Diana Smalley's father was helping a friend fix a grain elevator when a belt snapped and hit him in the face.
He was rushed to what is now called Fremont (Neb.) Medical Center, where Smalley, who was 3 at the time, visited him regularly during his treatment.
Her father needed help eating through a straw while the broken bones in his face mended. The nurse caring for him paid close attention to his recovery, but never forgot that Smalley was there, occasionally bringing her a cup of orange juice, and reassuring her mother that everything would be OK.
It was then Smalley knew she wanted to be a nurse. “I idolized her,” Smalley said. “She was a hospital administrator too, unbeknownst to me, and as luck would have it, I would turn out just like her.”
Smalley is now the regional president of Mercy in Oklahoma, where she oversees 15 hospitals and more than 100 care facilities in the Oklahoma region. The American College of Healthcare Executives recently honored her with its Gold Medal Award, which identifies ACHE fellows who best exemplify leadership at the organizational, local, state and national levels while improving healthcare services and community health beyond their organization.
“I'm a small-town girl from Nebraska, I still can't believe I received this award,” Smalley said. “I am a nurse—strike one; I am a woman—strike two, but having that FACHE behind my name has been the great leveler.”