Honoring Champions of Health Care

Recognizing those that have made a difference healthcare safety net with the 2023 Champions of Heath Care Awards.

The VAFCC is excited to present the 2023 Champions of Health Care Awards, an opportunity to honor and recognize individuals that have made a real difference in Virginia's health safety net. The recipeints are recognized as remarkable leaders in their community who have made a significant contribution, support, and commitment in a Virginia-based free and charitable clinics.  

Administrative Champion: Misty Ladd, Augusta Regional Dental Clinic
Misty Ladd has been with the Augusta Regional Dental Clinic since 2016, first as a dental assistant, then Office Manager and currently as the Director of Operations. As a native of Augusta County, Misty understands the community's needs as well as the challenges individuals face daily. Misty became the Office Manager just as the clinic was going through significant changes and challenges during COVID-19 pandemic. When the clinic embarked on an expansion project, Misty went well beyond her office manager role, wearing many hats. She helped secure funds, organized fundraising events, trained new staff, onboarded volunteers, managed unforeseen problems and ensured the clinic could fulfill its mission to serve patients. Beyond her professionalism and positivity with patients, her dedication, energy and chairside manner are what make her special. Because of her background as a dental assistant, Misty is often filling in for sick colleagues or team members on vacation. Over a three-month period, Misty helped save nearly 350 appointments that the clinic would have had to cancel due to staffing issues. Misty does not see patients as cases or numbers and treats everyone who steps into the clinic with dignity and respect. Thanks to Misty's professionalism, integrity and drive, partners and the community see Augusta Regional Dental Clinic as a dynamic, reliable, trustworthy, and committed organization.
Behavioral Health Champion: Muriel Azria-Evans, PhD, CFLE, CRC, LPC, CCTP, Health Brigade
Dr. Muriel Azria-Evans is the Director of the Mental Health & Wellness Department at Health Brigade. Since being with Health Brigade, where she started as an intern nine years ago, Dr. Azria-Evans has built an exceptional mental health and wellness program that incorporates a small staff, diverse interns from various schools and volunteer licensed counselors. Her dedication to person-centered and trauma-informed integrated care is demonstrated through the service structures she has built and her collaborative work across the agency with medical, case management and health outreach staff. Under her leadership, Health Brigade's Mental Health & Wellness program has continued to grow and meet the changing needs of free clinic patients and other vulnerable community members, especially people in the Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities. Health Brigade's Latinx Mental Health Program is now thriving as one of the few resources in the area that serves Spanish and Portuguese free clinic patients. Dr. Azria-Evans also played an essential role in supporting the launch of the Virginia Telemental Health Initiative, which is now incorporating a model like Health Brigade's mental health program by connecting uninsured Virginians with virtual mental health services through the state's free clinics. Dr. Azria-Evans is engaging, collaborative and inspiring. The commitment she has shown to the mental and behavioral health field has been felt by a multitude of individuals throughout her tenure at Health Brigade and beyond.
Dental Champion – Sharon Gorman, Free Clinic of Powhatan
Sharon is a retired dental hygienist whose dedication to improving oral health for vulnerable people has left an indelible mark on her community. What sets Sharon apart is not just her clinical excellence or the warmth she brings to patient care, but also her passion for oral health education. She takes the time to educate her patients on proper dental hygiene practices, empowering them to take control of their oral health. Sharon makes patients feel comfortable and valued. She consistently goes above and beyond, ensuring that each patient in her chair receives the highest standard of care. Sharon's exceptional dedication to volunteering her time and expertise has not only transformed the lives of countless individuals within Powhatan, but also those in neighboring counties. Her volunteer hours are instrumental in allowing the Free Clinic of Powhatan to provide crucial services without compromising the quality of care it offers. Sharon has embarked on more than a dozen mission trips to Nicaragua, where she provided dental care and education to indigent populations. She has also collaborated with the Boys & Girls Club to provide dental screenings, ensuring that even in her local community, vulnerable populations receive the care they deserve. Sharon's passion, dedication and altruism make her an exceptional asset to Powhatan Free Clinic and Virginia's healthcare safety net.
Funding Champion: Nancy and James Dykeman, Gloucester Mathews Care Clinic
Nancy and James Dykeman's steadfast support of the Gloucester Mathews Care Clinic is creating generous ripple effects in their community. Nancy joined the clinic's board in 2011 with a focus on generating new financial resources to address operating and capital needs for the short and long term. Nancy's husband James has worked alongside her every step of the way, volunteering at numerous fundraising and campaign event. Both have never slowed down. Nancy helped establish the clinic's “Community Health Partner” program, which enables local businesses and individuals to contribute $2,500 or more annually to support the organization's three special events. Today, the program has grown to 19 partners contributing just over $116,000 each year. The Dykemans are committed to the long-term sustainability of the clinic. Nancy's fundraising efforts during a capital campaign in 2012 helped the clinic purchase its current location and increased organizational capacity to serve more patients. Both Nancy and James regularly recruit individuals in the community to support the Gloucester Mathews Care Clinic. Together, the Dykemans have volunteered more than 3,500 hours with the clinic. Their ongoing efforts and commitment and helping to ensure greater health care access in Gloucester and Mathews counties for generations to come.
Leadership Champion: Janine Underwood, Bradley Free Clinic
Janine Underwood is committed to improving and supporting the wellbeing of the entire Roanoke Valley. As executive director of the Bradley Free Clinic in Roanoke, Janine leads with compassion, innovation and dedication. She helped launch the HOPE Initiative in 2016, a program that incorporates Certified Peer Recovery Specialists with lived experience to provide support for people navigating addiction. The program has successfully supported more than 2,000 individuals on their journey toward recovery and is being replicated at free clinics across Virginia. Janine is a solution-oriented leader who is helping bridge gaps in healthcare access. During her tenure, she secured funding for a full-time medical provider to expand service hours at the clinic. When a local mental health provider closed its doors, Janine worked to find the space, people and resources at Bradley to provide care for patients. She helped welcome Medicaid patients to the clinic as well. Janine's patient-first approach, tenacity and leadership is bringing lasting and positive change to the Roanoke community.
Medical Champion: Dr. Pamela Richardson, GoochlandCares
Dr. Pamela Richardson's legacy as a champion in health care continues to inspire the Goochland community. Dr. Richardson recently retired from the GoochlandCares after 17 years of caring for patients. Every day, Dr. Richardson brought compassion and dignity to patients in her role as staff physician. She listened intently and cared deeply through every interaction with clients. “Her commitment does not stop at individual patient care,” said GoochlandCares Executive Director Sally Graham. “Dr. Richardson's enthusiasm to collaborate, be it with the medical team, dental professionals, or mental health specialist, emphasizes her holistic approach to health. Her tireless advocacy for her patients reinforces the fact that she doesn't just treat conditions; she champions the cause of her patients' overall well-being.” Dr. Richardson came to GoochlandCares after experiencing her own medical challenges in 1998. She retired from private practice and later was connected to the clinic through a church friend. Dr. Richardson said, “For me, this is a healing place and it started with my healing. This place brought me back to life. I found not just my calling, but my place.” Over the years, Dr. Richardson provided exceptional medical care, advocated for patients and displayed an unwavering dedication to the health of her community. She shines brightly and is a remarkable example of a healer and caregiver.

