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Don McKenna named CEO of the Year by GACH

The Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals named Don McKenna, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Health Care System in Athens, Georgia, as its CEO of the Year during the organization’s 34th annual conference last week. The award recognizes leaders who have made a positive impact on their patients, the institutions they lead, and the communities they serve.

don mckenna ceo of the year
St. Mary’s President & CEO Don McKenna, left, receives the CEO of the Year Award from GACH President & CEO Monty Veazey

“Don McKenna is a true leader who, through his spirit, vision and leadership skills has transformed and grown St. Mary’s Health Care System while ensuring its financial stability and long term ability to serve patients throughout northeast Georgia,” said Monty Veazey, president and CEO of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.

McKenna was recognized for his overall leadership and accomplishments including the creation of the region’s first residency program and high levels of satisfaction among both patients and employees. He also was lauded for the role he played in preserving access to local health care by bringing two struggling rural hospitals into St. Mary’s Health Care System — Ty Cobb Health System in Lavonia, Georgia, now known as St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital, and St. Joseph’s at East Georgia in Greensboro, now known as St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital.

“He is a consummate professional, an exemplary leader, a visionary chief executive officer, and a staunch advocate for our patients and for the profession,” said Jean Chin, MD, Chair of St. Mary’s Board of Directors and Executive Director of the University Health Center at the University of Georgia. “He has improved the health of this community, inspired countless staff, senior leadership, and newly minted residents to excel, guided the hospital system brilliantly through the economic recession and these turbulent health care reform years, and maximized the talents of those around him. Mr. McKenna is most deserving of this prestigious award.”

McKenna joined St. Mary’s Health Care System in 2008. Since that time, the system has grown from 196 licensed beds at one hospital to 275 beds in three hospitals and today employs over 2,100 people.

Other awards presented during the conference included Navicent Health as Large Hospital of the Year, Northside Hospital Cherokee as Small Hospital of the year and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle as Legislator of the Year in recognition of his long history of support for the state’s non-profit hospitals.

In addition, Dr. Ninfa M. Saunders, president and CEO of Navicent Health was welcomed as the organization’s new chair, succeeding Jerry Fulks, president of WellStar West Georgia Medical Center.