Bill Wertman, MSW
Chief Executive Officer and Administrator
Bill Wertman received both his BSW and MSW from Florida State University. He also taught graduate courses at the FSU College of Social Work for 10 years.
Bill came to Big Bend Hospice (BBH) in 2015 as the HR Director. He currently serves BBH as CEO and Administrator. As CEO, Bill is responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of the organization’s programs and services to meet its mission.
“I chose to work for hospice because I believe in the mission of hospice. I believe that taking care of patients and their families at the end of life is the greatest privilege. I have worked in the not-for-profit sector for the last 20 years and I cannot imagine working anyplace else but the world of non-profits. It is a blessing to be here.”
Gini West, RN, BSN, MSN
Chief Clinical Officer
Gini West, RN, BSN, MSN (Masters in Nurse Executive Leadership), received her nursing degree from Tallahassee Community College in 1979. She obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Chamberlain School of Nursing and has enjoyed working in various areas of nursing until she discovered her passion for hospice care 18 years ago.
Gini is a Tallahassee native and started her nursing career at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital as a med-surg nurse. She has worked in neurology, home health care, sub-acute care, and acute rehabilitation. Gini started at Big Bend Hospice (BBH) in 2002 as an on-call nurse working evenings and weekends. In 2004, she joined BBH full time as the admissions nurse at TMH. In just a few years she was managing the BBH Admissions Department before moving into community education and business development. Gini is currently our Chief Clinical Officer, a position she attained in 2016. As CCO, she oversees all areas of clinical operations, developing strategies for achieving the best care possible for patients, families and their clinical teams.
Gini came to work for hospice because “My dad died in 1984 at home which was his wish but BBH had not yet accepted patients at that time. I was a young nurse and it was very difficult for me and my family so I have always wanted to make that important experience of dying at home the best it could be for those involved. This work is so important to me because I frequently find myself working with patients and families who are my friends or family, which is what happens working for the hometown hospice where you grew up. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to do this work.”
Jon Wood, CPA, LSSBB
Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer
Mr. Wood is responsible for building teams, mitigating risk, overseeing day-to-day operations, and providing timely and accurate financial information. Additionally, he assists in developing a Big Bend Hospice (BBH) business model for advancing the continuum of care for those in our community.
Jon, a certified public accountant and a Lean Six-Sigma black belt, holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Arkansas Tech University. He is a seasoned hospice finance executive, serving multiple hospice agencies simultaneously in a leadership role as Chief Financial Officer and as a Consultant to organization leadership. Jon’s 20 plus years of healthcare experience ranges from large for-profit hospital systems (Tenet, Triad, and Community Health Systems), to start-up physician partnerships.
“Through my experience in end-of-life care, I’ve discovered a passion to serve the hospice community, and a desire to help navigate it through this time of tremendous change,” says Wood. “Big Bend Hospice has an amazing culture, which is demonstrated by an engaged workforce, board and community all dedicated its success. I look forward to becoming part of that collective team. ”
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Jon’s healthcare finance career began in an occupational healthcare company headquartered in North Dallas. His work with hospitals began in 2000, and he spent the next six years with for-profit hospital companies as an internal auditor, analyst, controller, and assistant CFO. In 2007, he became a finance director with a for-profit agency in South Carolina. Jon’s hospice tenure includes consulting engagements with Multi-View Incorporated, and as CFO with three community-based nonprofit organizations. Jon has ten years of experience in hospice finance and operations.
Niharika Suchak, MD
Given the unique nature of the hospice industry, a Medical Director has slightly different duties and responsibilities than a general practice doctor. As Big Bend Hospice’s (BBH) Medical Director, Dr. Suchak is responsible for supervising BBH Hospice Physicians who create a comprehensive medical care plan for each patient and ensures that every member of the hospice team and the patient’s family or other caregivers are knowledgeable about the care plan. As the needs of the patient change, the medical team adjusts the plan accordingly and informs everyone of the changes.
