Menu

Category Archives: Rowan


A lifelong advocate for health

New cancer survivorship fund honors Rick Parker

For 39 years, Rick Parker has dedicated his career to improving healthcare for others and connecting generous donors to Novant Health’s mission to deliver remarkable care throughout the communities it serves. When he retires at the end of 2020 from his role as executive director of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation, he will conclude a career that began entirely by accident. Literally.

When Parker was a sophomore in college, he was involved in a motorcycle accident and suffered a compound fracture in his leg. He was hospitalized for six weeks in two facilities, where doctors put him in traction. Eighteen months passed before he was able to walk again.

Through that experience, Parker came to understand and value the importance of quality healthcare. With his newly gained perspective, he started his professional journey, and it’s a move he never regretted.

“The healthcare industry is one of the most cognitively stimulating industries in the world,” Parker said. “It’s just a fascinating business. I truly woke up every day — and I still do — excited about coming to work because there’s just so many different opportunities to keep you motivated, both intellectually and emotionally.”

Parker joined Rowan Memorial Hospital in 1981 to launch a patient advocacy program. Over the next several decades, he adapted to various roles and responsibilities to keep up with the changing times. He worked with professional and support services, such as imaging, pharmacy, laboratory, environmental, dietary, discharge planning just to name a few among many other functions of the hospital.

“I just kept taking on additional duties — sometimes responsibilities other people did not want to deal with,” Parker said.

In 2013, Rowan Medical Center Foundation needed a new executive director, and Parker was ready for the challenge. The role provided him with an opportunity he’d always wanted: to help the community in a focused way. He was nervous about fundraising early on, but it came naturally to him.

“I started my careergoing down the road of, ‘How can I help the community have better healthcare?’” Parker said. “So, I never felt like I was really asking anybody for any money. I was just asking people if they wanted to participate in something that would be a game changer.”

Throughout his tenure, Parker helped Novant Health raise money for the first residential hospice facility in Rowan County and for 3D mammography technology to improve breast health services. One shining example of Parker’s work has been the Novant Health Wallace Cancer Institute, which opened in 2020. The facility brings research, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation together under one roof, easing some of the stressors oncology patients and their families endure. Parker said he is happy to retire having helped bring such a valuable resource to the community. The way the project came together was just, as he puts it, “magical.”

“I’ve done a lot of projects over the years, and this one had no flaws whatsoever,” Parker said. “When we started construction, it did not rain for five months. Normally when you start construction, it feels like a rainy season begins, and you get behind. We did not get behind on this project. In fact, we built a 32,000-square-foot facility and opened it in 12 and a half months. It’s just unheard of.”

For Parker, the philanthropic role has led him to partner with people who already had a passion for healthcare and simply needed his guidance on how to impact the community. He remembers receiving an unexpected donation of $500,000. It was a moment that took his breath away.

“I was shocked,” Parker said. “I raised the roof after I hung up the phone that day.”

Today, Novant Health Foundation has a surprise of its own: the launch of a new Cancer Survivor Fund to honor Parker. Because fighting cancer often creates financial strains for patients and families, the Cancer Survivor Fund will provide financial assistance to cancer patients receiving care at the Wallace Cancer Institute. The fund will help these community members cover the cost of necessities such as housing, utilities, transportation and nutritional supplements.

As Parker reflects on his time with Novant Health, he is grateful for the opportunity to serve his team members and the community.

“I’m forever grateful to Novant health,” Parker said. “I’ve really enjoyed becoming part of this remarkable healthcare team.”

As far as what is next, Parker is looking forward to spending time with his grandchildren and enjoying outdoor adventures. He recently inherited his father’s Harley Davidson motorcycle, and he has begun to enjoy the open roads again.

“I always thought, if I got to the end of my life and I was asked, ‘Were you able to help one person and expect nothing in return?’ would I be able to answer that question?” Parker said. “I can answer ‘yes’ now.”

You now have an opportunity to help those in need and honor Rick Parker and his legacy of impact in his community Through a donation to the Cancer Survivor Fund, you can help survivors and families enjoy life again, free from cancer and financial stress. Make your gift today.

Learn more

Donate now

How you can continue to improve access to lifesaving healthcare in the fight against the coronavirus

If there were ever a time to donate to our Novant Health foundations, it is now.

We are committed to helping our community every way we can, now and always, and we ask that you consider making a contribution today. Every dollar you donate helps us continue the important work of saving lives.

Donate now

For our healthcare community and our world, it appears we still have a long road ahead of us.

COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus, has forced us into a fierce battle against its global spread, and healthcare professionals across the Novant Health system are on the front lines.

That’s why we need your support, now more than ever.

Novant Health foundations provide critical funds and resources across our network, which includes more than 1,600 physicians and over 28,000 team members who provide care at more than 640 locations to more than 4.4 million patients in 2019 alone.

