Note from the Product Coordinator: ACDIS Achievement Award recipients flourish at ACDIS 2023

CDI Strategies - Volume 17, Issue 19

by Karla Accorto

I’m sad to say today is the last day of the 2023 ACDIS conference in Chicago. The ACDIS team is grateful to have connected with so many of you, and to have introduced you to the newest members of our team! We are also thrilled to have celebrated the many recipients of the 2023 ACDIS Achievement Award, a testament to whom is flourishing in this profession. You can learn a little about each of them below.

Rebecca Hendren, ACDIS’ director of programming, presented the inaugural Melissa Varnavas Spirit of Service award to Romerl Cris Gumayagay, MD, CCDS, CDIP, CCS, CRCR, assistant director of CDI at NYU Langone Health System. This award honors the legacy of one of ACDIS’ own, Melissa Varnavas, who passed away last year. ACDIS was proud to offer this award to Gumayagay, whose passion for CDI and volunteering in the CDI community mirrored that of our colleague. Gumayagay has more than 16 years of experience in CDI and is the longest serving member of his ACDIS local chapter leadership team, which he first joined in 2010. At the ACDIS conference in 2011, he was an inaugural member of the ACDIS Leadership Council, and proudly received a Spirit of CDI ribbon, presented to those who demonstrate exemplary passion or kindness, and presented by, from none other than, Melissa Varnavas herself.

The Rookie of the Year award was presented to Patty Robles, BSN, RN, clinical documentation specialist at Advocate Aurora Health in Illinois, who has held her role at Aurora for the past year and a half. Prior to joining Advocate Aurora, Robles worked for eight years at Mercy Hospital in the emergency department, initially, as a nurse collegiate and later, as a nurse. She discovered her passion for reviewing charts while being involved with the organization’s Restraint Committee: a committee responsible for auditing charts for proper restraint documentation. Robles is currently studying for the CCDS exam and plans to take it once she has the two years of requisite experience.

Excellence in Provider Engagement was awarded to Melissa Brawley, RN, BSN, CCDS-O, CRC, a certified clinical documentation specialist working at Atrium Wake Forest Baptist in North Carolina. She has 25 years of experience as a nurse and joined the outpatient CDI department in 2019. Her colleagues have praised her for developing a new approach to educating providers in her clinics. She has also presented to the North Carolina ACDIS local chapter.

Recognition of CDI Professional Achievement was presented to Tiara L. Minor, RN, BSN, CCDS, senior manager of CDI at Florida’s University of Miami Health System. Minor has nine years of experience in CDI and is also a member of the ACDIS Leadership Council, as well as the ACDIS Texas local chapter. Under her leadership, the query response agreement rate at her organization increased from 60% to 89%. She was previously a contributor to the ACDIS’ CDI Journal and currently belongs to the team awarded the 2022 Diversity in CDI ACDIS Achievement Award.

ACDIS was also pleased to honor Lori Ganote, MSN, RN, CCDS, director of inpatient CDI at Baptist Health Systems of Kentucky and Southern Indiana, with the CDI Professional of the Year Award. Ganote began her CDI career in 2013 and has held the CCDS credential since 2015. She is a member of ACDIS, the ACDIS CDI educators networking group, and the ACDIS Leadership Council. She has also served in multiple leadership positions for the ACDIS local chapters over the years. At her organization, Ganote worked closely with her leadership executives and with the human resources department to expand the CDI department, one of the many peer-noted accomplishments in Ganote’s nomination.

Finally, the Diversity in CDI Award was presented to Wellstar Health System, located in Georgia. ACDIS celebrates Wellstar for its efforts to create a diverse CDI team, including members of varying ethnicities, races, religions, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and educational backgrounds. Approximately 50% of the staff members and the leadership team at Wellstar are minorities. As part of their initiatives to promote diversity, Wellstar has implemented programming designed to build cultural competency and increase awareness. The organization also employs native language interpreters (including Spanish, Mandarin, and American Sign Language), so that it may better serve patients and patient families. Additionally, in 2019, Wellstar opened a family medicine practice dedicated to providing specialized services to people identifying at LGBTQ+. Faisal Hussain, MD, MHIIM, RHIA, CCDS, CDIP, CCS, executive director of CDI, and Diana Gueits, MBA, CDP, executive director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, accepted the award on behalf of Wellstar.

If you know or work with any of our award winners, please take a moment to congratulate them on their achievements.

The ACDIS team would also like to thank everyone who joined us in Chicago this week. We hope you took this opportunity to gather the seeds your organization needs to cultivate and to allow your CDI garden and teams to flourish. We look forward to seeing you next year in Indianapolis!

Editor’s note: Accorto is an editor and product coordinator at ACDIS in Middleton, Massachusetts. Contact her at

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