Leading with Passion: The Legacy Established in 20 Years of Teddy Awards

By: | September 1, 2023

Michelle Kerr is Workers’ Compensation Editor and National Conference Chair for Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected].

Flipping through my calendar earlier this year, I realized that 2023 marks 20 years since I first took on the job of managing the Teddy Awards.

While the award was first given by Risk & Insurance in 1994, it was rechristened in 2003 as the Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award — the Teddy Award for short, thankfully.

That year, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) was a Teddy Award winner, and I met Yolanda Romero, SEPTA’s director of workers’ compensation (since retired).

For me, Yolanda set the bar immediately for what I expect I’ll find whenever I meet a successful workers’ comp leader: passion, determination, wisdom, curiosity, collaborative spirit, compassion … and a healthy sense of humor.

Since then, I have met so many other workers’ comp leaders who live up to the bar Yolanda set for me, in so many ways. Their stories inspire and fascinate me year after year.

The stories to explore this year are those of the 2023 Teddy Award winners: TruGreen, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Johnson Controls International and UMass Memorial Health.

These organizations are recognized for excellence in workers’ compensation and injury prevention, commitment to continuous improvement and best-in-class injured worker care.

This year, for the first time, I will join Dan Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance, to welcome the leaders of these amazing programs onstage at National Comp 2023, September 20 to 22 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

If you’re attending — and by all means, please do! — be sure to mark your calendar for 8:30 a.m. on September 21, where you’ll meet:

  • Ann Mason, national workers’ comp manager for TruGreen
  • Scott Alexander, claims manager for UMass Memorial Health’s Occupational Injury Care
  • Brian Nuelk, lead workers’ compensation manager for Johnson Controls International
  • Rosa Royo, workers’ compensation and loss prevention for Miami-Dade County Public Schools

These leaders represent very different industry types and unique challenges. Yet they share a common mission and purpose: preventing as many injuries as possible and providing the best possible care for every injured worker while protecting the bottom line.

The leaders of these programs achieve that every day, through strategic planning, carefully nurtured partnerships, employing technology both pre- and post-loss, ensuring that claims professionals have every possible tool they need to do the job, and always putting workers first.

During the Q&A presentation, we’ll cover a range of topics, including approaches to maximizing provider penetration, the value of vocational rehab, creating a strong RTW culture, nurturing partnerships that benefit all and how the pandemic created fundamental changes that we carry forward.

Learn more about these award-winning programs in this issue of Risk & Insurance, and in the November/December issue as well. And please join us on the morning of September 21 at National Comp to discover more and hopefully to find a few ideas worth stealing for your own workers’ comp program. &