Our mission is to improve the health of our communities, one person at a time, and we want to let you know we’re ready no matter the challenge. Our team members quickly adapted to critical safety measures and a vastly different environment without skipping a beat. From nurses who support our patients at the bedside to environmental and food services teams who keep our facilities up and running, each team member works every day with compassion and courage to deliver remarkable healthcare.

Learn more below about how can you help support team members through The Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund, and read stories of how your contributions already have made a lasting impact in team members’ lives.


The Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund

The Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund) has helped us rise to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, and your gifts have done important and lifesaving work. Not only have the communities we serve benefited greatly as a result, but we’ve been able to protect and support Novant Health team members as they demonstrate their selfless commitment and tireless efforts on the front lines.

Through generous donations from you, our donors, we were able to care for our remarkable team members serving on the front lines every day.

Download PDF

Inspiration through storytelling: share your story of kindness

If there’s something we’ve been reminded of lately, it’s that kindness and connection mean everything. Sharing a story of how you’ve been impacted by someone’s kindness can inspire us to give more, serve more, and most important, to spread more kindness.

Share your story

Serving our communities during coronavirus

We’ve focused on reducing disparities by ensuring everyone has access to the tools they need to keep themselves from getting — and spreading — the virus. The Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund also enabled us to provide vital medical equipment such as ventilators and telemedicine devices, set up additional screening centers in underserved communities and purchase tablets so patients can stay connected to their families and friends.

One initiative to fight disparities is our ‘Mask the City’ campaign, designed to ensure everyone in the markets we serve has the masks they need to protect themselves and our communities.

This fight is far from over. Without your help we would not have been able to accomplish all we have so far, and we look forward to carrying on this important work. Thank you for joining us in this critical mission during a time of great need.

The road will be long, but Novant Health Foundation is proud to support our team members, patients and the communities we serve every step of the way.

Please stay safe and healthy. We will get through this crisis – together.

If there were ever a time to donate to our Novant Health foundations, it is now.

We are committed to helping our community every way we can, now and always, and we ask that you consider making a contribution today. Every dollar you donate helps us continue the important work of saving lives.

Donate now


Your donations make an impact on Remarkable Team Aubergine

Below is a series of stories highlighting some of the ways your donations have helped our team members provide remarkable care during the global pandemic.

Thank you for providing hope

September 8, 2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, team members at Novant Health sprang into action, adapting to sweeping policy changes and a vastly different environment in record time. They focused first and foremost on doing what they do best: saving lives.

Hard choice for parents on the front line: work or stay home? Here’s how Novant Health is helping

April 20, 2020

When schools shut down in Stokes County, Christina Mabe was left in a difficult position. Mabe’s job is essential: She is a registered nurse managing patients who may have suffered strokes, pulmonary embolisms or blood clots and who are now on the Coumadin blood thinner.

For newly minted nurse Savannah Hayes, COVID-19 is a ‘baptism by fire’

April 16, 2020

On Good Friday, Savannah Hayes drove into work at the COVID-19 screening center at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center with a basket of eggs in the seat next to her.

Caring for those who care for us

April 15, 2020

What happens when a critical care nurse on the front lines of COVID-19 is also a mother to a son with special needs.

Now is the time to give

Pandemic presents a heightened need for philanthropic support

Philanthropy plays a major role in helping a community recover and thrive in the wake of a crisis. For donors, however, it can sometimes seem daunting to find an opportunity to help in uncertain times when the need is profound and seemingly everywhere.

Whether your philanthropic journey is just beginning or at a crossroads, deciding how and where to give is very much a process of reflection and self-discovery. Novant Health Foundation is here to help.

We recently hosted a panel discussion on the subject of charitable giving in times of change as a part of our webinar series, “Connecting with Remarkable Care.” In this program, we highlighted many of the personal, financial and community aspects accompanying philanthropy in difficult times.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has had substantial economic impact on the Carolinas. With unemployment rates approaching double-digits, many individuals face tremendous housing uncertainty and a lack of health insurance as COBRA and marketplace options prove too expensive. Schools have struggled to adapt to virtual instruction, and many organizations have worked to provide food and shelter to students and other individuals in need.

Evan Anderson

The staggering repercussions have filtered into the nonprofit space, as well. Evan Anderson, regional wealth planning manager at Wells Fargo Private Bank, assists entrepreneurs and families with tax and estate planning. He said about half of all charities have reported fundraising declines in 2020. Specifically, organizations that receive the bulk of their fundraising through events such as galas and 5K runs have experienced a sharp downtrend.  

“It’s almost the perfect storm in the charitable landscape,” Anderson said. “Not only is there increased demand on services, but there’s diminished financial resources.”