Dr. Suchak is a clinician-educator and an Associate Professor in the Department of Geriatrics at Florida State University College of Medicine (FSUCOM) in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the Director of Year 1 Clinical Skills at FSUCOM, Medical Director of FSU TeleHealthTM, and Chair of the FSUCOM Telehealth Committee
Dr. Suchak is board certified through the American Board of Internal Medicine in Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, and Hospice and Palliative Medicine. She has extensive clinical and leadership experience in a multitude of healthcare environments.
Dr. Suchak completed her medical school training at the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune, India. She completed her internal medicine residency training at The Union Memorial Hospital (UMH), Baltimore, Maryland and furthered her training by completing a fellowship in Geriatric Medicine also at UMH. She has previously held academic appointments at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and at The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, as well as other administrative roles such as Medical Director, Extended Care Unit, VA Medical Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Deputy Medical Director, House Calls for Elders Program, Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack, New Jersey.
Dr. Suchak is the immediate Past President of the Florida Geriatrics Society and serves as co-chair for the American Geriatrics Society International Activities Special Interest Group. She is a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine Geriatric Medicine Board Exam Committee. She regularly serves as the international coordinator and member of the organizing committee for the International Congress on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. She has presented regionally, nationally, and internationally on various geriatric medicine and medical education topics. In 2012, Dr. Suchak received the Clinician of the Year Award by the American Geriatrics Society.
As BBH Medical Director, Dr. Suchak will also ensure all safety and health standards are being met. It’s her job to use unbiased data to ensure the care provided is of the highest level and to check for any areas that need improvement.
“I am honored and excited to start my new role at Big Bend Hospice and look forward to supporting the BBH team in their service to the local community,” said Suchak. “I am grateful to join a team of competent and compassionate professionals who always put the patient and caregiver first. I hope to be able to assist the BBH team in its commitment to patient-centered care, quality service, and community education programs.”
Joel Garr, CISSP, LSSGB
Chief Information Officer
Joel Garr, Big Bend Hospice’s (BBH) Chief Information Officer is responsible for the management, strategy, and execution of BBH’s information services. He and his staff oversee technical infrastructure and projects in alignment with the organization’s goals.
A Utah native, Joel has a degree in information systems and technology from Weber State University and is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and a Lean Six-Sigma Green Belt. Garr has more than 20 years of healthcare experience in technology solutions and has served as IT Director for a non-profit hospice over the past 5 years. He has worked in organizations ranging from large non-profit health systems to start-up physician practices.
Garr gained experience early in his career at Intermountain Healthcare, and several affiliated physician practices. In addition, Joel has provided consulting services to small and medium-sized healthcare organizations.
“I feel my extensive experience in healthcare enables me to provide BBH with a unique solutions-focused perspective and a proven, standardized approach to addressing our core technology needs,” said Garr.
Fran Bell, RN, CHPN
Chief Compliance Officer
As Big Bend Hospice’s (BBH) Chief Compliance Officer, Fran Bell is responsible for managing the organization’s risks and ensuring the business operations are performed in compliance with state and federal laws.
Fran is a life-long resident of Florida and graduated with her BSN from Florida State University in 1996. She worked in psychiatric home health and an inpatient behavioral health unit for eleven years before joining BBH in 2007.
She initially provided nursing care to hospice patients in a home setting and obtained her Certification in Hospice and Palliative Nursing (CHPN). In 2009, Fran was the recipient of the Carol Pluchino-Jaffe Award of Nursing Excellence. Later, she became the Infection Control Nurse and is currently the Chair for the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation (NPHI) QI Forum.
As BBH’s Chief Compliance Officer, Fran, and her Department protect the organization by managing risks through identification and advisement in order to minimize, resolve, or circumvent significant risks. Risk management is addressed through attaining federal and state regulatory requirements, monitoring and achieving internal goals; reporting outcomes through the Quality Assurance, Performance Improvement (QAPI) Committee; conducting Organizational Performance Improvement (OPI) Plans; maintaining effective communication; and adherence to organizational policies, procedures, the Code of Ethics, and the Code of Conduct. Additionally, related training, education, oversight, and legal means are also under the purview of this position and department.
