HCA Healthcare colleagues team up to help ensure health, safety for final presidential debate

Group of people wearing face masks standing in front of the presidential debate stage
(Back row L-R): Jake Marshall, senior director, enterprise preparedness and emergency operations; Nachion Moore, staff enterprise risk management & business continuity planning; Rahkeem Francis, SkyLife flight nurse; Matthew Wiley, SkyLife flight nurse (Front row L-R): Hunter Earnest, director of EMS relations, TriStar Health; Eric House, senior II, enterprise risk management and business continuity planning; Dr. Heather Barnett, emergency medicine physician at Tristar Skyline Medical Center; Joshua Mesic, SkyLife flight paramedic; Jessica Picanzo, manager, enterprise preparedness and emergency operations; Mike Wargo, vice president, enterprise preparedness & emergency operations; Dr. Michael Caldwell, director public health, Nashville Metro Public Health Department.

Less than two weeks ago, HCA Healthcare’s home town of Nashville, Tenn. saw President Trump and former Vice President Biden face off at Belmont University in the historic and final presidential debate of the 2020 election season. To host an event of this magnitude, in the midst of a global pandemic, took innovation, precision and teamwork by some of the most prominent organizations in Nashville.

With millions of eyes on Music City, HCA Healthcare teamed up with Belmont University and the Nashville Metro Public Health Department to help ensure a safe debate for event attendees, campaign teams and media guests. Taking the baton from global debate health advisor Cleveland Clinic and in consult with the Commission on Presidential Debates, HCA Healthcare helped Belmont execute procedures to conduct the event safely and seamlessly.

“We were proud to collaborate with Belmont University by implementing the health and safety protocols that contributed to the success of the final presidential debate,” said Dr. Jonathan Perlin, chief medical officer and president of clinical operations at HCA Healthcare. “Nearly 600 HCA Healthcare colleagues volunteered their time the day of and week leading up to the debate to help with screening, scheduling appointments, registration, lab testing and wayfinding to keep everyone safe at the historic event.”

Two men wearing face masks talking.
Dr. Jonathan Perlin, HCA Healthcare’s chief medical officer and president of clinical operations speaks with Nashville Mayor John Cooper at a October 16, 2020 press conference held at Belmont University.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant debate officials had to significantly pivot from commonplace debate proceedings, with a significant focus on health security to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus at the debate site. This meant that several HCA Healthcare team members had integral roles in supporting a safe, successful debate.

Hear from several HCA Healthcare colleagues below as they share how they answered the call to serve their community and country:

Michael Wargo RN, BSN, MBA, PHRN, CMTE

Vice President, Enterprise Preparedness & Emergency Operations

HCA Healthcare | Clinical Operations Group

Three men wearing face masks and suits standing in front of the presidential debate stage.
(L-R) Dr. Ken Sands, chief epidemiologist; Dr. Jonathan Perlin, chief medical officer and president of clinical operations; Michael Wargo vice president, enterprise preparedness and emergency operations

When potential disaster is near, whether it be a natural or man-made event, HCA Healthcare responds with laser-sharp precision to help ensure uninterrupted patient care and to fulfill our promise to our communities. With national event experience, Mike Wargo and his team used the 3C’s that guide disaster preparedness to prepare for the Nashville presidential debate: Communicate, Coordinate and Collaborate.

“The structure that we put in place for the debate is very much the same structure that we use in our everyday emergency operations,” said Mike. “We focused on providing the safest event to Belmont University and the Commission on Presidential Debates, assembling functional areas of the organization who would be integral to event success. After giving leaders of these areas concepts of what we needed to accomplish, we worked backwards to get it done.”

Playing a heavy hand in the planning and implementation of the event were:

  1. A corporate task force consisting of leaders in infection prevention, health information and data, supply chain and communications.
  2. Laboratory experts to control and scale mass rapid testing for debate attendees. HCA Healthcare’s Physicians Services Group and CareNow were integral to testing processes and turning results in record times.
  3. HCA Healthcare’s Nashville-based TriStar Division took a lead in the local clinical space, volunteer management and communications.

The core debate workgroup learned iteratively, leaning on expertise gleaned from the first presidential debate of 2020 in Ohio and the Salt Lake City vice presidential debate. “We had concepts developed on paper, but we took the operational planning in iterations. From the first day of testing to the day of the debate, we made slight changes and modifications to make sure we were cohesively delivering on our mission,” said Mike. “Safety is always our number one priority, infrastructure is number two and completing the job is number three. And if we accomplish those three, then we hit our fourth priority which is fulfillment of our mission. And post-debate I am proud to say ‘mission accomplished’.”

