New Values in Action monument unveiled, employees recognized

April 11, 2023
A wavy metal sculpture sits in an outdoor bed of dirt and grass. There are MUSC buildings in the background.
The bronze Values in Action sculpture features stacked blocks reaching toward the sky – symbolizing employee strengths, foundational culture and high-achieving goals. Photo by Sarah Pack

On a breezy sun-filled morning in late March, MUSC leaders and guests gathered in the green space at the center of campus behind the Colbert Education Center and Library to celebrate the special employees who have gone above and beyond in their roles at MUSC. All met in the spirit of excellence to celebrate the President’s Values in Action (VIA) Awards and the dedication of a new monument and named brick walkway. The event recognized past and present, as well as future employees, who have committed themselves to living and demonstrating MUSC’s five core values – compassion, respect, innovation, collaboration and integrity.

At the heart of the new Values in Action memorial site is an 8-foot bronze sculpture, featuring building blocks stacked on top of each other and reaching toward the sky – symbolizing employee strengths, foundational culture and high-achieving goals. 

The memorial’s design was the collaboration of President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, and the MUSC Art Committee, which included a licensed art therapist, a curatorial and design specialist, a member of the Grounds Department and a student representative. Together, they reviewed and selected the sculpture design by a local artist who would then create the art piece to symbolize the spirit of the Values in Action Awards. After reviewing more than 30 sculpture artists, the group selected Lowcountry artist Becca Barnet with Sisal Creative. 

A man in a suit stands at a podium while another man in a suit listens. They are outside. 
Dental Medicine’s Dr. Sorin Teich, 2020 Values in Action Integrity winner, shares his remarks along with MUSC President David Cole during the March 30 VIA dedication event. Photo by Sarah Pack

“Every year, employees are nominated by peers, leaders, coworkers and individuals for demonstrating one of our five values in their daily lives at work as part of the MUSC family,” said Cole, at the March 30 event. “It’s important that these individuals are recognized and honored, and their actions become examples to many others – like pebbles tossed in a pond and the first ripples that spread out. We’ve created a space where employees are publicly recognized, and people are reminded of MUSC’s five touchstones or values.” 

A highlight of the celebration included comments made by previous VIA award recipients, such as Tenelle Jones, 2022 Compassion VIA recipient, who is a mental health clinician and licensed counselor working with employees and Lowcountry patients in the community through the MUSC Resiliency Program.

“I know that I couldn’t be able to let others know how valuable they are had not MUSC embraced compassion and resilience in our community. I’m so appreciative to be here to celebrate all the hard work that our care team members do and remind them that through the hard times of COVID and short-staffing and multiple changes that affected everyone, that they matter, and I’m excited to tell everyone that,” said Jones.

2019 Respect VIA winner Lisa Watkins, who is a patient-and-family liaison with MUSC Health, spoke about how much the award means personally to her and her work.  

“The work I do for more than 25 years at MUSC is a demonstration of my love for this institution and pride I feel in my heart for the services we provide to patients and families in the community. Receiving this recognition was a surprise, as I perform my role for my love of our patients, institution and pride for what MUSC stands for – changing what’s possible. I was elated because even though we won’t admit it, it does feel good to be appreciated for the work that we do. Having Dr. and Mrs. Cole and members of my care team present and giving me that recognition meant a lot to me – and I continue to cherish it today and for years to come,” said Watkins.

Man in a blue cap and red t-shirt points to a brick with his name on it. 
2022 Values in Action Respect awardee Donnie Singleton poses by a brick bearing his name. Photo by Zheng Chia

James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine’s Soren Teich, D.M.D., the 2020 Integrity VIA recipient, was recognized for his commitment and collaborative spirit during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teich worked with a team of dental medicine colleagues, both local and nationally, to find and employ solutions for best ventilation practices, PPE use and aerosol airflow that would provide the safest environment for oral health patient care.

In accepting his VIA award, Teich remembered the special moment. “I said that although I am honored and humbled with this surprise, I accept the award on behalf of the entire team. Engaging in these efforts kept our dental program functional, graduate our dental students and residents and provide a safety net for our community. Everyone in the dental school came together toward a common goal. This recognition also shows me what MUSC is all about – compassion, collaboration, innovation, respect and integrity. Our values are nonnegotiable, and we need to cherish and manifest them on a daily basis, especially when we face a difficult situation like the pandemic,” he said. 

Lastly, Michael Sweat, Ph.D., spoke as one of the co-recipients of the inaugural VIA Impact Award. In 2021, the Coles created a special category – the Impact Award – to complement the five Values in Action Awards. They do not present the Impact Award annually, more, they award it on the rare occasion to an individual or individuals based on their exceptional work, dedication and values that uniquely affect MUSC and the greater community. The Coles presented this award to both Sweat and Cassandra Salgado, M.D., for their work and response during the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020. 

“The early months of the pandemic was a busy time for many of us. I got a front-row seat with leadership to witness how they managed this situation within the institution. Compassion, respect, innovation, collaboration and integrity is what I witnessed from both leadership as well as many unsung heroes around MUSC. And all this was happening during a time of America’s worst public health crisis since the 1918 flu epidemic. It really moved me. Today, when I look up at my office shelf and see the Values in Action plaque that was presented to me, I don’t only think how great it is to be recognized – but what it really means is what a great place MUSC really is along with its amazing people. Thank you. And thank you to everyone for what they did during the COVID epidemic and all the support I received,” said Sweat. 

The event concluded with Cole inviting the audience to walk around the memorial site, meet VIA recipients and locate bricks in the sidewalk with the names of the past 32 VIA winners while enjoying event refreshments and giveaways. 

“These bricks commemorate the current and future names of winners that will be placed. With empty bricks, there’s a lot of opportunity for all of us to move forward in excellence as an enterprise,” Cole said. 

To nominate an employee or for more information about the President’s VIA Awards, visit its web page.

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