Health Victories

Monthly SHINE Awards spotlight endoscopy/GI motility

Written by Natalie Walters

At the beginning of 2023, there was a great deal of staff turnover within the Advanced Endoscopy Center(AEC) and the Digestive Health Clinic (DHC).  The attrition included a manager in each unit, as well as several seasoned staff members from both areas.  A single interim manager was put in place to help both units; recognize operational deficiencies, and to help rebuild staffing and morale with each respective unit.

As a unit, we recognized that we had several areas of opportunity: 1) to increase the access our patients have to our services, 2) to improve our department culture and community, and 3) to increase our departmental efficiency.  First and foremost, we reviewed all our numerous operational opportunities, and recognized that this would be addressed best by forming a collaborative effort that Included an interdisciplinary approach to tackle each improvement opportunity we uncovered.  We collectively formed the AEC task force, a group that included members of Executive leadership, Revenue Cycle, Nursing, Physicians, PFCC representation, AUMA leadership,  Operational Excellence, and many others. This group’s mission was to work together collaboratively, have honest and frank conversations regarding our performance, and determine how best to address our presented opportunities for improvement.

Through this team’s efforts , we made great strides in improving some key metrics:

Operational Efficiency:

  • Improved first case on-time starts from 24% base line to our highest of 82%
  • Improved our inventory management
  • Organized equipment supply to optimize based on staff needs and staff use
  • Improved patient access
  • Improved access to new appointments by 59 days
  • Improved access to return appointments by 30 days
  • Regularly review our data and to ensure compliance with the interventions we approved
  • Decreased procedure cancellations
  • Increased our contact with patients to ensure compliance with bowel preps and appointment reminders
  • Stood up a pre-anesthesia assessment process for our patients, reducing the number of same days cancelations
  • Scheduling improvements
  • Introduction of an electronic directive process to reduce errors and increase transparency

We have also made significant improvements in staff satisfaction and built a positive culture and work environment.

Culture and Community:

  • Reduced our staff vacancy rate from 60% to 15%
  • Began publishing a staff newsletter to provide updates and improve intradepartmental communication
  • Have regular interdisciplinary huddles
  • Have Fun Fridays, i.e. Shark Week (see attached photo)
  • Developed cross-training initiatives with other units to assist during staffing shortages

We are all so proud of this team, and how far we have come.  We recognize there are more opportunities to address, and we are excited to continue our improvement efforts.


Elizabeth Myricks- Jenkins- Front Desk

Hi, I am Elizabeth Myricks-Jenkins. I have been working in Digestive Health as a Registration Specialist for a little over a year. I have one daughter who is 9 years old. She’s, my world. My favorite color is PURPLE.  My favorite hobby is spending time with my daughter and making memories with her.

LeEsther Williams- PCT

Hello, my name is LeEsther Williams. I started working here at the hospital in 2015. I worked in the NICU as a PCT then I became the unit clerk. I came to Endoscopy in May of this year as their PCT. I really love taking care of people whether it’s here or outside of my job. I have two amazing young men and two beautiful granddaughters which I love very much. Thanks for nominating me for this award.

Anthony Lowe- Gastro Tech

Thanks for reaching out! My name is Anthony Lowe, my work title is a gastroenterology technician. I’ve been in this position for about seven years. I am 10 years happily married with five young ladies ages are 25, 23, 22, 19, 18 and a newborn grandson. I played and love sports, so I’m always watching a sports game as my hobby.

Jean Marie Evringham- Senior RN

Hello, my name is Jean Marie Evringham RN CCRN  Thank you for nominating me for the SHINE award. I have worked at Wellstar MCG healthcare since March 2015 in the CCU unit and came to Endoscopy GI motility unit in February 2018. My husband, Keith, and I live on a 15-acre farm near Aiken, South Carolina. We have our beloved dog, Molly, three horses and five cats. We love spending time together outdoors!! I especially love riding my horses and participating in my church with my husband Keith!! I love my work family and the patients I meet daily. P.S. My other love ❤️ yes, volunteering at the Aiken county animal shelter. These animals are wonderful and help humans to heal in all ways!

Ashley Morgan- LPN

Hi, my name is Ashley Morgan, and I am a Sr. LPN here at the Digestive Health Center Endoscopy unit. I have been here 15 years and am very passionate about GI.  We have an amazing team here at the DHC and I am very blessed and honored to shine with so many great people.

Karmen Elsen- PA-C

My name is Karmen Elsen and I am a PA at the Digestive Health Clinic at Augusta University. I graduated the Augusta University PA Program in 2019 and have been with DHC team for the past four years. I am married to my husband of six years and we have a son, Parker, who just turned two. I love spending time with my family and friends. As a physician assistant, I love getting to know my patients and strive to ensure they are pleased with the care they receive at the DHC.

Cynthia Dority- OR Assistant

My name is Cynthia Dority I am a Operating room assistant, I have been working with this department for 3 months. I am currently married, have been married for 12 years, I have 4 kids and 2 grandkids. In my spare time I like to travel.

Erin Powers- RN

My name is Erin Powers and I am from Charlotte, NC. I attended UNC Charlotte where I played softball and obtained a degree in Psychology. I then went to nursing school at Carolinas College of Health Sciences. I also obtained my BSN from Winston Salem State University. I moved to North Augusta, SC in May of this year. I have been a nurse for almost four years. I started my career in cardiac and have recently made the change to endoscopy, which I am loving! I am constantly learning in this new area and am excited for my future here. Thank you for the nomination!

