Tennessee Hospital Association Honors Wellmont Cardiologist, Takoma Regional Board Member

Oct. 18, 2017 | NASHVILLE, TENN.

An interventional cardiologist with the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute and a board of directors member of Takoma Regional Hospital, each dedicating three decades to strengthening the region’s health care, have earned special recognition from the Tennessee Hospital Association.

The statewide organization recently gave a meritorious service award for a medical staff member to Thomas Bulle, M.D., and a meritorious service award for a board member to Sharon Folk. The two were honored during the THA’s annual meeting at the Music City Center.

“Dr. Bulle and Ms. Folk have repeatedly demonstrated a commitment to quality health care and have played significant roles in providing an optimal experience for patients and their families,” said Bart Hove, Wellmont Health System’s president and CEO. “We have benefited considerably from their expertise and counsel and thank them for strengthening our reputation for delivering superior care. Their selection for these awards is well-deserved.”

Dr. Bulle, who retired in July, joined the Holston Valley Medical Center medical staff in 1989 when he came to Kingsport to practice with Cardiovascular Associates, the predecessor of the heart institute. He is credited with being an early leader to help expand and shape the use of interventional cardiology in the region.

Before establishing his practice here, Dr. Bulle served as director of the interventional cardiology training program at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. There, he was among the early cardiologists to perform balloon valvuloplasty procedures. At Holston Valley, Dr. Bulle was part of the team that began to use directional coronary atherectomy, and he introduced intravascular brachytherapy to the region as a way to help prevent narrowing of the coronary arteries.

More recently, Dr. Bulle played a prominent role in developing HeartSUCCESS®, the heart institute’s comprehensive program to manage heart failure symptoms in patients. He also participated in a campaign to raise awareness in the community about this potentially fatal condition.

“Cardiology care in the Tri-Cities was advanced more than most realize by the brilliant, leading-edge work Dr. Bulle brought from the University of Alabama-Birmingham nearly 30 years ago,” said Jerry Blackwell, M.D., the heart institute’s president. “The award he received from the THA is a prestigious honor and, impressively, was given to only one physician in the state this year. We are pleased this light has shone brightly on one of the bedrocks of our group for the entire state to see.”

Folk has served as a member of Takoma Regional’s community board for 30 years and has also provided a lengthy record of service with the hospital’s foundation, which is now part of Wellmont Foundation.

Tammy Albright, the hospital’s president, said Folk and other community board members have been deeply interested in championing quality and safety initiatives. Inspired by that guidance, Takoma Regional’s administration, co-workers and physicians have collaborated to make this a priority and achieve significant results, such as 10 A grades since 2012 in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade and selection as a Top Performer in quality and safety by The Joint Commission in 2015.

Folk has also provided key support for Takoma Regional’s financial success. For example, she has granted free use of Andrew Johnson Golf Club, which she owns, to raise funds for Takoma Regional. Folk also made a significant financial gift to the expansion and renovation of the hospital’s emergency department. Her latest endeavor has been to help drive the plan to renovate and redesign the hospital’s nursery.

“We are fortunate to have a board member who is highly respected and admired and who believes deeply in our mission, which has enabled Takoma Regional’s reputation to grow,” Albright said. “Ms. Folk has been a tireless advocate in the community for Takoma Regional and the quality of care we offer. Her enthusiasm and constant support have been extremely important as we continue to look for new and innovative methods to deliver care efficiently and effectively.”