As healthcare workers continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, four well-deserving Atrium Health teammates will be recognized for their service and sacrifice with a trip to Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Fla.

News | one year ago

Atrium Health Partners with Carolina Panthers to Send Frontline Healthcare Workers to Super Bowl LV

As healthcare workers continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, four well-deserving Atrium Health teammates will be recognized for their service and sacrifice with a trip to Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Fla.

After nearly a year of fighting on the front lines of a global pandemic, four healthcare workers with Atrium Health will be recognized for their efforts with a trip to Super Bowl LV in Tampa, part of an NFL-led initiative in appreciation for their unwavering commitment to their community 

Aimed at showcasing a select few hardworking teammates during the COVID-19 crisis, the recognition is made possible by a partnership between the Carolina Panthers and Atrium Health.  

While just about every Atrium Health teammate deserves recognition and a special trip to the Super Bowl for their work during the pandemic, a diverse group representing frontline teammates across the system are going to the game, an amazing opportunity made possible by a partnership between the Carolina Panthers and Atrium Health.  

“We have an incredibly dedicated and selfless workforce here at Atrium Health,” says Gary Little, MD, SVP, Chief Medical Officer, Atrium Health. “They’ve sacrificed long hours and endured physical and mental obstacles working directly with patients affected by COVID-19, and we want to show them just how grateful we are to have them on our team.”  

"Frontline healthcare workers have tirelessly served our region and the entire country during the pandemic, and we’re pleased to join Atrium Health in recognizing these four individuals. They have demonstrated exemplary commitment in their service and care for others," said Panthers director of community relations Riley Fields.  "The Super Bowl experience provides a unique opportunity to express our gratitude and appreciation for the on-going efforts of all our frontline healthcare workers." 

Atrium Health teammates heading to Tampa for Super Bowl LV include: 

  • Lenna Crockett, RN, Clinical Supervisor at Atrium Health Cabarrus 
  • Shikha Dharamrup, Director of Operations at Core Laboratory 
  • Darryl Ellison, Environmental Services Technician at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center 
  • Jennifer Gardner, Director of Outreach at Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute 

The four teammates will travel to Tampa on February 5 to watch the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. 

A once in a lifetime experience for those on the front lines 

As a nurse and clinical supervisor in the internal pulmonary unit of Atrium Health Cabarrus, 50-year-old Lenna Crockett has seen firsthand how the pandemic has impacted her community – as her unit switched from treating patients with respiratory challenges to COVID-19In her nearly 25 years of working as a nurse, Lenna has met unique challenges she never thought she’d face in the duration of her career.  

It has been draining, especially at the beginning when we were learning what COVID-19 was, how to treat it, how to protect ourselves, and how to protect the patientsEvery day something changed,” says Lenna. “And protecting our families was the biggest concern of ours. Thinking, Lord, don't let me bring it back to my family. 

Her unwavering dedication, even during these uncertain times, is why Lenna was chosen to represent Atrium Health in Tampa, according to Trish Traylor West, DNP, MSN, RN, nurse manager and Lenna's supervisor at Atrium Health Cabarrus. 

“Lenna is super deserving because she is such a servant leader. She truly walks the walk and talks the talk as a nurse on the front lines supporting her staff, team, and patients," says Trish. 

A huge football fan who plans her work schedule around football season, Lenna says she nearly passed out when she learned she was chosen to go to Super Bowl LV.  

“Is this a prank?” Lenna says as she recalls her first words on the phone call. “And then I cried a little bit. This is a once in a lifetime thing for me—I would never have dreamed I'd ever go to a Super Bowl.” 

A diehard football fan, Lenna normally takes days off work to plan, host, and clean up after a Super Bowl party for friends and family.   

Lenna’s dedication and loyalty to football is almost equal to that of her career, and it’s one reason she became so emotional when she learned she would be attending a live Super Bowl.  

“I was in disbelief and felt very thankful and humbled,” says Lenna 

“There are heroes behind heroes.” 

Shikha Dharamrup, director of operations at Atrium Health’s Core Laboratory, was promoted into her role just as COVID-19 took storm in March 2020. According to colleagues, Shikha has been instrumental in increasing Atrium Health’s capacity for COVID-19 testing and leveraging ways to maintain supplies during hospital shortages. Despite the challenges, Shikha humbly and dutifully tackles her role and looks forward to the “once in a lifetime experience” of attending a live Super Bowl. 

