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2024 ANA Innovation Award Winners: Engaging Communities to Combat Social Determinants of Health and Racial Disparities



Today, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Nurses Foundation (the Foundation) announced the winners of the 2024 ANA Innovation Awards sponsored by Stryker, a leading global medical technology company. The ANA Innovation Awards highlight, recognize, and celebrate exemplary nurse innovators who improve patient safety and health outcomes within their communities.

Winners of the Nurse-led Team Award: 


Wallena “Lena” Gould, EdD, CRNA, FAAN, Founder and CEO of The Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program


Mark Giles, DNP, CRNA, President of the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program


Dr. Tedrick Vernon, DNP, CRNA


Victor Pareja, DNP, CRNA, Chair of the Diversity CRNA Mock Interview Committee


Levia Sutton, CRNA, MSN, PhD Student
Chair of the Diversity CRNA Personal Statement and Review Committee


Rylee Apodaca, DNP, CRNA


Daniel Payne, DNP, CRNA, MSN


Dr. Jiale Gary Hu, PhD, RN, FAAN, Implementation Scientist

Nathaly Palacios

Nathaly Palacios, DNP, CRNA

Dr. Lena Gould is the Founder and CEO of The Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and advancing diversity within graduate nurse anesthesia programs. This is primarily accomplished through the Immersion Model for Diversifying Nurse Anesthesia Programs (The Immersion Model), an innovative, evidence-based program focused on the diversification of the nursing workforce. It was created specifically for nurses of color who have been historically underrepresented as certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs); thereby, aiming to help reduce health disparities, structural inequities, and institutional biases. The Immersion Model prepares nurses of color to be competitive applicants for graduate anesthesia programs and successful students while equipping them to provide better health outcomes for the diverse population.

For example, health disparity issues facing Black women stemming from providers’ biases include high maternal mortality rates and racial bias in pain management which would be significantly improved through a diverse nurse anesthesia workforce that will proactively address the social determinants of health. What’s unique about the Immersion Model is that it’s the only program that actively engages with HBCUs and other higher education institutions serving nurses of color. With the award funds, The Immersion Model seeks to expand its professional events for CRNAs across the country. It also seeks to replicate this successful program for Advance Practice Nurses (APRNs).

Winner of the Individual Nurse Award:


Kwamane Liddell, JD, MHA, BSN Founder & CEO of ThriveLink

Dr. Kwamane Liddell is the creative mind behind ThriveLink, an innovation designed to make enrolling in government assistance programs and community-based services easier and more accessible. Programs such as utility assistance, rental and mortgage assistance, food benefits, insurance, health care programs and more are all managed by advanced technology without any additional work for clinical staff. This means that anyone using this platform will be connected to aid and unutilized programs that are relatively unknown or unused. This innovation helps address the social determinants of health impacting many marginalized communities inevitably influencing their health outcomes. For example, food insecurity experienced by adults has been linked to a heightened risk of chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, often stemming from reliance on calorie-dense, unhealthy food options. And housing instability can pose health risks, leading to a greater likelihood of respiratory infections and mental health issues.

ThriveLink provides health consumers with a user-friendly experience by eliminating the complexities of filling out numerous required forms, and language and cultural barriers faced by many families in need. The entire process to apply for an assistance program can be completed by anyone in just four steps and is available 24/7, on a mobile phone or website. ThriveLink has already generated more than $300,000 in revenue and secured contracts with health plans responsible for the care of over 180,000 patients, influencing up to 80% of health outcomes surpassing overall health care’s 16% impact. ThriveLink plans to expand across several more counties.

“This year’s innovation award winners tackled health care disparities head on by designing solutions to address the social determinants of health as well as broader representation and diversity needs across the health care workforce,” said ANA Vice President of Nursing Innovation, Oriana Beaudet, DNP, RN, PHN. “Imagine returning to your home and community with the resources you need after hospitalization or being invited to learn more about the nursing profession through a hands-on education session and mentorship opportunity – both of these nurses are making phenomenal strides to advance health.”

Nursing innovation is incredibly important in today’s health care environment. The robust partnership between Stryker and ANA will continue to advance nurse-led innovation and solutions for the next three years.

“Stryker has learned so much from our partnership with the ANA and its nurses. It has helped us to create solutions that make a difference and accomplish our mission to make healthcare better,” said Scott Sagehorn, VP of Marketing for Stryker’s Acute Care business.

The 2024 Innovation Award recipients are receiving monetary prizes of $25,000 and $50,000, respectively. These funds support translational research, development, prototyping, production, testing, and the implementation of these innovations. The award winners will have one year to further develop their innovation and will share their outcomes and findings in 2025.

Watch the full ANA Innovation Awards ceremony here. And find out how to apply for next year’s awards cycle by visiting the ANA Innovation website, where you will also find a list of resources, upcoming events, and nurse-led innovation stories.


About the American Nurses Association
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation's more than 5 million registered nurses. ANA advances the profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting a safe and ethical work environment, bolstering the health and wellness of nurses, and advocating on health care issues that affect nurses and the public. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all.

About Stryker
Stryker is a global leader in medical technologies and, together with its customers, is driven to make healthcare better. The company offers innovative products and services in MedSurg, Neurotechnology, Orthopaedics and Spine that help improve patient and healthcare outcomes. Alongside its customers around the world, Stryker impacts more than 150 million patients annually. More information is available at

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