All ATHENA nominees here are winners

Some 625 people packed into a Canfield venue last week in celebration of this year’s 26 nominees for the annual ATHENA Awards.

The large crowd that sold out in record time could not have been more enthusiastic for the nominees, who were incredibly deserving of the praise and excitement.

If you’re not familiar, the ATHENA Award is given annually to recognize area business and professional women who have demonstrated excellence in their chosen career, provided leadership in the community and mentored or contributed to the growth of other professional women.

This year’s honorees were nominated by their colleagues and family members were all deserving of the award and worthy of praise heaped upon them for their leadership.

Especially deserving of the evening’s top honors, though, was this year’s recipient, Dr. Virginia Deeanne Banks, infectious disease specialist with Northeast Ohio Infectious Disease Associates.

Revered for her dedication to her profession and as a leader in our community, Dr. Banks joined Northeast Ohio Infectious Disease Associates after completing 15 years as head of infectious disease at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Horizon Campus in Hermitage, Pa. There she was named clinician of the year and received the prestigious Watanakunakorn Clinician Award, presented annually to a member of the Infectious Disease Society of America who spends at least 75 percent of his or her time in direct patient care and demonstrates commitment to the field.

Dr. Banks is the chair of the George Counts Interest Group of the Infectious Disease Society of America that advocates for elimination of disparities in health care in general and infectious diseases via inclusion and diversity. She co-chairs the COVID task force of the Links, Inc. and has participated in numerous symposiums and webinars to be a trusted messenger on the pandemic.

In 2021, she received the Live Fierce award from the American Heart Association for her work during the pandemic and in 2022 received the Simeon Booker Award for Courage for her efforts.

Dr. Banks earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from the Western College for Women and an MBA from Youngstown State University and graduated from the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

The mother of four serves on the board of trustees of the Butler Institute of American Art, Canton Museum of Art and the Canton Symphony. She is also on the foundation board for NEOMED and serves on the Friends of African and African American Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art.


Additionally, the others honored at this year’s ATHENA Awards dinner included: Sarah Aronson, anesthesiologist, Trumbull and Sharon regional medical centers; Tracey Behnke, senior development consultant, Midwest Region, American Heart Association; Elayne Bozik, Realtor, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Stouffer Realty; Sherry Cross, director, Choffin Career and Technical Center’s adult education programs; Lena Esmail, chief executive officer, QUICKmed Urgent Care and specialty clinics; Danielle Fraelich, vice president, The J. Arnold Wealth Management Co.; Trish Gelsomino, foundation giving coordinator, Premier Bank; Kathleen Harley, president, St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital; Lorena Hegedus, director, Hubbard Public Library; Sarah Keeler, district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta; Chaya Kessler, director of Jewish Studies, Kent State University; Stella Kotsatos-Angelo, real estate sales professional, Century 21 Lakeside Realty; Jane MacPherson, CEO, MacPherson & Co.; Candace Madden, grant manager and Panerathon coordinator, Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley; Jamie Marshall, chief strategy officer, Henry H. Stambaugh Auditorium Association; Dr. Penelope Mashburn, general surgeon, director of trauma services, Trumbull Regional Medical Center; Audrey Novotny, executive director, Square One Health LLC; Kristen Olmi, CEO, KO Consulting LLC; Deidre Petrosky, Cortland mayor; Roxann Sebest, vice president, United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley; Jillian Smith, assistant fire chief, Ellsworth Township; April L. Snyder, certified professional insurance agent and senior personal risk manager, Gibson Insurance Agency; Tracie Stephens, principal, Schroedel, Scullin & Bestic LLC; Lisa Taafe, clinical administrative director, Akron Children’s Hospital; and Nancy Voitus, executive director, Catholic Charities Regional Agency.

Also honored last week was Chloe Khoury, Boardman High School senior, who received a $1,500 ATHENA Scholarship in partnership with the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield also presented scholarships for $1,250 each to Warren G. Harding High School senior E’Mari Joi Edmonds and Jackson-Milton High School senior Paige Grope.

Congratulations to every one of these women in our community.

The Vindicator and vindy.com couldn’t be more proud to partner with the Regional Chamber on this event, now in its 30th year.



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