2019 ACNL Excellence Awards

These awards are presented to recognize, document and communicate outstanding achievement in specific areas of nursing. Awards were presented at ACNL's 2019 Annual Conference in Pasadena.

Excellence in Leadership

Linda Leavell, PhD, MPH, RN

Executive Director, Retired
National Patient Care Services
Kaiser Permanente

A national nursing icon and visionary leader, Linda created an enduring legacy by elevation nursing professional practice across the Kaiser continuum of care. 

An advocate for the nursing profession for more than 40 years, Linda is revered by her peers, colleagues and staff for her authentic leadership, transparency, mentoring spirit and significant organizational contributions. She has extensive healthcare experience including serving as a US Navy head nurse, nurse educator, chief nurse executive (profit and non-profit hospitals) and most recently retiring from her eight-year role as Executive Director of National Patient Care Services at Kaiser Permanente.

In this role, Linda collaborated with leaders and KP nurses across the continuum to develop KP nursing's vision, values and nursing model. This seminal work was key in uniting and aligning over 50,000 nurses in all regions under a single vision. Linda consistently challenged and inspired KP nurses to bring the IOM's Future of Nursing Report recommendations to life in innovative ways. She oversaw the on-going development of the KP National Patient Care Services Strategy Map designed to transform nursing practice across the organization's continuum of care. Her transformational leadership accountabilities encompassed four categories of nursing: quality and safety, education and professional development, leadership, and evidence-based practice. Linda spearheaded annual KP Nursing Summits designed to recognize nursing contributions and spread effective practices, innovation and system learnings. Linda effectively reached across aisles to form strong inter-professional partnerships and educate physicians, pharmacists and executive leaders about nursing contributions as well as patient, staff, organizational and community outcome linkages.

Linda's vision of having the voice of nursing at healthcare decision-making tables, including organizational boardrooms and within nursing policy arenas, continues to impact and inspire those at KP whose lives she touched. Her advocacy related to nursing quality, evidence-based practice and research has been unprecedented  as she motivated RN staff and colleagues to constantly balance the art and science of nursing. A strong supporter of professional organization involvement, Linda has been a longtime, dedicated member of ACNL and has participated in numerous presentations throughout the years

Outstanding Emerging Nurse Leader


Heather Johnson, MSN, RN, PCCN

Universal Care Unit and Centralized Monitoring Center
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

A results-oriented leader, Heather strives to build healthy work environments for nurses while promoting patient care excellence.

Although new to a formal leadership position, Heather consistently demonstrates outstanding abilities that make her a role model for her peers. Compassionate and self-directed, she leads by example while seeking to understand others. Passionate about cultivating a positive work environment, Heather implemented several best practices to combat incivility and bullying. This work resulted in 2018 employee engagement scores for those under her sphere of influence reaching the 90th percentile of the national benchmark. Heather also teaches lateral violence prevention to nurse leaders and staff members through unit-based and institution-wide courses and retreats. She has worked on key-quality/patient safety initiatives in the Universal Care Unit which resulted in zero reportable hospital-acquired pressure ulcers (HAPUs), zero central line-associated blood stream infections (CLABSI), zero catheter associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), and a reduction of unassisted falls by 46 percent in fiscal year 2018.

In addition to her membership in ACNL, ACNL's Los Angeles Coastal Chapter and the American Organization of Nurse Executives, Heather is actively involved in the American Association of Critical are Nurses as an ambassador. She plans to continue striving to improve the nursing workplace as a member of ACNL's 2019 Healthy Work Environment Committee.


Excellence in Clinical Practice


Juli McGinnis, MSN, RN, NEA-NC

Director, Nursing Professional Practice
Patient Care Services, Southern California Region
Kaiser Permanente

A passionate change agent, Juli's vision, determination, and optimism propels nursing practice to new heights.

With more than 20 years of experience in the nursing profession, Juli is a dedicated advocate and mentor, consistently creating new strategies to support and encourage nurses at all levels. Utilizing the ANCC Magnet Recognition program as a road map to elevate nursing practice, Magnet Recognition program as a road map to elevate nursing practice, Juli is a strong advocate for shared governance, lending to her motto that "empowering front-line staff nurses is the best and most effective way to transform cultures." She coaches and empowers nurses, encouraging them to drive change. Shifting from top-down model to nurse-driven structures improves patient outcomes, nurse engagement and nursing practice. To promote and sustain shared governance structures, Juli developed Magnet resource toolkits. Through advocacy and co-design of numerous programs, Juli has positively impacted patient outcomes through implementation of bedside shift report, processes to improve nurse communication and numerous quality improvement initiatives. Her drive for shared governance and nursing excellence contributed to the first Kaiser Permanente Medical Center (Orange County - Irvine) receiving Magnet designation in 2017 and the second (Orange County - Anaheim) in 2018.

A strong believer in partnerships, Juli launched the Southern California Regional Nursing Professional Practice and Shared Decision-Making Coucil consisting of frontline nurses, nurse leaders and labor representatives - all collaborating to improve nursing practice for patients and communities. Additionally, she has partnered with academia to develop strategies to integrate classroom learning with clinical application. A longtime member of ACNL, Julihas presented numerous posters showcasing her work at ACNL.

