The Athens Chamber of Commerce typically announces its annual Citizen of the Year award around this time, recognizing an individual who has made a significant contribution to the betterment of the community. However, since COVID-19 so profoundly impacted all aspects of life in 2020, one person simply wouldn’t do.
Instead, the Chamber has named Athens and Henderson County Healthcare Heroes as its Citizens of the Year, which includes not only doctors and nurses, but administrators and support staff as well.
Typically, nominees are selected by a committee, which consists of the five previous Citizens of the Year, and public opinion. This year that was not an option and the group decided to highlight health care workers as a unit.
“We just loved the idea,” said Steve Barksdale, Citizen of the Year 2018. “We are excited about recognizing these citizens who have been in the trenches for us and have earned the right to be Citizens of the Year for years to come. “
The committee wanted to make sure everyone involved was recognized to thank them for being resilient and serving our community with bravery and dedication in spite of great adversity.
“The administrators, doctors, nurses, first responders and support staff with different things,” Barksdale said. “We have clinical people in the labs, the non-clinicals having to keep things clean, first responders going into patients homes even if they are dying from COVID with no protection. They just go in there and pick them up with an ambulance or helicopter.
“The fear factor is there. Do they go home and think, ‘Do I have it? Will I give it to my family?’ We didn’t want to leave anyone out.”
Barksdale expressed the heartbreaking nature of being a physician in a small town.
“They have been heartbroken to see this happen to their friends,” he said. “We’ve lost several doctors, you try to help people and can’t, but they keep going back to work.”
This will be the first of a series featuring the six categories highlighted in this year’s award including: doctors, nurses, administration, clinical staff, non-clinical staff and first responders.
Watch future editions of the Athens Daily Review and our homepage at www.athensreview.com for profiles on each category.