Alumna Anne Parnell honored with Zero Harm Leadership Award

Roby Hill
December 06, 2023

Anne Parnell, associate chief, inpatient pharmacy for the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, was honored last month with the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) Zero Harm Leadership Award.

SCHA started the Zero Harm Awards in 2014 to honor and promote hospitals’ ability to prevent medical errors, a $1 trillion problem that accounts for the third highest cause-of-death in the United States, according to some estimates.

A dedicated crusader against medical errors, Parnell has been collaborating across disciplines, starting innovative programs, and inspiring colleagues in an effort to eradicate error.

Leading the way is nothing new for Parnell, who is believed to be the first University of Maine graduate to enroll in the MUSC College of Pharmacy. She graduated in 2009 and then joined the VA as a resident.

“It is always gratifying to see one of our alumni singled out for a recognition,” said Philip Hall, dean of MUSC College of Pharmacy. “Dr. Parnell was an outstanding student and it was clear she would be a leader and a changemaker in the profession. Medication error is a huge problem, and we need great pharmacists like Anne Parnell if we’re going to solve it.”

A sampling of her leadership in patient safety includes:

  • expanding clinical pharmacy services to the Inpatient Surgery ward(s)
  • participating in a dialysis project to ensure appropriate dosing of medications during dialysis
  • creating processes and assisting in education to help nurse-implementation of the heparin algorithm
  • leveraging technology to help with patient safety, such as expanding Barcode Medication Administration, integrating new software for the Alaris guardrails infusion system, implementing Electronic Health Record warnings, developing a dashboard to check stop times on time-limited inpatient orders, and more

“Dr. Parnell is an excellent teacher, mentor and takes the time required to advance her students, residents and staff,” her award nominator wrote in a letter. “For years, she has taken a leadership role in developing our trainees, laying a solid foundation for them in performance improvement and implementation of safe medication practices.”

South Carolina’s Zero Harm program was created by the SCHA in collaboration with The Duke Endowment and The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Health to support statewide efforts to create a culture of high reliability and reduce harm in the state's healthcare facilities. 

“The Zero Harm program is a prime example of a successful partnership between the public and private sector that improves the quality of life in South Carolina,” said Karen Reynolds, director of innovation and acceleration at SCHA. “As medical errors continue to be a major concern across the country, South Carolina has developed a blueprint for reducing avoidable harm in our healthcare facilities that other states can follow.”

“Zero patient harm is possible only if physicians, clinical and support staff members work together to support a culture of high reliability. Zero Harm Award winners are an inspiration to all hospitals across the state striving to provide measurably safe care for every patient.”