Honors and Excellence, Our People

“Healthcare Heroes” honored for remarkable care, leadership, and service during the pandemic

Seven M Health Fairview employees have been recognized as Health Care Heroes this year by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal for their work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • April 05, 2021
  • By Staff Writer

M Health Fairview is proud to announce that seven people from across our healthcare system have been recognized as inaugural Health Care Heroes by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

The magazine launched its newly created Healthcare Heroes awards program in 2021 to honor healthcare workers’ remarkable efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Honorees were chosen across 11 different categories, ranging from Innovator to Medical Research to Health Equity Champion. M Health Fairview had more Healthcare Heroes this year than any other health system in Minnesota.

Our 2021 honorees include:

  • Chief Quality Officer Abraham Jacob, MD, MHA
  • Cultural Broker Lwepaw Kacher
  • Infectious Disease Physician Susan Kline, MD, MPH
  • Health Unit Coordinator Alex Leal
  • Critical Care Surgeon Chris Tignanelli, MD, MS
  • Community Paramedic Angela Townsend, CMPA, NRP
  • Registered Nurse Laura Triplett, RN

Scroll down to learn more about each winner, their award, and their exceptional work advancing frontline care during a global pandemic.

Chief Quality Officer Abraham Jacob, MD, MHA

Category: Health Care Executive — Hospital-based
This award honors an executive of a Twin Cities-based hospital with a track record of vision and leadership within the organization and community. 

Protecting patients and healthcare workers during the pandemic required a bold vision and rapid decision-making as M Health Fairview navigated national medical equipment supply shortages and adapted to an evolving understanding of COVID-19. Chief Quality Officer Abraham Jacob, MD, MHA, played an integral role in our ability to meet these challenges. In the early months of the pandemic, Jacob led the development of critical safety measures, including personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution, guidelines around PPE use, and COVID-19 testing. More recently, he has helped oversee efforts to safely, efficiently, and equitably vaccinate employees and patients for COVID-19. Thanks to Jacob’s leadership and commitment to a “Safety Always” culture throughout the organization, M Health Fairview was the first health system in Minnesota to implement universal masking early in the pandemic.

Infectious Disease Physician Susan Kline, MD, MPH

Category: Medical Researcher
This award honors a physician-scientist or research scientist working in the Twin Cities and making great strides within his or her research specialty. 

Infectious Disease Physician Susan Kline, MD, MPH, also serves as the interim division director for infectious diseases and international medicine at University of Minnesota Medical School. She served as a principal investigator on critically important clinical trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to those trials, patients and families in Minnesota had early access to important new treatments that have proven to be lifesaving. Her vital work has contributed to better survival outcomes for COVID-19 patients statewide. Kline and her researchers continue to develop and conduct trials for promising treatments that may help us better understand how to prevent, treat, and recover from a COVID-19 infection.

Cultural Broker Lwepaw Kacher

Category: Health Equity Champion
This award honors someone who has worked to break down inequities in health care or health care access for underserved populations or areas, including but not limited to, race, gender, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.

Like other communities of color across Minnesota, Karen people in the Twin Cities have experienced higher-than-average COVID-19 infection rates, a situation made worse by preexisting barriers to healthcare access. As a member of the Karen community, Cultural Broker Lwepaw Kacher works to reduce healthcare disparities by connecting her clients to a variety of healthcare resources. During the pandemic, she partnered with local religious and cultural leaders to convey important pandemic-related healthcare information to a broad Twin Cities audience. Her efforts to educate and inform Karen people and others about the risks of COVID-19 advanced public understanding of the disease and helped protect potentially vulnerable people.

Health Unit Coordinator Alex Leal

Category: Health Care Practitioner — Nonphysician
This award honors physician's aides, nurse practitioners, nurses, doctors of pharmacy, and clinical psychologists who stand out in their field for exceptional service within the industry and are making an impact on the Twin Cities community.

A health unit coordinator at M Health Fairview Bethesda Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alex Leal created a way to celebrate and honor COVID-19 patients who, having recovered, were leaving the hospital. He repurposed an old service bell from a storage drawer at the hospital, painted it red, and created a special sign. As each patient left the hospital, Leal and his co-workers gathered in the hallways for a happy send-off. During the gatherings, Leal held out his reimagined “Crushing COVID-19 Discharge Bell,” and let each departing patient ring the bell to mark the end of their hospital treatment. “It’s a palpable lift for everybody when you hear that tone,” Leal said. You think: ‘we got another one, someone else is going home.’”

Critical Care Surgeon Chris Tignanelli, MD, MS

Category: Health Entrepreneur
This award honors an entrepreneur in the health care or health care tech business scene who is making strides in the industry.

Critical Care Surgeon Chris Tignanelli, MD, MS, is passionate about the use of artificial intelligence and health informatics to improve healthcare. Relying his expertise, Tignanelli and a team of researchers developed an algorithm during the pandemic to identify potential COVID-19 cases based upon the results of chest x-rays. The team’s research will soon be published in an academic journal and submitted for FDA approval. Upon approval, the new algorithm will be available at no cost for more than 450 healthcare systems worldwide, which could help identify COVID-19 patients sooner while protecting healthcare workers from unintentional exposure to COVID-19.

Community Paramedic Angela Townsend, CMPA, NRP

Category: First Responder
This award honors an emergency responder who has provided exceptional service to the Twin Cities community.

Launched in 2018, our Community Paramedic Program identifies and fills gaps in traditional healthcare practices by bringing care directly to patients in the community. During the pandemic, the program’s at-home patient visits helped protect highly vulnerable people from COVID-19. Townsend, a leader in the program, made sure the people under her care had continued access to safe, helpful, and empowering medical assistance without leaving home and potentially being exposed to the virus. Often, she also found herself serving as emotional support for patients dealing with increased feelings of loneliness and isolation during the pandemic. At every step of the way, Townsend strives to provide personal care and make supportive connections with patients.

Registered Nurse Laura Triplett, RN

Category: Health Care Practitioner — Nonphysician
This award honors physician's aides, nurse practitioners, nurses, doctors of pharmacy, and clinical psychologists who stand out in their field for exceptional service within the industry and are making an impact on the Twin Cities community.

At the start of the pandemic, Registered Nurse Laura Triplett, RN, volunteered to serve at M Health Fairview Bethesda Hospital, the state’s first and only hospital fully dedicated to the care of COVID-19 patients. COVID-19 patients who passed away while hospitalized at Bethesda often couldn’t have their whole family present during their final moments. For Triplett, the idea that loved ones couldn’t spend that time together was devastating – so she created mementos for families by printing electrocardiogram (ECG) strips of deceased patients’ last heartbeats. She rolled them up neatly inside of glass jars, tied a heart token around the lid and sent them to families along with a handwritten note. Her work reached beyond hospital walls and touched the lives of countless community members, something that M Health Fairview is committed to as one of the largest healthcare providers in Minnesota.