the “Beyond Clean” podcast, discussing the biggest challenges facing the sterile processing industry today.
Zee Barreas, BSN, RN,
Surgical Services Development Coordinator, Erlanger Health System
Zee Barreas is the surgical services learning development coordinator for Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She has more than 20 years of experience in surgery, education and supervision. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Liberty University. She is an author, speaker and published poet who enjoys reading, hiking, running and volunteering.
Dr. Tom Blasco, MD, MS
Medical Director, Surgical Directions
Dr. Tom Blasco is a practicing, board-certified anesthesiologist/intensivist and a medical director with Surgical Directions. He also serves as the medical director at the Illinois Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery Center (ISMOSC). Dr. Blasco works extensively with hospital surgical and procedural departments to improve financial performance, operational efficiency and organizational effectiveness.
Previously, Dr. Blasco served as vice chairman of anesthesiology at Parkside Anesthesia in Chicago. He has been instrumental in the development of several free-standing, physician-owned outpatient surgery centers, including the Chicago Prostate Cancer Center and the Illinois Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery Center. He has held academic positions at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.
Vangie Dennis, MSN(c),
RN, CNOR, CMLSO
Executive Director of Surgical Services, WellStar Health System, Atlanta Medical Center Downtown & Atanta Medical Center South
Vangie Dennis is the executive director of WellStar Atlanta Medical Center and Atlanta Medical Center South located in the metropolitan area of Atlanta. Dennis is on the board of directors for the Laser Institute of America, the chair for the National Certification on Lasers, board of directors for AORN National, president of the NW AORN Chapter, treasurer for the Georgia Council of Nurses and committee representative for the American National Standards Institute. She is a recipient named in Strathmore’s Who’s Who, the recipient of the 1996 Nursing Excellence Award from the American Society for Lasers in Medicine and Surgery. She was awarded the 2011 R. James Rockwell Jr. Educational Achievement Award and the 2011 AORN Award for Outstanding Achievement in Perioperative Clinical Nursing Education. Dennis is a member of Emory Alpha Epsilon Chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.
William Duffy, RN, MJ,
Director Health System Management MSN Program, Director for the Health Systems Management, Loyola University
William Duffy is currently the director for the health systems management master of science in nursing program at Loyola University of Chicago’s Marcella Neihoff School of Nursing. Duffy is a nurse executive with over 30 years of leadership experience as a Magnet chief nursing officer and director of perioperative services.
Duffy has authored numerous articles and presented nationally and internationally on health law, leadership, patient safety and patient satisfaction topics. He is a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN) and is a past president of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN). During his term as president, he led the association’s effort to reduce wrong site surgery through the introduction of the timeout toolkit that was adopted across the globe.
Rodrigo Garcia, RN,
Chief Nurse Anesthetist, Parkdale Center for Professionals
Rodrigo Garcia is a co-founder and CEO of Parkdale Center for Professionals. He has been a direct care provider in the health care field for more than 20 years. He has experience in emergency management, intensive care, surgical services and anesthesia. He has also emerged successfully from a battle with the disease of addiction.
He is currently a member of the Indiana Office of the Attorney General task force; a delegate to the National Safety Council, and has held faculty positions at Evanston Northwestern School of Anesthesia, Ivy Technical Community College-Nursing Department and Valparaiso University School of Nursing.
He has educated thousands of families, state employees, individuals, employers and professional organizations on the addicted HAP and how this person affects every aspect of society.
Executive Vice President, Surgical Directions
Lee Hedman’s health care and consulting experiences are showcased in her leadership of over 350+ complex perioperative and anesthesia service assessments and implementation engagements. Throughout her career, her collaborative management of operating room transformations has yielded significant increases in surgical growth and millions of dollars in hospital profits. Hedman leads the anesthesia revenue cycle consulting division where she has successfully worked with physician practices to improve revenue cycle processes and improve financial performance while transforming the anesthesia practice to perform as a business entity and invaluable partner with the hospital. Surgical Directions’ interim staffing business line is also managed by her, supporting current client staffing voids including OR director, educator and sterile processing management.
Gregory Hickman, MD
Medical Director/Anesthesia Director, Andrews Institute ASC
Dr. Hickman is a board-licensed anesthesiologist, licensed in the states of Alabama, Tennessee and Florida and certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and the American Academy of Pain Management. He belongs to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the American Society of Regional Anesthesia, and the American Academy of Pain Management.
