2021 Sue Ann Head Award Finalists and Recipient Announced

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 | 09:00am

The Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has announced three finalists and recipient of the third-annual Sue Ann Head Award for Excellence in Workers’ Compensation. 
The finalists were Deborah K. Powell, Workers’ Compensation Claims Team Lead, Sedgwick, Joyce “Joy” Baker, Risk Management Director, City of Johnson City, Tennessee, and Jody Barnes, RN Field Case Manager, Sedgwick.

Headshot of all three finalists

A distinguished panel of workers’ compensation experts served as judges for this award, Bob Wilson, President and CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, The Honorable David Langham, Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings, and Vickie Kennedy, Assistant Director for Insurance Services, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

The Award is named in honor of Sue Ann Head, who led the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Division for over 30 years.  She passed away in May of 2018.  Over a dozen nominations were submitted.  Nominees must have had a minimum of five years as an employer or employer representative, employee representative, service provider, claims professional, medical provider, or an as attorney.  Nominations were judged on their overall service based on the quality and impact on Tennessee’s workers’ compensation system.

Deborah K. Powell has been involved with Tennessee workers’ compensation claims for over 20 years beginning as an adjuster.  Her current team processes more Tennessee claims than any other Sedgwick office, over 1,500 new claims each year.  These injuries range from minor to catastrophic injuries and unfortunately, fatalities.  She is involved with training and tracking legislative changes. Powell was also involved in developing the Bureau’s Adjuster Certification Program, working as an outside advisor on the project.  She was nominated by Peter Albertson, Vice President of Operations for Sedgwick who said “I have worked with Deborah Powell for many years.  She is an outstanding colleague and deserving of this recognition.” 

Joyce “Joy” Baker has developed and overseen the City of Johnson City, Tennessee’s workers’ compensation program for over 18 years.  She is actively involved in every aspect of a claim including filing First Reports of Injury, providing panels of physicians, and participating in mediations, hearings, and trials.  She also trains other city leaders and managers.  Ms. Baker treats every injured worker with care and compassion and explains the process to them and their family members.  Her knowledge and experience, paired with her commitment to helping injured workers return to work, mean that most concerns are resolved without controversy or litigation.  She is a member of the state’s Advisory Council on Workers’ Compensation. Samuel McPeak, Partner with the law firm of Herrin, McPeak and Associates, nominated her and states “Ms. Baker is an unknown hero that deserves this award.” 

Jody Barnes is a Field Case Manager Nurse with Sedgwick who transitioned from providing patient care as an oncology nurse to workers’ compensation case management in 2014.  She has been involved in difficult situations—the aftermath of the March 2020 Nashville tornado, a crime scene at a storage unit, and others—and is among the first to meet with an injured worker after an accident.  She is described as a tireless advocate for her clients and has been known to visit them on weekends and to even interrupt her vacation time.  She views this as a job requirement.  She was nominated by Katie Stalewska, Clinical Team Lead for Sedgwick who says “I feel honored to have Jody as a member of my team.  She is an inspiration to both me and my team.” 

The winner was announced during the 24th Workers’ Compensation Education Conference on November 3, 2021.

And the winner is...Jody Barnes

Congratulations, Jody, on receiving the 2021 Sue Ann Head Award of Excellence in Workers' Compensation, and thank you to all our nominees.

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