Tax incentives are also an essential component. Jessica Hardin, an attorney at Robinson Bradshaw, emphasized the importance of consulting with a tax planner or financial adviser before making substantial donations.

“Donors want to make sure, when they are making charitable gifts that further so many personal and societal goals, they are doing it in a tax-efficient way and making the most of the tax incentives available to us,” Hardin said.

Jessica Mering Hardin

2020 legislation has presented new opportunities for charitable tax deduction. Hardin mentioned the CARES Act, which has enabled filers who claim a standard deduction on their federal income tax returns to also claim a $300 above-the-line charitable deduction for cash contributions to public charities, subject to regulations. She cited Novant Health Foundation as a qualified charity for this type of contribution.

“The CARES Act deduction is a great benefit for individuals who may not otherwise itemize,” Hardin said.

Hardin said 2020 changes have also provided tax benefits for donors that intend to itemize. Previously, donors could deduct cash gifts to public charities up to 60% of adjusted gross income, subject to qualification. In 2020, this limitation has been eliminated.

“Now, were a donor so inclined, she could give 100 percent of her taxable income to a public charity that is not a supporting organization or a donor-advised fund and deduct the entire contribution,” Hardin said. “This provides a lot of flexibility to those who want to give and is a significant tax benefit in 2020.”

Hardin said there has been a growing trend of community-based fundraising in which gifts are more aggregated and less restricted. While donors love the specificity and shared experience that come with restricted gifts, Hardin said unrestricted gifts merit consideration in times of crisis. In many cases, donors can contact charities and opt to release restricted gifts for unrestricted use.

“When something like COVID-19 comes up and organizations are asked to pivot, gifts that are too restricted just can’t be deployed in the pivot,” Hardin said. “For that reason, we’re encouraging people to think really hard, particularly right now, about whether their current gifts are going to a place that the charity can use them best.”

Anderson pointed out that, when engaging in philanthropy, it’s important to find our passion and build from there. He recalled his nephew James as an example. Recently, James read about homelessness in the Charlotte area. Moved by what he learned, James told his parents he wanted to donate his birthday money to make an impact on homelessness. His family visited a homeless camp and spoke with area charities to learn about the latest needs.

“James went and bought a tent and donated it to the Urban Ministry Center,” Anderson said. “While that helps in the short term, they made a connection to hear in the long term how the community will respond and how they can be impactful.”

Anderson encouraged donors to spend some time and reflect on what their passion could be and research charities aligned with those passions.

For many people, healthcare is a natural field where gifts can fulfill a higher purpose. Alex Funderburg, chair of the board for Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation, discussed how a family illness opened his eyes to the value of philanthropy in healthcare.

“I didn’t choose to invest in healthcare; it chose me,” Funderburg said. “The more I got involved, the more I realized how health events affect all of us and how they can devastate a family. They can drive joblessness, homelessness, food insecurity. I’ve seen many families be derailed by a traumatic health event. This was an opportunity for us to make a real difference.”

You have the opportunity to make an impact in healthcare for your community.

With a donation to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund), you can provide team members with the resources they need to further the mission of remarkable care. Give today.

Donate now


If you would like to learn more about strategic philanthropy and planned giving at Novant Health Foundation, please contact Sharon Harrington at [email protected] or 704-618-4398.


COVID-19: Get the facts

Novant Health Institute’s chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer updates us on the pandemic

Download slides


In the fight against COVID-19, it is important to have reliable information from doctors and researchers on the frontlines. When we have the facts, it is easier to make the right choices to protect the health and well-being of ourselves and each other.

One of those experts is David H. Priest, MD, MPH, FIDSA, the senior vice president and chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer for Novant Health and a crucial voice of reason on infectious diseases during this challenging time in healthcare.

“It’s a pretty simple thing when you think about it,” he said. “This is a virus that spreads among humans, and it spreads between humans when they’re close together and breathing on each other. So, if we’re not breathing on each other, and we’re not close together, the virus won’t spread.”

Dr. Priest recently joined Ann Caulkins, president of Novant Health Foundation and senior vice president of Novant Health, in the first webinar of a new series called Connecting with Remarkable Care, which features conversations with Novant Health experts on various topics and issues. The discussion with Dr. Priest centered on COVID-19 and how we begin a return to normal even as the pandemic remains a very real threat.

In the webinar, Dr. Priest noted that Novant Health has been very aggressive with testing. As of early August, the system has tested more than 150,000 patients and, in the process, noticed some important shifts.

“Early on, we typically encountered older patients who often lived in long-term care facilities or other congregant living situations. For these older patients, the mortality rates were higher,” Dr. Priest said. “Now, the average age is lower. These younger patients are less likely to need the ICU or ventilators, so we’re using relatively few ventilators now. The lengths of stay are getting shorter, so our hospitals are experiencing more turnover and the mortality is lower. In April, our mortality rate was about 14% and in July, it is down to about 6%.”