Pharmaceutical Champion: James Black, Bradley Free Clinic
James Black has been an unstoppable advocate for underserved populations in the Roanoke Valley for more than three decades. James volunteered with the Bradley Free Clinic for 25 years before his current role as pharmacist. Thanks to his tireless efforts, James is helping Bradley and other free clinics around Virginia reach more patients with critical medications. During his time at the clinic, James helped transform the clinic's pharmacy into a one-stop destination for over 20 different vaccines. He also created a program with Feeding Southwest Virginia to provide fresh produce to clients during diabetic management appointments. He fostered a transformative partnership with Fralin Free Clinic to help its patients access prescriptions at a discounted cost from Bradley. James is a committed advocate for the healthcare safety net and its future workforce. He is quick to share his expertise and knowledge with other free clinic partners and served on the Rx Partnership Board of Directors for six years. James hosts about eight pharmacy students from Virginia Commonwealth University and the Appalachian School of Pharmacy annually. In addition, he has volunteered with the Medical Reserve Corps and the local Sheriff's Office during Drug Take Back campaigns.
Social Support Champion: Grace Barthold, ODU Community Care Clinic
Grace Barthold is known for her empathetic and compassionate approach, and hugs at Old Dominion University's Community Care Clinic at the People in Need (PiN) Ministry in Virginia Beach. As a behavioral health clinical social worker at the clinic, Grace supports patients living in homelessness who have difficulty with access to primary and acute medical care. She is making a remarkable difference in the lives of clients and works side by side with a nurse-led, interprofessional team. Grace builds trust with clients which helps them feel comfortable returning to the clinic to continue accessing care – when they come back, patients often ask for Grace and a hug. Thanks to her support, the clinic has grown from four hours a week to 24 hours a week since opening in 2021. Along with her clinical responsibilities, Grace volunteered to lead the clinic's telehealth initiative. The program is helping more patients reach difficult to access specialists through telehealth. She also mentors students in a variety of healthcare fields. Grace is an invaluable member of the clinic team, and she is making an extraordinary impact on the health of people in the Virginia Beach community.
Honorees will be publicly recognized during the 30th Anniversary Luncheon this November 16. We hope you'll join us in recognizing leaders in our community who make a true impact on the health and quality of life in Virginia.


A Lifesaving Investment

Working towards a Virginia where all people have access to comprehensive, quality healthcare by supporting and advocating for our member clinics so that hardworking individuals and families are protected from healthcare crises.