Medical Device Reprocessing Consultant, Highpower Validation & Testing Laboratories Inc.
Certified as a health education teacher, Chuck Hughes has worked for over 30 years in the manufacturing industry in areas of regulatory affairs, marketing, research & development, microbiology and sterilization training. He’s been a corporate member of AORN, AST, IAHCSMM, SGNA and numerous other organizations, including AAMI and CSA where he contributed to writing medical device reprocessing standards. A popular speaker at regional, national and international health care conferences, Hughes has visited thousands of health care facilities during his career providing continuing educational training and mock surveys of medical device reprocessing areas.
Sharon McNamara, RN
Perioperative Consultant, OR Dx+Rx Solutions for Surgical Safety
Sharon A. McNamara, RN, BSN, MS, CNOR, is an internationally recognized speaker and consultant on perioperative practice. McNamara is an owner and consultant for OR Dx+Rx Solutions for Surgical Safety consulting firm, coordinator of a patient safety column for the AORN Journal and collaborative coach for the North Carolina Quality Center.
Elbridge Merritt, MSN,
RN, CNOR, CHL, CRCST, CIS
Clinical Nurse, Officer in Charge of the Operating Room, San Antonio Military Medical Center
Elbridge “Eb” Merritt is the clinical nurse, officer in charge of the operating room at San Antonio Military Medical Center. He is a certified perioperative nurse, is a CRCST, CIS, and has a CHL from IAHCSMM. He is a member of IAHCSMM, AORN, AAMI and Sigma Theta Tau International. Merritt has held a variety of positions in perioperative nursing in the U.S. Army, in both fixed and field units, in the operating room, sterile processing departments and infection prevention and control. He has co-authored multiple articles on sterile processing and authored a book chapter on infectious disease in a perioperative safety textbook.
Thomas Overbey, CCSVP
Marketing Director, Ultra Clean Systems
Thomas Overbey’s experience originated as media producer at the University of South Florida, College of Medicine, producing content for medical research and education. Overbey has generated live and on-demand surgical procedures for peer-to-peer training and produced the first live surgical case over the iPhone.
For the past five years, Overbey has served as the marketing director for Ultra Clean Systems promoting safe cleaning practices and serves as an advocate for connecting the OR to the SPD for maximum operational efficiency.
Karen Rowan, MSN, RN,
System Nurse Educator, Northwell Health
Karen Rowan MSN, RN, CNOR is currently a system perioperative educator for Northwell Health System in New York. Rowan’s responsibilities include the orientation education for RNs, CSTs and PAs entering perioperative services and the perioperative RN fellowship program.
Kimberly Smith, RN, MS,
U.S. Army, Colonel
Kimberly Smith graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and began her perioperative nursing career at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas serving as a staff nurse there and at the Army medical center in Germany. After obtaining a masters’ degree in perioperative nursing in 1999 from the University of Connecticut, she served in numerous perioperative leadership positions in organizations ranging from small military teams geared toward austere conditions to director of perioperative services at several of the army’s largest military medical centers. Her final assignment was as director, perioperative services, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
She retired from the army in January 2017 with almost 30 years of service. She is now an independent consultant for sterile processing.
Deborah Spratt, RN
Director Perioperative Services, St. James Mercy Hospital
Deborah Spratt, MPA, BSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, CRCST, CHL, is currently the director of surgical services at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, New York. She was previously the manager of sterile processing at the Canandaigua VAMC in Canandaigua, New York. She has also held staff, manager and director roles in perioperative services at a university teaching hospital, community hospital and an ASC. She contributed to the AORN publications “Ambulatory Surgery Principles and Practices,” and “Leadership in Action – A Manager’s Guide to Success.” She is one of several authors of the book “Operating Room Management.” Spratt has testified as an expert witness in the areas of ambulatory/office-based surgery and OR nursing practice and was a member of the New York State Department of Health’s Committee on Quality Assurance in Office Based Surgery and the Procedural and Site Verification Panel. Spratt is a member of AONE, ANA, IAHCSMM and Sigma Theta Tau. She served as AORN president 2012-2013.