Jamie Luke- Assistant Nurse Manager

I’m Jamie. I’ve been an RN at AU, now Wellstar MCG, since 2016 and am an alum of AU CON. I joined Endoscopy this May as the Assistant Nurse Manager. I really enjoy being a part of this team who work together to provide amazing care for our patients. I also enjoy live music and going to the beach.

LaJune Archie-Howard- CMA

CMA-Patient Navigator/Triage (six yrs. in Digestive Health/five months in this position)


Married with three children, two Grandchildren and one dog

Passion: Feeding and Clothing the Homeless Community

Hobbies: Shopping, Shooting Pool, Watching Sports

Dr. Viveksandeep Thoguluva Chandrasekar for GI

Dr. Viveksandeep Thoguluva Chandrasekar earned his medical degree from Madras Medical College in Chennai, India. Upon graduation, he completed his Internal Medicine residency at SUNY Upstate Medical University from Syracuse, New York, and Gastroenterology & Hepatology fellowship at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. He went on to pursue additional fellowship training in Interventional and Therapeutic Endoscopy at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. He joined the faculty at Medical College of Georgia/ Augusta University in 2021 as Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. His primary interest and focus are in advanced endoscopy and improving the volume and types of procedures offered at Wellstar MCG Health.

Dr. Janie McKenzie for MIS

Jaine McKenzie is an assistant professor of surgery who specializes in minimally invasive and bariatric surgery. She graduated from Florida State University College of Medicine and completed general surgery residency at MCG. After residency, she went to Vanderbilt University for a fellowship in minimally invasive and bariatric surgery. She is happy to be back in Augusta and be a part of MCG faculty. She enjoys teaching residents and students and is the associate clerkship director for general surgery. Outside of work, she enjoys taking walks, traveling, and spending time with her husband, Andy.

Lori Boswell- CRNA

Lori Boswell is a CRNA at WellStar MCG Health who has been practicing anesthesia for over nine years. She graduated from the Medical College of Georgia in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and again in 2013 with a Master of Science in Nursing Anesthesia. After graduation, she began working in the main OR and now works in the digestive health center in endoscopy and interventional pulmonology.
Lori enjoys spending time with her friends and family, especially her two young children, whose various sports activities keep her busy. She also enjoys Georgia football and beach vacations.

Tamiko Burnett- Huff- Unit Clerk

Hello, my name is Tamiko Burnett-Huff. I work as a Scheduler/Unit Clerk in the Professional Building in Endoscopy. I have five wonderful children and six grandchildren.  I have had the pleasure of working here for 25 years. I am very thankful for this award. My hobbies include playing bingo, spending time with my family and going to church on Sunday.  I am very thankful to be nominated for the Shine Award.

Daniel Ciccio- Nurse Manager

I am Daniel Ciccio, the nurse manager for the Advanced Endoscopy Center and the Digestive Health Center.  I am fortunate enough to work with some of the very best Nurses, CMA’s, PCT’s, Physicians, APP’s  CRNA’s, GI Techs, Dietitians, Unit clerks and front desk staff and operational excellence specialists in this organization.  Everyday, each one of these individuals come to work and give their all, putting others over themselves to meet the needs of our patients.  I am humbled and honored to serve alongside each one of these ladies and gentlemen.  As a team, we have made great strides to transform our department to the Premier Digestive Health Center in the CSRA .  Although we have not fully accomplished our mission, we are making headway, and I am beaming with pride to have such a wonderful staff dedicated to the cause.

Brianica Collier – Interventional pulmonology

First off, I am grateful for any acknowledgments that are received.  My name is Brianica Collier. I am the Lead Pulmonary Function technologists over the adult and pediatric Pulmonary function labs.  I am also the lead over the Interventional Pulmonary Bronchoscopy team here at Wellstar MCG Health. I am an alumnus from the Respiratory therapy Program here at Augusta University, in which I graduated in 2012, and have called Wellstar MCG Health my work home ever since.  I started out on the Adult critical care side working nights in Respiratory care department in September 2012, where I met some great people and I’ve built relationships in the institution for 6 ½ years.  In 2018, I transitioned to the Adult Pulmonary Function lab as a pulmonary function technologist, and with a lot of growth, transitioned into becoming the lead of the department.  This is the time in which I realized that many of the people we see, with every day’s questions and who are looking for answers, begin with a story and a simple blowing test that can change the course of their entire life. With the experiences I have had, I have grown to love the position I am in with the purpose that it provides, which is why I have  continued strong in this department for the past five years, making this my 11th year here at the hospital.  I currently am married with one daughter, two sons that I have come to love, and two fur babies.  My favorite hobby is a good vacation with fun people, good energy, and lots of love with laughter.  I don’t like to brag on myself and sometimes become shy if others compliment me, but I truly want to say that I am thankful for the position that I am in, because the work I do helps people to get answers and the treatment that they need.  I can truly say that every day, I live on purpose with a purpose, and I am happy that someone saw enough strength and courage in me to present me with the opportunities that I have been given.  Thank you again, and congratulations to all past, current, and future Shine award winners!