Excellence in Nursing Research


June Rondinelli, PhD, RN, CNS

Director, Regional Nursing Research Program

Patient Care Services, Southern California Region
Kaiser Permanente

A champion of evidence-based practice, June is committed to improving patient care by advancing the art and science of nursing.

An advocate for the nursing profession for 32 years, June's diverse career spans medical-surgical, critical care and perinatal specialties. Underlying her professional practices is one guiding principle - using data to drive science based care. This core value has influenced her activities, achievements and outcomes throughout her distinguished career. 

June's research proficiencies transcend boundaries to embrace frontline staff at KP medical centers and safety net hospitals by promoting research activities, evidence-based practice involvement and enhancement of research skills. June partners with academic scholars to expand opportunities for the development of research/EBP competencies with an overarching goal of organizational and inter-professional integration of research knowledge within KP and the community at large. She provides consultation and resources for data collection, protocol implementation, human subject approval and potential funding, which is invaluable when assisting groups and individuals in achieving research goals. Since 2007, June's contributions to nursing have covered a wide range of patient/staff focused research activities, including being primary investigator/co-investigator on 10 research studies, completing 6 evidence reviews, publishing 10 journal articles, presenting 25 podium/poster presentations, and securing 2 large research grants and 1 research residency grant. Her contributions have helped establish KP as a leader for nursing research throughout the nation.

A longtime member of ACNL, June urges nurses from all settings to join California's leadership organization. As a "conference buddy" June assists new members in maximizing their experiences when attending ACNL's Annual Conference.

Excellence in Professional Education


Stephanie Vaughn, PhD, RN, CCRN, FAHA
Director and Professor
California State University, Fullerton

A collaborative and innovative leader, Stephanie places student success at the core of preparing future nurses to practice in today's dynamic healthcare environment.

A vibrant and collaborative leader, Stephanie led the CSU Fullerton nursing faculty in creating an innovative model with student success as the foundation of educating RN students to excel in nursing practice and meet the needs of diverse populations. A leader in both service and academia, Stephanie continues to practice as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in rehabilitation. Stephanie's unique background provides her with the insight to bridge the gap between service and academia. She excels at creating new partnerships with community colleges and health care venues to address patient and student educational needs. One example is her leadership in the Tr-County Nursing Pathway, a model collaborative program between Riverside Community College, CSU San Bernardino and CSU Fullerton. This model creates a pathway for community college nursing students to dual enroll in their community college nursing program and a CSU with the goal of completing a nursing baccalaureate degree in four years.

Currently, Stephanie is augmenting student support services to address underrepresented and first-generation college students through a $2 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HRSA grant. As a part of these efforts, she is implementing holistic admission practices that create equity in student access to baccalaureate, masters and doctoral level education. Through this grant she leads a team to increase student support, including creating positions to meet identified needs of first-generation college students and assist faculty and student advisers in utilizing culturally-appropriate teaching/learning methods while incorporating inter-professional approaches.

In addition to her involvement in ACNL and several other professional nursing organizations, Stephanie is a past president of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses and serves on the editorial board of the Rehabilitation Nursing Journal. She has received numerous awards including CSU Fullerton's Exceptional Teaching Effectiveness Award and the Daisy Award for her faculty leadership and teaching expertise.

Excellence in Innovation and Technology


Anne Tanner, MN, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE

Executive Director, Acute Care Services
CHOC Children's Hospital

A creative and influential leader, Anne promotes the use of innovation and technology to encourage nurses to stretch beyond their comfort zones to achieve excellence. 

An effective strategist dedicated to advancing innovation in patient care, Anne was the first nurse leader to join CHOC's Medical Intelligence and Innovation Institute (MI3), previously composed mostly of physicians and PhD scientists. MI3 provides the hub for education and training for CHOC associates seeking to translate their ideas into tangible outcomes to improve patient care. Under Anne's leadership, three nurses are now MI3 core team members, resulting in more ideas and participation from the frontline RNs who are seeking ways to improve their practice.

Anne led a diverse team in building a strategic plan for innovation which resulted in a tiered structure for education and support, known as the I-Series. Innovation Primer introduces nurses and multidisciplinary team members to the steps of innovation. I-Beach enhances design thinking and novel ways to approach problems. The newest component, I-Surf, offeres 1:1 coaching for individuals who have ideas they would like to commercialize. She also spearheaded collaborative efforts between nursing and information technology departments to develop an innovative, electronic decision-making dashboard to address an unexpected, sustained surge in patient census. The result was a readily accessible data source to predict staffing by using trended data. This data analytics tool is used daily by unit-based managers, staffing office personnel and nurse leaders at CHOC Children's, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of inpatient staffing needs and trends to improve patient placement and throughput.

An ACNL member for more than 30 years, Anne has served on ACNL's Board of Directors and numerous committees and is a former secretary-treasurer.


View 2019 Outstanding Contribution Award Recipients