“I have a passion for accuracy, honesty, dependability, goal attaining and risk mitigation or risk avoidance,“ said Bell. “I am proud to work with an organization that has consistently striven to attain excellence in patient care and every other aspect of Hospice.”
Sharon Davidson, CVA
Senior Director of Volunteer & Community Services
Sharon supervises BBH’s Volunteer, Veteran, and Transition programs. She oversees the organization’s marketing, communication, and social media strategies, as well as BBH’s brand and image.
Sharon Davidson received a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Middle Georgia College and a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Advertising from Georgia Southern University.
Her experience includes working at Liberty Mutual as a claims adjuster, before joining Georgia-Pacific (GP) where she became the Manager of the GP Foundation. She was the Volunteer-Coordinator for GP during the 1996 Olympic and Para-Olympic games. She served on a variety of boards including Zoo Atlanta, Tree Atlanta, and Atlanta Corporate Donors.
Sharon and her family moved to Tallahassee in 2001. She was the Vice President and Development Director for Elder Care Services before joining BBH in 2012 as the Public Information Specialist. Sharon was promoted to Manager of the BBH Volunteer program in 2014, and later earned a Certificate of Volunteer Administration (CVA) an international credential for practitioners in the field of volunteer engagement.
“Prior to joining BBH, I was constantly in awe of the staff’s compassion toward patients-families and the wonderful reputation BBH has in the community. I am honored to now be a part of BBH and our mission to care for those facing an advanced illness.”
Senior Director of Business Administration
Grace LeClair attended Aquinas Junior College and Massachusetts Bay Community College. She joined BBH in 2008 and currently serves as Senior Director of Business Administration. Grace is responsible for managing the Human Resource and Facilities Departments. She oversees recruitment of new employees and benefit enrollment for staff. “I enjoy working directly with those who have made a commitment to serving their community.”
Kathy Elmore, RN, CHPN
Director of Clinical Care
Kathy Elmore, RN, CHPN, the Director of Clinical Care at Big Bend Hospice (BBH), brings an extensive background in nursing with overall 27 years of experience, 25 of those being in hospice.
Adding to her experience in leadership, Kathy served in the United States Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, and was recalled to active duty during Desert Storm. Having always felt a calling to nursing, she then pursued her passion by earning a nursing degree. Kathy’s love of sports carries into her day-to-day work at BBH as a coach, leader, and cheerleader to the clinical team, always promoting teamwork to accomplish our mission.
President, BBH Foundation
Dena Strickland, President of Big Bend Hospice Foundation, Inc. has over 35 years of experience in strategic planning, fundraising, public relations, marketing, event planning and relationship-based business development. She received her BS in Public Relations from the UF College of Journalism in 1986. President since January 2019, Dena oversees the Foundation and works with the Board of Trustees, community and staff to support the mission of Big Bend Hospice, Inc.
Strickland was nominated one of Tallahassee’s 25 Women You Need to Know, was selected to be the cover and feature of Tallahassee Woman Magazine for her philanthropic work and has served on numerous boards in the Leon County area.
“It is an honor and privilege to work for an organization that touches the lives of everyone. I am so inspired by the work that our doctors, nurses, and social workers perform daily and am in awe by the way they care for others. We always say, we turn no one away – and we are there when you need them the most – It is my mission to make sure we are Big Bend Hospice strong in perpetuity – because the love and care provided here, is essential! It is a beautiful non-profit that I am very thankful and honored to be a part of.”
Board of Directors
Janegale Boyd, RN, Chairman
John Harvard, CPA, Vice Chairman
Gary Crayton, CPA, Treasurer
Diana Oropallo, Secretary
Jeannine Silberman, MD, At Large
Gwynn Virostek, Foundation Chair
Rheb Harbison, Immediate Past Chair
Tamara Aitken, APRN
Suma Dondapati, MD
Bruce Gould, CPA
Claudette Harrell, PhD
Bennett Napier, CAE
Kenneth Pratt, Esq.
William Smith III
Katie Webb, Esq.
Barbara Williams, MD
Bill Wertman, MSW
Niharika Suchak, MD
Rev. R. B. Holmes, Jr.
David Jones, MD
The Honorable A. J. Smith