The improvement in outcomes has been no accident. Over the past several months, Novant Health physicians, nurses and clinical teams have learned more about how to care for patients with COVID-19 and how to keep them off ventilators with new therapies and the use of steroids. Behind the scenes, researchers have launched clinical trials at a rapid pace.

“We’ve had the remarkable ability to get clinical trials up and running at Novant Health rather quickly,” Dr. Priest said. “In fact, we got one trial going in four days, which is almost unheard of in the industry. We’ve now opened seven clinical trials at Novant Health since the COVID-19 pandemic started. So, just know that the community’s support of our team members has a downstream effect on our ability to further our work, including clinical trials.”

The community can also help contain the spread of the virus in everyday life by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, Dr. Priest said. 

“Mask, mask, mask,” he said. “The medical research shows it works. Have them in your pockets. Have them in your car. Encourage other people to do it. It’s not a political statement. It’s about protecting people around us.”

As developments occur, it is also important to avoid false information.

“I hear about social media’s negative impact, and I can tell you it’s really discouraging for healthcare workers to see arguments unfold — and usually between people who have no idea what they’re talking about,” Dr. Priest said. “Think about the source of the information you receive.”

In the months ahead, COVID-19 won’t be the only illness we will face. For Virginia and the Carolinas, flu season typically begins in November and can last as long as April. Novant Health is taking steps to prepare, putting together guidelines for providers, thinking through best practices and working to ensure we have all the tests we need to deal with a coexisting flu season. Dr. Priest also encouraged everyone to get a flu shot.

“I hope people will mask and therefore be more protected from influenza than they usually are,” Dr. Priest said. “Please be aware that just because we have a pandemic we’re fighting, it doesn’t mean the usual seasonal epidemics don’t come, and influenza is one of those.”

The medical community at Novant Health has made great strides to provide remarkable care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, though there is still much work to be done and some key statistics to watch. Dr. Priest said doctors would like to see the positivity rate for tests consistently under 5%, some degree of community immunity that is 60 to 70%, a sharp reduction in hospitalizations and a vaccine that is safe, effective and readily available.

“When we reach those milestones, we will be much closer to gathering safely together,” Dr. Priest said. “But please understand things have changed forever on some level. Medicine has changed forever. This effort is 100 years of progress in medicine in a very short period of time.  In the meantime, we don’t know when this pandemic will end, so we need to pace ourselves. Be patient and keep perspective.”

You can get involved, too.

With a donation to Novant Health Foundation, you can provide financial aid to Novant Health team members in need as they work to protect us and our communities. Contribute today.

Donate now


Webinar interest form

If you are interested in joining our next webinar, please complete the form below.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Thank you for providing hope

How your generosity impacts Team Aubergine

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, team members at Novant Health sprang into action, adapting to sweeping policy changes and a vastly different environment in record time. They focused first and foremost on doing what they do best: saving lives.

At the same time, many of those team members had needs of their own. They were suddenly left without child care. Some were caring for high-risk family members and worried about the possibility of exposure. Others were suffering financial hardships, struggling to pay for rent and basic utilities. As the pandemic has gone on, those challenges have continued to impact team members across the Novant Health system.

Almost as quickly as Novant Health team members responded to the pandemic, our community rallied to support them. Novant Health Foundation quickly established the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund) to provide assistance for our team members. The fund also offered a way to get personal protective equipment and other critical supplies into the hands of healthcare workers across our network, as well as medical equipment such as ventilators, telemedicine devices and tablets to help patients stay connected to their loved ones. When there became a need for additional screening centers in underserved communities, funds also supported and helped accelerate this initiative.

The impact of those contributions has been profound.

“The Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund helped us rise to the challenges brought on by the pandemic,” said Ann Caulkins, senior vice president of Novant Health and president of Novant Health Foundation. “Not only have the communities we serve benefited greatly as a result, but we’ve been able to protect and support Novant Health team members as they demonstrate their selfless commitment and tireless efforts on the front lines.”

Download PDF

“Without these generous contributions, we would not have been able to accomplish all we have so far, and we look forward to carrying on this important work,” Caulkins said.

We know there is more work to be done.

We will assess the needs of our community and our team members as the pandemic continues to impact our region and our world. And your support will be more important than ever before. We hope you will consider a contribution to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund today.

Donate now

Campbell Classic canceled, May date announced

Out of an abundance of caution, and in light of Governor Roy Cooper’s recent announcement that North Carolina will enter Phase 2.5, the 22nd Annual John Campbell Memorial Golf Classic and the Harold C. Earnhardt Memorial Par 3 Tournament has been canceled. Novant Health and Novant Health Foundation stands by our commitment to flatten the curve and ensure the safety and well-being of all partners, team members and supporters. While we were looking forward to this fun-filled event, we trust that this decision is in the best interest of the public health.