HCA Healthcare and Belmont Presidential Debate by the numbers:  

  • Nearly 600 HCA Healthcare colleagues volunteered to help with screening, scheduling appointments, registration, lab testing and wayfinding
  • Approximately 2,000 COVID-19 tests were conducted at HCA Healthcare across 7 days
  • Average turnaround time for receiving test results was 5 minutes
  • HCA Healthcare managed more than 1,500 calls for scheduling or assistance
  • Approximately 2,300 volunteer hours were contributed by HCA Healthcare volunteers
  • 4 thermal temperature cameras were used to screen debate guests on the HCA Healthcare and Belmont campuses

Debate attendees, including media members, took to social media to share their experience:

Tweet from @BBCJonSopel
Tweet from @jmpalmieri
Tweet from @WSMVTracyKornet

Bethany Hagans

Creative Design Manager

HCA Healthcare | Marketing and Corporate Affairs

Woman wearing face mask standing outside building with presidential debate sign.
In addition to creating general health and safety signage for the debate, HCA Healthcare creative design manager Bethany Hagans volunteered as a screener at the university.

Q: What was your role for the Belmont University presidential debate?

A: Our Creative Services team designed general health and safety signage which was placed around Belmont’s campus. The signs gave reminders of COVID-19 safety measures in place such as: “wash your hands, keep your distance and wear a mask.”

We also created wayfinding signage which helped attendees find their way through our temporary testing site. As a design manager, I communicated and collaborated with our partners at Belmont to identify the design needs and ensured our brand was represented consistently and accurately through all materials. Our team of designers worked incredibly fast to create 64 pieces in two weeks.

I was proud to serve as an HCA Healthcare ambassador during the presidential debate because it was an incredible opportunity to represent who we are as an organization and I considered it my responsibility to represent HCA Healthcare in the best possible way. Knowing the historic nature of this event made it easy to want to ensure our area of support was successful. It was a chance for our team to not only represent our brand through design materials, but also in action, showing that we put time, effort and care into everything we do.

Robert McMurry

Center Manager

HCA Healthcare | CareNow Urgent Care

Man wearing personal protective equipment sitting at a desk with a laptop and testing materials.

Q: What was your role for the Belmont University presidential debate?

A: For me, being a part of this debate meant the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of something that is very important for our country. As the Center Manager for CareNow Mount Juliet, I assisted in COVID-19 screenings of participants and guests for the 2020 Presidential Debate at Belmont University. CareNow worked alongside other HCA Healthcare colleagues to provide COVID-19 rapid tests to ensure everyone attending the debate was safe and virus-free.

I was honored to serve as an HCA Healthcare ambassador during the presidential debate because helping to protect our communities is everything our organization is about and much more. I am so proud to be part of an amazing family of individuals that pours their heart and soul into patients’ everyday care. To serve and to be part of the debate was a blessing and a pleasure to give.

Katrina Williams

IT Architect

HCA Healthcare | CereCore

Woman wearing face mask and black polo shirt.

Q: What was your role for the Belmont University presidential debate?

A: My involvement within the presidential debate was to project coordinate the CereCore Epic team, helping to ensure a best-in-class electronic health record (EHR) experience for our clinicians and patients, who in this case were debate attendees. I helped with Epic application guidance, overall project awareness and met with our various teams to ensure we delivered aligned, secure technology for debate testing operations.

I also supported our Physicians Services Group at the testing center to make sure that testing turnaround was as prompt as possible. This allowed all of us the chance to really show why the patient comes first through quick turnaround times, which reduced the exposure of COVID-19 to the community. HCA Healthcare, CereCore and Epic teamed together to make this possible.

Being an ambassador for HCA Healthcare gave me great pleasure to know we are giving back to our communities during a time that they need more support than ever.

Rachel Martin

Senior Patient Care Liaison

HCA Healthcare | National Contact Center Management Group

Woman wearing gold top.

Q: What was your role for the Belmont University presidential debate?

A: I work as a Senior Patient Care Liaison for HCA Healthcare’s National Contact Center Management Group providing technical support for our patient portal. When our team was asked to support 2020 Belmont University Presidential Debate attendees with accessing their COVID-19 test results online, we quickly scheduled a meeting to best understand how to provide users with an optimal experience.

I worked alongside my colleagues to assist with patient portal account creation and to answer various support questions. I also assisted my team as the primary escalation point of contact and raised awareness with our corporate Information Technology Group as needed to ensure this initiative was successful.

I am proud to work for HCA Healthcare and even more proud that we – as an organization – were able to meet the needs of our community during such an historical event and truly live out our mission to give people a healthier tomorrow. It was so rewarding to play even a small part during this unprecedented time.

Three medical professionals wearing personal protective equipment.
Champagne Robinson, Max Cohen and Lauren Gentry were among several CareNow colleagues that helped to conduct more than 2,000 COVID-19 tests for debate attendees across seven days at HCA Healthcare.
Woman wearing face mask and scrubs sitting at a desk with a laptop behind a clear plastic shield.
Approximately 2,300 volunteer hours were contributed by HCA Healthcare volunteers. Here, Hannah Sparks checks debate attendees in for testing at a wristband station.
A man cleaning a chair with a disinfectant wipe.
Nearly 600 HCA Healthcare colleagues, including Jason Brown, volunteered to help with screening, scheduling appointments, registration, lab testing and wayfinding ahead of the Belmont presidential debate.
Two signs in a building lobby explaining COVID-19 protocols.
Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, October 19, 2020.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

Recent articles