2018 Cardinal Leads Award Winners: Variano, Lavender, Jacobs, Gates and DeMent


Each year, employees who embody Cardinal Innovations Healthcare's core values in ways that have a high impact on the organization, our employees and our members are selected from several nominations to receive the Cardinal Leads Award. Our core values include accountability, courage, compassion, integrity and pioneering.

The winners can come from any department and are role models, setting an example for others to follow in keeping high standards and championing Cardinal Innovations' values. This year's winners received their awards at the 2018 All-Employee Leadership Conference on May 23.

This year's award winners are:

Jeanne Variano, Administrative Support Professional, Northern Region

Morgan Lavender, MH/SUD Care Coordination Manager, Southern Region

Shadale Jacobs, Access Manager

Shawnte Gates, Post Transition Care Coordinator for TCL, Triad Region

Gina DeMent, Community Engagement Specialist, Northern Region

Jeanne Variano

As an Administrative Support Professional in Five County in Cardinal Innovations' Northern Region, Jeanne Variano demonstrates exemplary customer service skills with both internal and external customers. She always has a positive attitude and a can-do spirit.

Variano frequently volunteers for tasks outside of her day-to-day duties and if she is assigned an unfamiliar task, she will seek out resources to accomplish that task.

Trusted by her peers and the management team, she demonstrates a high level of accountability and commitment to the organization's mission, vision and values. Through her commitment and drive, she demonstrates a clear understanding that every role within the organization impacts the life of an individual in the communities Cardinal Innovations' serves.

Variano has taken advantage of every opportunity to develop professionally and is part of a leadership group of clinical staff responsible for the development and improvement of departmental processes. She has emerged as a strong leader that her team trusts, acknowledging the wisdom and the skill set that she brings to the group.

Morgan Lavender

Morgan Lavender, Regional Manager of MHSUD Care Coordination in the Southern Region, received the Cardinal Leads Award for her efforts to continuously think of ways to make operations more efficient in her department, exploring how to influence system changes to enhance member care, and researching leadership opportunities for her supervisors and staff.

Lavender works tirelessly to help support and guide staff in the ever-changing world of Care Coordination. She offers not only encouragement, but is always available for staff. She always steps “up to the plate" when projects are initiated.

There is a quote that describes the leader that she has become: “Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire teammates and customers."

Lavender's approach to her work, her passion for the members we support and the impact she has on those fortunate enough to work around her are embodied in this quote.

Shadale Jacobs

Access Manager Shadale Jacobs was recognized with a Cardinal Leads Award this year for whole-heartedly embracing the vision of shifting the Cardinal Culture. She consistently seeks opportunities to improve herself and her team, at the same time supporting the overall organization in her work as a Cultural Ambassador.

Jacobs works to ensure that her team does what is needed to help members or community stakeholders, keeping the focus centered on the best interests of Cardinal Innovations' members.

She holds herself to a high standard and demonstrates a strong commitment to collaborating with others and helping Cardinal Innovations to be the best that it can be.

Jacobs also consistently seeks opportunities for improvement and engages others in this process for input. She willingly shares ideas with others including lessons learned and successes. She is a true team player and will take on new projects or tasks with a friendly smile and a positive attitude.

Shawnte Gates

As a Post Transition Care Coordinator for Transitions to Community Living (TCL) in the Triad Region, Shawnte Gates was recognized with the Cardinal Leads Award for always stepping up to the plate and enthusiastically sharing her knowledge with others. She is not afraid to ask difficult questions and provides honest feedback that has contributed to the ongoing development of her team.

She is driven and will use every resource available to go above and beyond what is expected of her. She takes everything in stride and never complains, no matter how daunting the task.

Gates holds herself to the highest standard and this is evident in the work that she does to support Cardinal Innovations' members and our team. She remains compassionate toward members even when they don't seem up to a difficult task.

She has been a great source of support to colleagues as well as members, consistently stepping in to assist her peers with completing tasks and providing guidance, easing pressure amongst the team and positively affecting the well-being of Cardinal Innovations' members.

Gina DeMent

A Community Engagement Specialist in Five County, Gina DeMent was recognized for her commitment to providing excellent customer service, embodying the Cardinal Innovations' philosophy of community-based service, and creating unique and genuine relationships with her community partners.

She was recognized by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services as a North Carolina Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Hero for helping combine MHFA and Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for first responders in the Five County area. Recently, she and a co-worker were recognized at the National Council for Behavioral Health's MHFA Instructor Summit as Top 100 Trainers of All Time for each teaching more than 100 courses.

She never wavered when responding to an “SOS" from the NC Military and Veteran Liaison program after one of their own committed suicide. Her quick actions have resulted in an opportunity to train upwards of 1,700 federal prison employees in MHFA and Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR).
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