Health & Hospital Association Announces 2020 Meritorious Service, Special Recognition Award Winners

MHA News Release

The Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) announced the winners of its Meritorious Service and Special Recognition awards June 25, honoring physicians, healthcare executives and legislators for their extensive contributions to health and healthcare. Robert Connors, MD, was chosen as the winner of the MHA Meritorious Service Award, the association’s highest achievement award. 

Receiving the MHA Special Recognition Award are Duke Anderson, recently retired president and CEO of Hillsdale Hospital; Gwen MacKenzie, president and CEO, First Step of Sarasota (FL) and former market executive and senior vice president, Ascension; Anthony Tedeschi, MD, former CEO, Detroit Medical Center; U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D); and State Rep. Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.).

Normally presented during the MHA Annual Membership Meeting traditionally held on Mackinac Island, this year’s awards will be individually presented at a later time.

Meritorious Service Award winner Robert Connors, MD, was president of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Grand Rapids, from 2005 until his retirement in January. For the previous 15 years, he was the hospital’s director of pediatric surgery, director of pediatric trauma services and director of surgery services. The hospital is a member of Spectrum Health, where Connors helped integrate a high reliability culture systemwide and offered high reliability training sessions to other healthcare professionals. During his tenure, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital built and occupied its current building that is dedicated solely to children’s health. 

Connors has served on the MHA Keystone Center Board of Directors and the MHA Council on Children’s Health and was an important contributor to the MHA Keystone Center’s first Safe Table for pediatrics. He received a 2015 MHA Keystone Center Patient Safety & Quality Leadership Award, was recognized in 2013 by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of the top “50 Experts Leading the Field of Patient Safety” and was awarded the 2011 National Patient Safety Foundation’s Chairman’s Medal. He has also served on the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation Board, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Committee, Spectrum Health Board of Trustees and the Children’s Hospital Association Quality and Safety Committee. 

Special Recognition Award winner Duke Anderson recently retired after 14 years as president and CEO of Hillsdale Hospital. Anderson was named the hospital’s first president emeritus, honoring his past contributions and signifying his future advisory role.

Anderson helped develop a community health needs assessment in Hillsdale County that resulted in numerous public health initiatives. Under his leadership, Hillsdale Hospital built a new birthing center when many rural obstetrics departments were closing. 

A strong advocate of Medicaid expansion and access to safe, high-quality surgical care, Anderson has testified before the Michigan Senate Health Policy and other legislative committees. He worked with the hospital board to pass a resolution of “Zero Harm” for patients and build a highly reliable organization. 

The MHA is one of many organizations where Anderson has volunteered. He was a member of the MHA Board of Trustees for three years, served for eight years on the MHA Small or Rural Hospital Council and on the MHA Quality and Accountability Committee for four years. 

He appeared in the annual list of Top Rural Health CEOs to Know published by Becker’s Hospital Review for six consecutive years. The hospital is further recognizing him by building the Anderson Pavilion adjacent to its campus.

Gwen MacKenzie recently took the helm of First Step of Sarasota, a provider of addiction recovery programs. She has more than 30 years of experience leading complex healthcare organizations, including four years as market president of Ascension Health Michigan, where her innovative leadership helped transform it from an acute care hospital model to one of statewide integration and population health. She was integral to developing the statewide clinically integrated Together Health Network and was recognized by Crain's Detroit Business as one of the Most Influential Women in Michigan 2016.

Previously serving more than 25 years at the Detroit Medical Center, MacKenzie progressed at the DMC from advanced practice nurse practitioner through clinical management to chief operating officer, also serving as president of several DMC hospitals and as interim CEO of the system. For nine years, she was CEO of Florida-based Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. 

MacKenzie has had board experience in several states on public, elected and nonprofit boards. She has supported the MHA as a member of the Legislative Policy Committee, the Quality and Compliance Committee and the MHA Board of Trustees. Since 2018, she has been the inaugural chair of the MHA Service Corporation Board of Directors. 

Anthony Tedeschi, MD, recently retired from the Detroit Medical Center after serving three years as the system’s CEO. With more than 20 years of operational and clinical healthcare leadership experience, he previously held executive roles in Tenet Healthcare’s Chicago market and was chief operating officer at Chicago-based Cook County Health & Hospitals System. He is also a board-certified family medicine physician.

Under his leadership, the Detroit Medical Center expanded its residency program, enhanced its clinical research program and opened a 185,000 square foot tower at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Tedeschi was recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Clinical Leaders In both 2018 and 2019 and has been recognized several times as a “hospital and health system physician leader to know” by Becker’s Healthcare.

Tedeschi has held volunteer leadership roles for youth programs in his community and with outreach healthcare organizations working in developing countries. He was involved with the MHA as an active member of the Board of Trustees from July 2017 until his retirement and served on the Participating Hospital Agreement Advisory Board. He has been a strong supporter of the Healthy Michigan Plan and the MHA’s efforts to defend auto no-fault insurance protections.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters has represented Michigan in the Senate since 2015. He previously served Michiganders as both a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a state senator. A longtime supporter of affordable healthcare, Peters advocated for funding to be included in the Affordable Care Act to address hospitals’ increasing Medicaid caseloads and uncompensated care costs. 

As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure an allotment of personal protective equipment was quickly supplied to the state for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also advocated for providing more funding than was initially proposed through the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which ultimately provided $100 billion for the nation’s hospitals and healthcare workers. He then fought for and helped secure $75 billion in emergency health system funding, including support for hospitals and personal protective equipment, as part of a subsequent relief package. Early in the pandemic, he called on the Trump administration to use the Defense Production Act to address widespread shortages in medical supplies. 

Rep. Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) is serving her second term in the Michigan House of Representatives and is the minority vice chair on the House Select Committee on Reducing Car Insurance Rates and the Energy Committee. She also serves on the Tax Policy Committee and the
Insurance Committee, which deliberates on various issues related to insurance, including private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, auto insurance and more.

Lasinski is a healthcare champion and a key supporter of MHA priorities. She co-sponsored legislation to codify patient protections from the Affordable Care Act into state law. She voted for the 2019-2020 supplemental budget that secured the first outpatient Medicaid fee increase since 2002 and provided $25 million to support healthcare during the COVID-19 response. As the Legislature debated reform of Michigan’s longstanding auto no-fault insurance law, Lasinski advocated for solutions that would guarantee rate relief while maintaining full personal injury protection coverage for drivers. She also supported full transparency in auto insurance and fought to end the use of nondriving factors in setting insurance rates.