“Protecting the health and well-being of our attendees is our number-one priority,” said Ryan Rich, tournament co-chair. “While this is not the outcome any of us hoped for, we look forward to hosting a safe and fun tournament next year, and we will continue working to support Novant Health in the meantime.”

All proceeds from this year’s golf classic were earmarked to assist Novant Health Rowan Medical Center in obtaining level III trauma center designation. The designation will allow our medical center to better meet the needs of the community by providing an organized approach to trauma care. Integration of clinical expertise, best practice guidelines for care and upgraded medical equipment will allow our team to provide the best possible care for our trauma patients. Your donation will provide the kind of resources and training needed to successfully complete this process. A level III trauma center will support prompt assessment, identification of injuries, resuscitation efforts, emergent surgery and after care. The trauma team extends from the emergency department to the operating room, intensive care and post-surgical care areas. It will improve patient outcomes and patient and family satisfaction, when they can remain at “home” rather than being transferred to larger medical centers. We are also supported by surrounding trauma centers when patient needs extend beyond our resources, such as neurosurgery or burn care.

Sponsors who have donated or verbally committed will have the opportunity to donate sponsorship dollars to trauma services at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. Sponsors and individual registrants who donate their fees will still be thanked on our website, as well as on all social media platforms. An amended tax receipt will be mailed out within two weeks to reflect the change that no goods or services were exchanged for this donation. However, we understand the impact COVID-19 has had on all and will refund the sponsorship or registration fee to those who request we do so.

Please save the date for next year’s Harold C. Earnhardt Par 3 Tournament on May 6, 2021 and the 23rd Annual John Campbell Memorial Golf Classic on May 7, 2021.

Thank you for your ongoing support towards Novant Health and the Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation.

To make a gift in support of trauma services at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, click below.

Donate now


Pavers for Patients

How two dedicated nurses chose to honor the patients they have loved and lost

There was a period of time, not all that long ago, when Joy Reichenberg had a standing date with a bowl of Cheerios and a cancer patient named Mary.

Mary was known to be quiet and reserved. She didn’t open up easily to the team at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. But Reichenberg — a nurse in the Family Care Center — kept encouraging her to connect.

Over time, Reichenberg started to notice that every morning, around 3 a.m., Mary would be wide awake, relatively free from pain and quite hungry. In that early morning hour, she saw an opportunity to connect.

“Every shift, for a couple of months, I would go into her room at 3 a.m. and feed her Cheerios. I got to where I would make sure all my work was done so that 3 a.m. was sacred for my Mary time,” Reichenberg said. “We talked through a lot of the things she was trying to process — the things she needed to work through in order to pass away peacefully.”

Telling Mary’s story still brings Reichenberg to tears, and it’s part of what inspired her to put together a fundraising event specifically to honor Mary and two other women who passed away recently in her unit, Julie and Willa. Called Pavers for Patients, the event was designed to raise enough funds to purchase commemorative pavers to be installed in the Hurley Healing Garden located within the new Novant Health Wallace Cancer Institute, which celebrated its grand opening on Aug. 12.

When Reichenberg approached her nurse manager, Jennifer Payne, with the concept, Payne agreed immediately.

“It touched my heart that someone from my unit wanted to honor these ladies. Our patients so often become part of our family,” Payne said. 

Julie had been one of Payne’s nurses for a time, and the entire team had rallied around her care before she passed. Willa had been a patient several times over, and the team took special steps to ensure her family could visit despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can remember coming back up here at night and spending time with Willa because visitors weren’t allowed, and we would just talk. It was a blessing in my life to be able to help with that transition,” Payne said.

The Pavers for Patients event raised $950, through a bake sale and massages provided by Reichenberg over the course of the event, which was designed with safety foremost in mind. Families and team members came out in force to support the effort, making sure to comply with social distancing requirements and other pandemic-related precautions.

“I think Joy’s fingers about fell off that night. There was never a lull of people waiting for Joy to relieve tension and stress from their shoulders,” Payne said. “We just kept watching the donations increase, and some people gave just because our effort meant a lot to them, too.”

Reichenberg agreed.

“I loved being able to care for our team members with those massages. That was this huge bonus of being able to care for so many of our team members and educate them on our losses,” she said.

Now, the names of all three women will be engraved on pavers in the Hurley Healing Garden, which patients can see from the 20 chemotherapy rooms inside the new Wallace Cancer Institute. The idea to offer chemotherapy with a beautiful view came from Tippie Miller, a longtime volunteer with Rowan Medical Center and a driving force behind the entire institute. When Miller received her cancer treatment at Carolina Oncology Associates, her room looked right into a brick wall. She knew cancer patients deserved better. Now, with the new Wallace Cancer Institute, they have it.

