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2023 Award Winners

Joan L. Shaver Outstanding Nurse Leader Award Heading link

Beena Peters, DNP, MS, RN, FACHE, FABC

System Chief Nursing Executive, Cook County Health

As CNE at Cook County Health system, which includes two hospitals, ambulatory health centers, a public health department, correctional health services and a health plan, Beena Peters’ role necessitates close collaboration with the system’s CEO and oversight of various facilities and CNOs. She provides leadership and strategic direction for nursing operations, clinical practice, quality, education, research, and workforce development throughout the system.

During her five-year tenure at CCH, Dr. Peters has redesigned the nursing quality programs to refocus on patient safety and quality, and implemented a Nursing Leadership Academy and Nursing Academic Partnership programs, Clinical Nurse Leader roles, and much more. Under her leadership, CCH achieved significant improvement in nurse-sensitive quality indicators by implementing evidence-based best practices and high-reliable principles. Dr. Peters’ visionary leadership, hard work, and dedication to excellence have significantly elevated the CCH nursing practice and the health of the community.

Dr. Peters developed and implemented a nursing workforce projection and staffing management tool based on level of care, volume & acuity, and a productivity management system for the Department of Nursing. Dr. Peters is skillful in leveraging information technology, lean principles, and predictive analytics to achieve desired results. In 2023, the CCH Nursing Business Operations & Finance Structure Development was selected for the National Association of Countries (NACo) Achievement Award. Under her leadership, CCH acquired multiple workforce development grants to develop APRN fellowship and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training programs.

Dr. Peters’ passion and commitment to advancing health equity extends beyond the confines of the hospital system. She actively participates in community initiatives to advocate culturally sensitive healthcare delivery initiatives. Dr. Peters has a keen interest in promoting women’s and children’s health. Her receipt of a grant from the March of Dimes to initiate a Community Health Worker program aimed at reducing the preterm birth rate in underserved communities reflects her commitment to addressing critical health disparities. Furthermore, her recognition in 2009 with the March of Dimes Jonas Salk Health Leadership Award for Healthcare Management, highlights her exceptional leadership and unwavering commitment to enhancing maternal and infant outcomes.

Throughout her career, Dr. Peters has demonstrated a commitment to improving patient safety, quality, and care delivery models through empowering and supporting frontline staff, building collaborations, bridging gaps, and developing leaders to optimize care delivery to improve patient safety and quality. She has dedicated her career to serving the healthcare needs of Illinois with over 30 years of leadership experience between the University of Illinois Hospital and Cook County Health System.

Dr. Peters is a member of various professional organizations, including the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders (IONL), American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), Indian Nursing Association of Illinois, and the Institute of Medicine Chicago.

Dr. Peters holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, and she earned her Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from the University of Illinois College of Nursing. She is also a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a Fellow of the Advisory Board.

SAGE Awards Heading link

Fred Brown, DNP, RN, CENP

Assistant Professor, RUSH University College of Nursing

Fred Brown is an Assistant Professor at RUSH University College of Nursing, where he is also the Program Director of Generalist Education. As Program Director, Dr. Brown leads one of the top ten online MSN programs rated by U.S. News and World Report. He is responsible for the operational management of the pre-and post-licensure CNL programs leading to the Master of Science in Nursing degree. There are approximately 400 students in the MSN program. He is the recipient of a Golden Apple Teaching Award, has recently been nominated for Manager of the Year, and is routinely selected as a pinner by the nursing student body.

Prior to Dr. Brown’s academic role, he held many nursing operational leadership roles including Unit Director, Director, and Associate Vice President in several clinical areas. In these roles, he was the recipient of the RUSH University James Campbell Distinguished Service Award, Most Valuable Members Award for Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders, and the Paula J. Brown Village Mentoring Award.

Dr. Brown is an active member of Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) and has been elected Treasurer of the Gamma Phi chapter of that organization. He is a nurse manager fellow of the American Organization of Nurse Leaders (AONL), and a member of Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders (IONL). He has authored several articles in peer reviewed journals and has presented many podium presentations.

Dr. Brown’s leadership includes 22 years of military service, retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserve. Dr. Brown received his BSN, MSN, and DNP from RUSH University.


Karen Saban, PhD, RN, CNRN, FAHA, FAAN

Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Scholarly Innovation, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

Karen Saban is a Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Scholarly Innovation for the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University Chicago. She is also a Research Health Scientist in the Center for Innovation for Complex Chronic Care at the Edward Hines VA Hospital.

Dr. Saban is a nationally and internationally recognized scholar and teacher with expertise in how chronic social stress contributes to inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease among vulnerable and disadvantaged women. She has secured over $13 million in extramural funding as PI or Co-I. She is currently PI of a five-year $3.3M R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging for her randomized controlled trial examining the impact of a race-based stress reduction intervention on well-being, inflammation, and DNA methylation in African American women at risk for cardiometabolic disease.

