Innovation and compassion provide the right RX for Greater Chattanooga health care.
For as long as she can remember, Savannah Wimer says she “always wanted to be a nurse in some capacity.” However, the Greenbrier, Tennessee, native fell in love with Chattanooga and chose the University of Tennessee Chattanooga because of its highly ranked nursing school, its success rate with NCLEX (nurse licensing exam) and the many hospitals around the area for clinical experiences — a perfect mix to make her lifelong dream come true.
Passionate About Nursing
While still a student, Wimer began working as a patient care technician in the trauma ICU at Erlanger Baroness Hospital in Chattanooga. Following graduation and passing her boards in January 2020, she wanted to make Chattanooga her home and accepted an RN position in the facility’s trauma ICU.
“Since working in this unit, I have found an even deeper passion for caring for trauma patients. I care for them when they experience an unexpected trauma, from falls to gunshot wounds, and working with interdisciplinary teams; we help them return to their life afterwards. There is no better feeling,” she says.
Greater Chattanooga is home to three award-winning health care systems — Erlanger Health System, CHI Memorial and Parkridge Health System — all of which provide comprehensive care and employ leading-edge technology at multiple regional locations.
Erlanger Health System, which consists of seven hospitals, is the 10th largest public health care system in the nation and home to the region’s only academic teaching hospital, affiliated with the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. In addition, the network provides the region’s only Level I adult trauma center, and Children’s Hospital at Erlanger houses the region’s only Level IV neonatal intensive care unit.
It treats approximately 800,000 patient visits annually and is Chattanooga’s largest employer.
CHI Memorial has locations in Chattanooga, Hixson and Georgia, with over 3,500 employees, 661 medical staff and 500 volunteers that go above and beyond to serve their communities in specialties like heart and vascular, orthopedic and neuroscience. Parkridge Medical Center, a 275-bed hospital near downtown Chattanooga, also boasts a roster of medical accreditations in sleep medicine and cardiac rehabilitation, among other programs.
Nearby, Tennova Healthcare — Cleveland, a 350-bed acute care hospital, works to bring quality, innovative health care to the community, and Hamilton Health Care System serves residents in Dalton, Georgia. Other regional hospitals offering top-level care include Highlands Medical Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, and Emory Decatur Hospital in Decatur, Georgia.
A Startup Culture
Brothers Ryan and Tyler Seaberg’s company, EirSystems, is part of the startup culture found under the medical business microscope in Greater Chattanooga. Along with dynamic companies, including Hollywog and New Bloom Labs, they are at the forefront of utilizing technology to help drive economic growth.
After losing friends to opioid abuse, the founders of EirSystems, and winners of ChaTech’s Early Innovator Award, are transforming how the prescribing of medications is done electronically. Their platform utilizes blockchain technology — a sequence of blocks or groups of transactions chained together and distributed among the users — that helps physicians accurately track prescriptions and alert them of potential abuse.
Generosity Helps Nonprofits
Greater Chattanooga is known for being an incredibly philanthropic community, and nonprofits such as Cempa Community Care, Siskin Children’s Institute and others benefit from that generosity.
Cempa, named 2022 Small Business of the Year in the nonprofit category by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, started as an organization exclusively focused on HIV and AIDS but expanded in 2019 to become a community health center to help anyone. It offers prevention, treatment and support services to individuals impacted by health disparities, focusing on primary and infectious disease care.
A recently launched mobile clinic lets Cempa take its comprehensive services, for those with HIV and other diseases, to rural communities across southeast Tennessee.
Siskin Children’s Institute began in 1950 and is nationally recognized for its work to improve the quality of life for children with special needs and their families. The organization achieves its mission through pediatric health care services, education, home- and community-based programs and outreach services.
“Since working in this unit, I have found an even deeper passion for caring for trauma patients. I care for them when they experience an unexpected trauma, from falls to gunshot wounds…There is no better feeling.”
Savannah Wimer, Erlanger ICU
One of the many wonderful children assisted by Siskin is Vesper Oostra. The little girl and her mother, Morgan Koch, both experienced life-threatening health issues during the child’s birth. Doctors believed Vesper’s brain was too damaged for her to live longer than a year. Now five years old, Vesper has received physical and occupational therapy at the institute since she was 1.
“Vesper has made amazing leaps in progress and is extremely social,” says Koch. “She has a sense of independence that she otherwise would have not had access to if it wasn’t for the support Siskin has given our family.”
Unum Group Earns Prestigious Recognition
Chattanooga-based Unum Group, a Fortune 500 company that is the world’s largest disability insurer, has made the Forbes list of America’s Best Employers for Women. In July 2021, Forbes recognized Unum Group for its working conditions, pay equity and professional development, as well as the company’s diversity among senior leadership and board members. In addition, Unum has introduced various initiatives to assist its employees better.
In 2020, Unum implemented six weeks of paid parental leave for all new parents. It also enacted five consecutive days of paid leave for employees who need time away from work to care for a spouse, child or parent due to a severe health condition. The company also provides up to $25,000 for fertility treatments or adoption assistance.
The Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index has recognized Unum for the company’s efforts to advance women in the workplace. The National Association of Female Executives also named Unum among the Top Companies for Executive Women.
If you’d like to learn more about the Greater Chattanooga area, check out the latest edition of Chattanooga Region Economic Development.