“We’re excited to have this amazing cancer center built on our campus and to know that people will have a beautiful view while they receive their treatment,” Payne said. “It’s so important we have this for our community, and I know Mary, Julie and Willa are probably looking down and thinking this is going to be amazing for other cancer patients.”

The Novant Health Wallace Cancer Institute was made possible through the generous contributions of donors like you.

You can continue supporting our efforts to bring remarkable care to the communities we serve with a donation to the Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation. Do your part and provide support today.

Purchase a paver

Donate now


Where the rubber meets the road

Meet the biker community fighting breast cancer

The Lucky Turn Around in China Grove, North Carolina, is a hot spot for motorcycle riders, family and friends. Patrons can grab an appetizer, play pool and throw darts. And the pink lemonade is extra special: Buy a glass and the proceeds go toward providing lifesaving mammograms to women in need.

If it stopped there, this would just be another story about a local business giving back to the community it serves. But the Lucky Turn Around takes it one giant step further.

The bar is home to a special group of women who are motorcycle enthusiasts and healthcare advocates. They call themselves Riders Against Cancer (RAC), and, for the past three years, the group has raised money and awareness for breast cancer prevention. Together, RAC has raised more than $50,000 and helped more than 100 women receive mammograms.

The year-round effort was sparked by a conversation Charlene Nolt, co-owner of the Lucky Turn Around, had with five women at the bar. Nolt was due to go in for a mammogram. None of the other women had insurance or had received one. Nolt and co-owner Kristina Hilton knew right away they wanted to do something to fix that, and their passion rubbed off on everyone else.

“Right after that, Charlene started telling all the regulars that came in there ‘We’ve got to do something,’” said Sally Rogers, a Lucky Turn Around customer and RAC committee member. “Before we knew it, we had 25 women.”

The group pulled together what would become their flagship event: Riding for Mammograms, an annual poker run, a growing craze in the biker community, at the Lucky Turn Around and other locations. Word spread quickly, starting with other patrons at the bar.

“We all know people who are motorcyclists,” Nolt said. “So when you reach out to one, you’re basically reaching to them at all, and they all know our cause.”

Riders from all over Rowan and Mecklenburg County got involved. The first year, about 60 motorcycles participated, and the group raised about $16,000.

Despite its fundraising success, the group struggled to find women willing to receive the mammograms. They realized they wanted to take their efforts to the next level. They reached out to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation, and a partnership was born. Committee members were thrilled when they spoke to Executive Director Rick Parker.

“He was on his vacation, but still took our phone call, and we all stood there and yelled how much money we had already raised,” Nolt said. “And that man was ecstatic.”

The next year, the group partnered with Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation and raised $36,000, including more than $10,000 from an anonymous donor that brought tears to the eyes of the committee.

“It touched our hearts and made us want to push even harder,” Rogers said.

Novant Health was able to use the funds raised to provide dozens of mammograms to women the RAC didn’t know, and cancer was found in three of them.

“At the end of the day, we provided three mammograms for women who may not have had the means or the opportunity to do it,” Rogers said. “And it would have probably turned into a fatal cancer. That’s what makes it worth it for me.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RAC postponed this year’s poker run indefinitely, but donations are still coming in through merchandise and sponsors. The group has also hosted events to educate women on early detection.

“It’s not all about the money,” said Stacey Thomas, another RAC committee member. “We try to get the word out as much as we can.”

All in all, the committee has been floored by the response from the community. 

“We never realized in our lifetimes that so many people would come together and help us with something like this,” Nolt said. “The community has really shocked me in so many ways on how they support us.”

Additionally, RAC has been grateful for the passionate support of Parker and the rest of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation. The foundation has helped with everything from providing guidance on fundraising to sourcing ribbons at the eleventh hour, and the partnership has had its share of fun, as well.

“Rick is so excited,” Thomas said. “He just got a motorcycle earlier this year, and he wants to ride in our next run.”

Today, anyone interested in receiving a mammogram can contact Novant Health or RAC to receive one free of charge.

“You don’t have to do anything but walk in there and get a mammogram, and it’s going to be paid for,” Nolt said. “That’s how important it is that you go get one. You don’t need a doctor. You don’t need money. You don’t need insurance. Just go get a mammogram.”

In the course of their lifetime, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer.

You can help us continue to provide mammograms on the house. Join the fight and donate today.

Donate now

Courage in action

Novant Health’s chief diversity, inclusion and equity officer on what it takes to transform a culture

At a time when the social justice movement is gaining widespread attention and momentum, many organizations are asking themselves an important question: How do you embed diversity and inclusion as part of your business’s mission, vision, values and brand?