Dr. Saban is recognized nationally as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and as a Fellow of the American Heart Association. She is on the editorial board of Biological Research for Nursing and has been a member of several NIH special emphasis panels.

Dr. Saban is deeply committed to mentoring early career faculty and postdoctoral fellows and is continually inspired by her colleagues to pursue excellence in nursing science.

Advancing Health Equity Awards Heading link

Regina Conway-Phillips, PhD, RN

Department Chair and Associate Professor, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

Regina Conway-Phillips has devoted her nursing career to reducing health disparities among Black women and increasing nursing workforce diversity. As a nurse navigator for the American Cancer Society, she frequently encountered Black women who were diagnosed with breast cancer at a much later stage than White women. Those experiences inspired her to pursue a PhD degree and conduct research to further investigate and reduce health disparities among Black women. She began with a comprehensive review of breast cancer screening behaviors among Black women and focused her early research on spirituality as a vehicle for promoting breast health behaviors.

As an expert in qualitative research methods, Dr. Conway-Phillips was co-investigator on two major grants to lead the qualitative analysis for the development of the Resilience, Stress, and Ethnicity (RiSE) program to reduce race-based stress in Black women at risk for cardiovascular disease.
During her interactions with Black women in her research studies, Dr. Conway-Phillips learned that some women did not trust the health care system because of past and present systemic racism.

However, the women were open to exposing their true concerns because she is a Black researcher. As nursing faculty, this inspired Dr. Conway-Phillips to focus on recruiting more Black nurses into the profession.

Dr. Conway-Phillips has been recognized as a leader in diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and social justice issues nationally. She is a founding member of the Jesuit Diverse Nursing Faculty Network whose mission is to better support the academic success of racial/ethnic minority faculty and to harness the power of networking across Jesuit nursing schools to enhance diversity in academia. She most recently completed the American Association for College of Nursing Diversity Leadership Institute, a competitive, year-long intensive development program for DEI leaders in nursing. Dr. Conway-Phillips was a founding co-chair of the MNSON Inclusive Excellence Task Force and a member advocate of the Loyola University’s Racial Justice, Equity, Anti- Racism, Diversity, and Inclusive Excellence (READI Connect) program.

Dr. Conway Phillips has mentored undergraduate and graduate students of color. She is a faculty mentor for the Loyola University Chicago Empowering Sisterhood (LUCES) program and is a key leader of the Collaboration, Access, Resources, and Equity (CARE) Pathway, a grant and donor-funded access and pathway program for Latinx and Black nursing students in the four-year BSN program. She was part of the founding team for the original HRSA grant that created the program and remains actively involved in the faculty mentorship program team.

Dr. Conway-Phillips is Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University Chicago. Her research focuses on cancer and health disparities, spirituality and breast cancer screening behavior among Black women. She has had three funded grants for her research, several data-based articles on her research, and multiple national and international data-based podium and poster presentations.

Dr. Conway-Phillips holds a Diploma Degree from Ravenswood Hospital School of Nursing, a BSN from Chicago State University, and an MSN and PhD in Nursing from Loyola University Chicago.


Wrenetha Julion, PhD, MPH, RN, CNL, FAAN

Associate Dean for Equity & Inclusion, Michelle & Larry Goodman Endowed Professor of Health Equity, RUSH University
Professor, RUSH University College of Nursing

Wrenetha Julion has served as an exceptional nurse educator, scientist, and leader at RUSH University for more than two decades. She has dedicated her research and scholarly career to reducing health disparities in historically underserved communities, especially among Black mothers and fathers. She was selected as a member of the second cohort of Macy Faculty Scholars in 2012 and was chosen as the inaugural associate dean for diversity and inclusion at RUSH University College of Nursing in 2021 in recognition of her unwavering commitment to the advancement of health equity. She has been a member of the Medical Center-wide diversity leadership council, since its inception in 2007, and she has tirelessly championed the university’s efforts to cultivate a diverse and equitable environment where all members of the RUSH family feel included and valued. Effective May 30, 2023, Dr. Julion, was appointed as the inaugural Michelle & Larry Goodman MD Endowed Professor of Health Equity. This professorship supports innovative research and programs to improve the health and well-being of individuals in the diverse communities served by RUSH.

As a nurse who spent a decade working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Dr. Julion’s research seeks to support the wellbeing of families. Her scholarship has been focused on improving parenting with a special focus on African American (AA) fatherhood. Dr. Julion is co-author of The Chicago Parent Program (, a nationally disseminated and rigorously tested program shown to reduce behavior problems in young children. Currently, Dr. Julion is the co-principal investigator (PI) on a 5-year study with 1.1 M in funding from the Department of Health and Human Services titled “Preparing for Parenthood: A Father Inclusive Model of Prenatal Care.”

