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June 29, 2011

PRSA Health Academy Honors Tom Vitelli and John R. Fears

Frank J. Weaver Lifetime Achievement Award and MacEachern Chief Executive Officer Award Winners Recognized at Health Academy Annual Conference
NEW YORK (June 29, 2011) — Recognizing the best of health care public relations management and leadership at its annual conference in Washington, D.C., the PRSA Health Academy honored Tom Vitelli, APR, Fellow PRSA, and John R. Fears, who have demonstrated visionary leadership and a sound understanding of public relations principles.
Vitelli received the 2011 Frank J. Weaver Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field of health care public relations. Vitelli has been at the forefront of many of the trends shaping health care in the last 25 years, especially in his roles as assistant vice president of communication for Intermountain Healthcare, a 23-hospital system in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a leader in PRSA.
“If there’s one thing that stands out in my mind about my career, it’s the fast pace of organizational change and my role in facilitating that,” according to Vitelli. “What we do in health care public relations really matters to people. I’ve always been excited to tell the stories of the good work our organizations do.”
Vitelli has also contributed substantially to thought leadership for health care public relations with more than 40 presentations, 15 published articles on public relations and health care, and has written several books, including “Public Relations in the Integrated Health Care Organization.” 
Fears, retired executive director of The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, received the 2011 MacEachern Chief Executive Officer Award. Under his leadership, the hospital hired its first full-time public affairs officer, who was charged with developing a comprehensive public relations program that would enhance the image of the VA in the community and garner more favor among the medical community in Phoenix. Fears also supported the creation of a public affairs committee and the unification of employee and volunteer associations under the public affairs function to promote, as he called it, “a one voice concept” throughout the organization. His support for the public relations function earned the Phoenix VA Medical Center numerous national and local awards, including the Banner Award from the American Hospital Association’s Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development, as well as multiple PRSA Silver Anvil Awards.
"Our 2011 PRSA Health Academy award winners are beacons to the public relations profession. We hold them up as the best in executive leadership, strategic public relations counseling, and public relations research. On behalf of the Health Academy, I congratulate each of them for their unique and outstanding contributions to the Health Academy and to the greater public relations community," said Nancy Hughes, APR, 2011 chair, PRSA Health Academy. Hughes is assistant vice president, communications and marketing, at the National Health Council in Washington, D.C.
About the PRSA Health Academy
The Health Academy is the largest Professional Interest Section within PRSA. Through the convergence of health care and public relations, the Academy promotes excellence in communications and an educational dialogue across the entire health care industry for the professional enhancement of its members.
About the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
With more than 31,000 members, PRSA is the largest organization of public relations professionals and students. PRSA is comprised of 111 local Chapters organized into 10 geographic Districts; 14 Professional Interest Sections that focus on issues, trends and research relevant to specialized practice areas, such as technology, health care, financial communications, entertainment and sports, and travel and tourism; and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which has more than 300 Chapters at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. PRSA is headquartered in New York.
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