When Tanya Stewart Blackmon was faced with that question, her answer was simple: She listened.

Blackmon is Novant Health’s executive vice president and chief diversity, inclusion and equity officer. She accepted the role back in 2016 and immediately embarked on a listening tour across the Novant Health footprint. She heard from more than 700 team members across all levels of the organization over the course of that tour.

“That really served as the foundation for everything we’re seeing and doing today,” Blackmon said. “I was able to create a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategic plan for the system, and that is aligned with our strategic imperatives.”

Blackmon’s approach and leadership have yielded tangible results. Case in point: On the tour, Blackmon learned that the executive team at Novant Health did not reflect the workforce across the system. While the workforce was 82% female, there was only one woman serving on the executive team. Four years later, those numbers have transformed dramatically as the president and CEO wanted to ensure that he had multiple perspectives represented. Today, 40% of the executive team are women, and 40% are people of color.

Ann Caulkins, president of Novant Health Foundation and senior vice president of Novant Health, spoke with Blackmon recently about her lengthy career in healthcare, the challenges and opportunities of the new reality, and what she’s looking forward to for the remainder of 2020. Below are excerpts from their conversation.

Ann Caulkins: How long have you served in your current role? And how did the opportunity come about?

Tanya Blackmon: Five years ago, Carl [Armato, Novant Health CEO] told me he wanted me to take a system role and operationalize diversity and inclusion, one of our core values at Novant Health. I asked him why he wanted me to do this, and he said, “Because you understand the business and the people side of healthcare, and I believe that we need both to truly operationalize this in our organization.”

I asked him that question because, at first, I wasn’t sure I wanted the role. I thought people would assume I got the role because I am an African-American female. So I really wanted to know why Carl wanted me, and it was because of my knowledge of people from my background in social work and my knowledge of the business, from my MBA and from my time as president  of two of our Novant Health hospitals, Novant Health Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital and Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center.

Caulkins: You know the business side. You know the people side. How do we bridge the gap between those two areas and change a culture?

Blackmon: That was something I thought about, too: What does this mean? I told Carl I was not going to be a figurehead in this position. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to go big and implement in a way that truly added value.

From the start, I knew this could not be about a program because you put a program up on the wall one day, and when times get tough or funding decreases, you can all too easily take it off the wall. It had to be part of a strategic culture-change strategy. I created a fishbone diagram and divided it into three phases: The first was learning and engaging to build knowledge. The second was developing to influence practices and policies that would help us get where we wanted to go. The third was embedding and leveraging to ensure diversity, inclusion and equity can be sustained over time.

After outlining the approach, I set off on the listening tour. I listened across this organization because, in this work, you have to give people a voice, as well as have alignment with the strategic goals and the mission, vision and values of the organization. We had to gain agreement and alignment on the definitions of diversity and inclusion. We have that alignment now, and it has enabled the changing of mindsets and behaviors.

Caulkins: Our culture has come a long way in a short period of time. Describe some of the things you’ve done over the past four years.

Blackmon: I believe that this work starts at the top of an organization. You have to have a CEO who is open and committed to embedding diversity and inclusion into the culture, but there’s still education that has to be done.

So we started with Carl. I told him I would love for him to take part in a program from an organization called White Men As Full Diversity Partners, which conducts labs and other education related to diversity and inclusion. At first, the name was a serious deterrent. But I kept asking. I went back to him several times and said, “Carl, you really have to do this to help the organization move the dial. I’m learning, and I need you to learn as well.” Finally, he said, “If you bring the consultant here, I’ll get 15 other white male leaders, and we’ll do it together.” And we did just that. He got our executive team and senior vice presidents to go through a three-day residential White Men’s Caucus to understand their role in this space and to discuss the impact of white male privilege and what that looks like. Carl has stated that he learned a lot about gender bias, racial and ethnic bias, unconscious biases and also white male privilege.

From there, I was able to expand the work of transforming the culture of the organization. As part of the educational process, you have to look within yourself to see how all your experiences and knowledge have shaped who you are today and how you see other people. It helps you to really open up and to listen and understand the perspectives of others and how their experiences may be different from yours.

In addition, we have engaged team members at all levels of authority in the organization in a multitude of educational activities to continue our journey and growth. We have Leadership Inclusion Summits, required diversity and inclusion workshops, community programs such as the Leadership Development Initiative (LDI), etc. We have hosted podcasts and web chats that are safe spaces for team members to have facilitated dialogue on topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. In fact, we had one today where we talked about challenging topics, like systemic racism and the death of George Floyd and how that impacts our team members. We’ve even hosted a “blind spots” CEO Action for the organization so people could understand what their blind spots are. We also took the executive team on a bus tour of Charlotte, visiting areas where our most economically disadvantaged and at-risk community members live. There was no “aubergine” in those areas, and as a result of that tour, we have since opened physician clinics in those areas. Diversity, equity and inclusion are usually on the agenda for our Leader Retreats. In one retreat, we hosted the Pillsbury House Theatre group for a show titled Breaking Ice. This was a fun, customized, professional theater experience that helped our leaders better understand the world view of others and their own biases.