Dr. Julion is highly sought after for her success with mentoring minority students and faculty. Despite multiple academic demands, she is always available and spearheaded an innovative mentoring approach called group think tanks to support minority faculty and students. Successful outcomes of the initiative are detailed in a publication titled “A Group Think-Tank as a Discourse Coalition to Promote Minority Nursing Faculty Retention”, published in Nursing Outlook in 2019. Additionally, she has published extensively with her mentees.

She has received numerous awards, including induction into the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Hall of Fame. She is a past recipient of the Health & Policy Research Group Dr. Steve Whitman Research Award and is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. In 2021, Dr. Julion was honored as the recipient of the RUSH University Faculty Excellence Award in the category of Mentoring. She is also a fellow in the OpEd Project whose mission is to change who writes history by elevating the ideas and knowledge of underrepresented expert voices. She has written several OpEd pieces focused on disparities in minoritized and vulnerable populations, bringing attention to these inequities beyond academic scholarly journals. In the Chicago community, Dr. Julion serves on the board of PCC Community Wellness Center, a federally qualified health center (FQHC) serving underrepresented communities and improving their access to health care. She represents the RUSH College of Nursing on collaborations with Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago.

Dr. Julion has a history of working collaboratively to support a diverse nursing workforce. Beginning in 2017, Dr. Julion collaborated locally with other Black nursing leaders to establish minority doctoral forums. These forums bring together doctoral students (PhD and DNP) to provide support and guidance around doctoral readiness. The co-authored work, titled “Pursuing a doctorate in nursing: Implications for underrepresented minority nurses”, was published in 2022 in the Journal of Professional Nursing and presented at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) conference in 2023.

Dr. Julion holds a BSN from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, dual master’s degrees (MSN/MPH) from the University of Illinois Chicago, and the PhD in nursing from RUSH University College of Nursing.

Early Career Leader Awards Heading link

Megan M. Byrne, RN, BSN

Clinical Shift Coordinator Stroke Program, Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital

Megan M. Byrne is a Clinical Shift Coordinator at Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation hospital. Megan’s healthcare career began in 2013 at Marianjoy as a patient care technician while working her way through nursing school. In 2015, she obtained her associate degree from College of DuPage where she also entered the Rho chapter of Alpha Delta Nu, the national honor society for associate degree nurses. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Purdue University, Alpha Beta Kappa, in 2017.

During the last three years at Marianoy, Megan has held two key leadership roles for the stroke team. As the Nursing Clinical coordinator, she provides leadership support for daily operations and care needs to assure resources are available to provide quality care including developing initiatives and providing feedback to the team around performance through mentoring and formal coaching.

Megan is an active member on the unit-based council. The shared governance structure creates a practice environment to empower professional nurses and other rehabilitation clinical professionals with autonomy, accountability, and influence over clinical practice.

Her contributions in the LEAD program – a clinical advancement program highlighting those who advance clinical practice and care delivery through innovation, research, and quality improvement – demonstrate her initiative and exemplary patient care. Megan has been a part of three large projects providing innovative care for patients. Her project work has addressed investigating ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke patient recovery, improving patient satisfaction scores, and caregiver readiness. She recently presented her findings of the caregiver readiness project to the quality-of-care committee. During the presentation, Megan demonstrated her strong professional knowledge on the practice and scope of nursing, and its importance in care delivery and outcomes.


Katarzyna Golda, MSN, RN, MEDSURG-BC

Administrative Nurse, UI Health

Katarzyna Golda has been a nurse for six years and served as a permanent charge nurse at UI Health for the past two years. During her time at UI Health, she has supported onboarding new staff, completed audits for the unit for compliance, and ensured policies were followed according to the university regulations. Additionally, she has become an EPIC Super User, wound champion, Unit Advisory, and Division Advisory Chair.

Each year, Ms. Golda has assisted as an instructor for the annual nursing competency marathon and, during discharge rounds, collaborated with interdisciplinary teams to ensure safe and early discharges for patients. As an emerging nurse leader, she has nominated many coworkers for Merit, Leadership and Rising Star Awards. In addition, she has mentored and developed nursing staff, fostering a culture of continuous learning and professional growth. Recently, she has assumed the role of Interim Manager on a medical-surgical unit, where she has assisted with scheduling, interviewing new staff, and escalating issues relating to patient safety.

Ms. Golda has received a Rising Star Award, IONL Future of Nursing Award, Excellence in Nursing Leadership Award and Power of Nursing Leadership-Early Career Leader Award. To improve patient outcomes through evidence-based and quality improvement initiatives, she has been privileged to contribute to several impactful initiatives and projects, including Using Video Chat Technology to Avoid Falls in High-Risk Populations and The Use of a Safety Checklist During Bedside Report to Ensure Consistency in Preventing Hospital-acquired Conditions.

Ms. Golda received her Advanced Generalist Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Illinois Chicago and Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification through American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Learn about the awards and how to nominate