Constance Squibb, RN
Strategic Program Manager, Medtronic Transformative Solutions
Constance Squibb brings her years of experience as a nurse, hospital administrator and author together with her passion for new program development and blood management to you in a way that “just makes sense.” With a master’s degree in public administration, Squibb has the formal education to understand theory coupled with everyday experience to make it work. Throughout her career, she has taken ideas and formulated strong viable programs and the creation of a blood management program. At a 630-bed faith-based health system with a full array of services, Squibb worked to reduce transfusions in the orthopedic product line to zero. She has gone on to present two poster presentations on the topic and to work with some of the country’s top health systems, including Johns Hopkins.
David Taylor, MSN, RN,
President, Resolute Advisory Group, LLC
David Taylor has been providing services to clients with various nursing, perioperative, ancillary service line and business development needs across the United States for over 30 years. His areas of expertise include services that improve operational and clinical efficiencies, while helping organizations function more effectively to improve their market position.
His particular area of specialty lies in the operational improvement of surgical services and central sterile and sterile processing departments (CS/SPD). Using a focused approach of best practice assessment, inter-professional collaboration and team-based solution development, He consistently assists in developing and executing on solutions that enhance an organizations capabilities and success. He is a member of the Association of PeriOperative Registered Nurses (AORN). He maintains membership in the Business Industry Consulting (BIC) and Leadership Specialty Assemblies and is a long-time member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. He completed his Lean Healthcare Certification at Villanova University, is a nationally recognized speaker and has been published in nationally recognized peer review journals on various perioperative subjects.
Brenda C. Ulmer, RN,
Perioperative Nurse Educator
Brenda C. Ulmer, RN, MN, CNOR, is a perioperative nurse educator with expert knowledge of energy-based devices including fire safety and the hazards of surgical smoke. Additional experience includes accreditation and credentialing processes along with preparation and presentation of educational programs.
Ulmer’s work history includes global director, professional education for Covidien energy-based devices, director of surgical services at Northlake Regional Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as staff and charge positions at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
A long term active member of AORN, Ulmer served three terms on the national board of directors, and as national president 2000-2001. Her current committee assignment is AORN representative to SAGES fundamental use of energy in surgery committee (FUSE). Ulmer is an inaugural board of directors member on the International Council on Surgical Plume (ICSP), a non-profit organization dedicated to collaborative efforts focused on the evacuation and filtration of surgical plume.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Vane,
RN, MS, CNOR, CHL, CRCST
Health Science Teacher, Health Careers High School
Elizabeth “Betsy” Vane served 30 years in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Currently, she is a health science teacher at Health Careers High School in San Antonio, Texas. She holds CNOR, CRCST and CHL certifications. Her master’s of science degree in nursing is from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
Riki Watts, RN
Director of Surgical Services, St. Claire Health Care
Riki Watts is the director of surgical services, endoscopy and outpatient infusion services at St. Claire Health Care. She has been in nursing leadership for the last nine years and has served in a variety of roles. Watts serves on multiple councils and committees within the organization and is a member of the nurse executive council. She obtained her associate degree in nursing from Ashland Community and Technical College in 2003 and completed a master’s of science degree in nursing in 2013. She is a board-certified nurse executive (NE-BC) and a certified nurse-operating room (CNOR). She is a volunteer item writer for the Competency & Credentialing Institute. She has clinical experience in the intensive care unit, post anesthesia care unit, general surgery and cardiovascular operating room. She is an active member of the Kentucky Nurses Association, American Nurses Association, Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society.
MSN-Ed, RN-BC, CNOR, RFNA
Director of Education, Competency & Credentialing Institute
Dawn Whiteside is the director of education at the Competency and Credentialing Institute. Working with nurses to advance each individual’s personal and professional development is an important part of leadership/management skills. In her role as director of education, she develops and manages product development for certificants related to perioperative nursing and surgical services management. In addition, she presents at national conferences on topics including competency assessment, leadership, professionalism and management. Whiteside has been an operating room nurse for 30 years. Her perioperative experience includes staff nurse in the circulator, scrub and first assistant roles. She went on to become team leader in the operating room for the cardiac, ENT, plastic and oral surgery specialties for 10 years. While serving as team leader, she was also the educator and rotating charge nurse. After transferring to a cardiac-only perioperative environment, she became the educator and manager for 10 years over four operating suites at two hospitals. Responsibilities included staff scheduling, time card management, surgery scheduling and managing 38 employees.