Caulkins: What does “remarkable” mean to you?

Blackmon: It’s patient-centered. So we listen to the voices of our patients. It’s affordable. So we take care of people who cannot afford to pay for their care. And it means you’re going to get the highest quality of care, no matter what. Health equity is about recognizing both the visible and less visible characteristics of diversity of people, understanding their unique needs and providing the best care for each of them.

Caulkins: Tell me about the people who have been impacted by the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund. What has struck a chord with you to illustrate the importance of that fund?

Blackmon: I remember one story about a critical care nurse manager whose unit was converted to one conducting testing and treatment of COVID-19. At the same time, she is also the mother of a son who has special needs. She wanted to continue caring for patients and doing her job, but she also wanted to protect her son. Through the fund, we were able to pay for her to stay in a hotel while she served in the COVID unit. As a result, she was able to continue doing the work that she loves while keeping her family safe. That’s why this fund is so important.

The need is real, and we have front-line team members who are still in great need. Our communities, our businesses have not fully recovered from COVID-19, and the same is true for our team members who are at the bedside taking care of our friends and loved ones every single day.

Caulkins: On top of COVID-19, we are now facing another crisis related to social injustice. We’ve seen lots of organizations respond and take action. Tell us about Novant Health’s response.

Blackmon: It takes courage to take a stand as an organization. When Novant Health published our position on Black Lives Matter, that was courageous. We said we exist to save lives, all lives. We said we believe that Black lives matter. We said if society isn’t healthy, no one is healthy. And we said we have zero tolerance for racism, and I think it was very bold and very appropriate that we did that.

Caulkins: What do you feel we can look forward to in 2020?

Blackmon: As hard and sad as all this systemic racism is, it feels like there’s a movement to push us forward, to do more as people. My prayer and my hope is that this movement doesn’t stop. That’s something that keeps me up at night — that we’ll become complacent. People have said to me, “We’re good now. Can we stop?” And I say, “Stop what? When do people stop changing? When does the world stop?” At Novant Health, I know we’re not going to stop, no matter what.

If you’d like to support the work of Novant Health, consider a contribution today.

Your gifts play a role in all the lifesaving care we provide across our organization, during one of the most challenging times in recent history. People need us, and we need you.

Donate now


The power of food in a time of need

How one gift is pulling double duty, providing meals for front-line workers while supporting hard-hit local businesses

Good food brings people together. So does the mission of saving lives. Wallace & Graham PA has found an innovative way to combine the two while supporting local Salisbury restaurants. 

Since April 1, the Salisbury-based law practice has provided lunches for about 25 team members at the respiratory assessment center at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, where drive-by COVID-19 testing is being conducted. The meals have come primarily from small businesses in downtown Salisbury, such as Sidewalk Deli and Go Burrito.

“It certainly made sense that they not have to go out in the middle of their shifts and try to worry about what they’re eating or drinks or whatever they might need,” said Mona Lisa Wallace, a partner at Wallace & Graham. “We decided that this would be a wonderful project for us to support them — providing their meals during this time when they are giving so much of themselves, while also helping downtown Salisbury and the local restaurants who have been suffering financially because of COVID-19.”

The meals have been a welcome morale boost for the staff, who are performing dozens of tests a day in all kinds of weather conditions. Many are living away from home to avoid spreading the virus to their families. To date, their gift has totaled more than $10,000.

“This is a big stress reducer and an opportunity for team members to have levity and fun during their break,” said Rick Parker, executive director of the Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation. “We really appreciate Wallace & Graham volunteering to do this.”

The firm has deep roots in Rowan County and with the Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation. It also has a keen interest in medical screening in the community. “It’s always been a goal of ours to improve healthcare and to make it more affordable for people in this county,” Wallace said.

Notably, the firm and the Wallace family provided the lead gifts in the foundation’s ongoing capital campaign to build a state-of-the-art treatment center that consolidates all Novant Health Rowan Medical Center cancer services into one beautiful facility at a convenient location. The Wallace Cancer Institute, which is slated to open its doors in August, will provide leading-edge treatment and personalized, patient-centered care, particularly for women with breast cancer.

“The Wallace Cancer Institute is going to be a magnet for cancer treatment in our community, in that you can stay local and receive the best care in the country,” said Bill Graham, a partner at Wallace & Graham and chairman of the Rowan Medical Center Foundation Board. “Here, you’re going to be a name and a person, not a number.”