MICHAELA GIBSON MORRIS: Embedded in Tupelo’s best stories

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

To be an embedded reporter usually involves a war zone and Spartan conditions.
The reward is a front row seat to history and the opportunity to watch ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
When the Journal made plans to send an embedded reporter and photographer to Iraq with the 155th Army National Guard in 2005, I wasn’t on the list for consideration. I had a brand new baby and toddler. I wasn’t going anywhere.
Over my 161⁄2 years with the Daily Journal, I’ve actually had the chance to be embedded into the middle of two extraordinary Tupelo stories. I didn’t have to eat any MREs or wear a flak jacket. I did have a front seat to history with Traceway’s Green Houses and the Baldrige National Quality Awards claimed by North Mississippi Medical Center-Tupelo and North Mississippi Health Services.
In February 2002, I sat in on the initial meetings New York geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas had with the Traceway staff members as he laid out this concept where nursing home residents were transformed into elders and nurses aides into “Shahbazim.” I was able to watch as Tupelo architect Richard McCarty laid out blueprints that would change what long-term skilled care could look like.
At the hospital, leaders like Dr. Ken Davis, John Heer and Karen Koch would talk to me about the quality initiatives they were working on and how they helped the hospital system do a better job of taking care of patients. But I didn’t just hear it from them, I saw it in action across the hospital.
In 2007, I traveled with the NMMC-Tupelo delegation to Washington, D.C., when the hospital became the first Mississippi organization to receive the nation’s highest honor for business.
I was with them again this year as the North Mississippi Health System – encompassing all six hospitals and the medical clinic system – went to Baltimore to become the second Mississippi organization to claim the award.
It speaks to the Tupelo spirit that these two organizations would invite a newspaper reporter so deeply into the heart of their work. People at Mississippi Methodist Senior Services and the NMMC were so generous with their time as they explained the projects they clearly felt a deep passion for.
They are stories I’ve felt honored to tell.
MICHAELA GIBSON MORRIS is a Daily Journal staff writer. Contact her at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@journalinc.com.