W. Daniel Barker Leadership Award

Thank you to everyone who entered this year's competition. Winners will be announced this spring.

Submit your nomination here. Any GHA member may make a nomination.

2017 Winner

Candice Saunders, FACHE
WellStar Health System

Since Candice Saunders, FACHE, was named president and chief executive officer of WellStar Health System in 2015, the system has seen an explosion of growth in the past few years. Saunders has led many initiatives to meet the needs of the community.  Aside from acquiring six hospitals in 2016 and becoming the largest health system in Georgia, WellStar is also expanding its outpatient facilities to meet the expected demand of outpatient services over the next decade.


Under Saunders’ management, WellStar has been recognized as a leader in safety and quality measures and was listed on FORTUNE Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For® three years in a row. The health system is ranked as a top place for female executives by the National Association of Female Executives and is listed on Working Mother Magazine’s Best Companies list.


Equally as inspiring is Saunders’ dedication to patients, which stems from her early health care background as a critical care nurse. She knows what patients are going through and ensures that WellStar’s policies and procedures account for the patient experience and well-being. Her ability to view health care from a nursing perspective means she is able to empathize with nurses on the floor and can provide team members with precisely the tools they need to succeed.


Saunders is committed to open communication and transparency and has a strong desire to listen. Often, she will spend her free time calling frontline team members directly to answer their questions. She has been known to work alongside fellow RNs during a crisis when she knows more hands are needed to help.


Saunders also looks to the future success of the health system by mentoring young leaders, meeting regularly with women inside as well as outside the health system to guide their careers.