“Being part of healthcare during this pandemic has only validated my reasons for doing the work I do,” says Shikha. “Leading and being part of a team that is responsible for launching and performing COVID-19 testing for our teammates and patients has truly been an experience—and I am honored to attend the Super Bowl on behalf of Atrium Health.” 

According to Shikha, having the opportunity to sit in Super Bowl seats along with nearly 7,500 other healthcare workers who have battled the pandemic is slowly but surely sinking in.  

“You know, we're all heroes as it relates to what we do every day. And to know that it counts and that's being recognized, I think is very helpful,” she says. “I think the other thing to also know is that each of us has our own support systems and our own heroes. So, when I think about what got me to where I am, or me sitting at the Super Bowl and enjoying myself, I think about the support that my family has provided me to be able to do what I do to help take care of our patients. While we may have a few of those heroes there, I think there are a lot more heroes behind those heroes that I take to heart. 

A light in the dark during a difficult time   

Fifty-three-year-old environmental services technician, Darryl Ellison, has been with Atrium Health for 17 years and has helped protect hospital visitors by keeping house and disinfecting equipment during the pandemic.  

When asked how it makes him feel to be one of thousands of healthcare workers among the crowd at Super Bowl LV, he offers a humble answer—he’s simply grateful to play a role in keeping people safe.  

I'm just glad I can help,” he says. “Show some appreciation as they are still trying to get the pandemic under control and trying to get everybody to get the COVID-19 vaccine.” 

"Our environmental services teammates are in patient rooms more than doctors and nurses, and a lot of times people overlook our frontline staff, but they are so committed to ensuring that patients stays are pleasant, and they are truly creating a healing environment," says Esezele Payne, Assistant Vice President of Environmental Services and Operations for Atrium Health. "To have the opportunity to give this to a teammate has been phenomenal and makes it worth all the hard work." 

According to Darryl, his large family has been unable to gather during the pandemic, so the Super Bowl trip means a lot during an otherwise difficult time. 

“I've never been to a Super Bowl, or any live football game and I can't wait,” says Darryl. “I love watching the Super Bowl and love football, so I am really looking forward to it.” 

"Everyone has just been overwhelmingly excited for Darryl," says Esezele. "We can't wait to see him go through this journey. He is personally a huge Tampa Bay fan and is rooting all the way for Tom Brady, and we are rooting for Darryl."  

Darryl continues to protect community members, family members, and loved ones by having received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourages everyone around him to do the same.  

Renewed hope as the pandemic continues  

Jennifer Gardner, director of outreach at Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute, has been with Atrium Health for nearly three decades and is the clinical liaison for Bank of America Stadium and the Carolina Panthers. As part of her role, she ensures a high standard of care for players, personnel, and fans in conjunction with Atrium Health’s clinical leadership team.  

According to colleagues, Jennifer has been instrumental in Atrium Healths community response to COVID-19 as one of the key leaders of the Community Roving COVID-19 Testing Sites during the pandemic. Her 30-member team alone put in more than 18,000 hours of work to ensure testing was available to all Atrium Health teammates. And now they’re using that same energy to vaccinate community members as vaccines become available.  

“We know there's hope in the community now,” says Jennifer. “We’re very invested in making sure that everyone who wants to receive a vaccine has the opportunity to receive that vaccine. I think that our community went from fear to hope and being able to transition from ‘Do I have COVID-19? Am I going to give it to my family member?' or 'I can't see my family members' to now getting a vaccine and feeling hopeful that life is going to return to normal. 

Jennifer admits that while attending the Super Bowl is a monumental experience, she most looks forward to the opportunity to represent Atrium Health healthcare workers alongside thousands of others who have been on the front lines.  

“It's about being able to represent healthcare workers who have given their time, their effort, their dedication over the past year to take care of COVID-19 patients, to be on the front line and to really make a difference in the world,” she says. “I've worked at Atrium Health for 32 years. I've seen a lot of changes. We've changed names. We changed leaders, but through it all, the dedication to the patients and the community remained. That's what I'm proud of and why I love working at Atrium Health.” 

Atrium Health Chief Executive Officer, Gene Woods, recognized Jennifer’s commitment to service by awarding her a highly prized “Tree of Life” coin—and this unique trip to Super Bowl LV will recognize the same effort 

Learn more about Atrium Health’s commitment to vaccinating the community and ending the COVID-19 pandemic:

Health, Hope and Vaccinations – for ALL Who Are Eligible 

Public-Private Partnership Hosted First Mass Vaccination Clinic, Vaccinating Nearly 16,000