VGM HME Woman of the Year Award

VGM Group, Inc. HME Woman of the Year Logo

Congratulations 2018 HME Woman of the Year Winner, Georgie Blackburn.


Thank you to this year's finalists: Georgie, Karen, Colleen, and Deanne.

Georgie Blackburn, Vice President of Government Relations and Legislative Affairs, BLACKBURN’S

Georgie is the vice president of Government Relations and Legislative Affairs for BLACKBURN’S, a privately held firm providing rehab and home medical equipment, medical supplies, and pharmacy services based in Tarentum, Pa. With satellite locations in Erie, Pa., Bridgeville, Pa., and Cheektowaga, N.Y., the company, established  in 1936, provides comprehensive services to Pennsylvania, Western New York, and Northern West Virginia through 184 individuals committed to “Helping people live life better”…the  company’s tagline.

A passionate advocate for improved health care policy, for over 10 years Georgie has fought for a sustainable Medicare competitive bid program and coverage for complex rehab technology through building strong relationships with members of Congress. She has testified before congressional committees on behalf of AAHomecare and presented programs on developing corporate compliance programs and understanding Medicare power mobility policy at state and national levels.

She has 40+ years of experience within the HME industry in several capacities. Prior to her current role, she authored BLACKBURN’S Corporate Compliance and HIPAA program, serving as its initial corporate compliance director.

As a certified rehab technology supplier (CRTS), she was manager of the rehab division for 18 years, working with clinical teams in Pittsburgh and beyond to provide children and adults with improved function, mobility and independence.

Active on state and national levels, she served as treasurer and board director for the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) and currently serves on its Complex Rehab and Mobility Council (CRMC); is past chairman and member of the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers (PAMS) where she holds an honorary lifetime membership; and presently serves on the board of directors for the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology (NCART).  

A long-time member of the National Registry of Rehab Technology Suppliers (NRRTS)  and Friend of NRRTS, Georgie has been a contributing columnist for industry periodicals and served on the editorial board of HME Business News, writing several articles regarding industry issues, policy improvement, and advocacy.

She is BLACKBURN’S corporate secretary and a member of its board of directors. In her community, she is an active member and board director for the Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce,  serving as co-chairman of its government affairs committee.  

Married to Charles Blackburn, RP, together they proudly have four grown children and five grandchildren ages 7 to 19…. their greatest blessing! 

Karen Atkins, President and Chief Executive Officer, Mobility First

Karen Atkins is president and chief executive officer of Mobility First, a home health care and mobility solutions provider serving the Kansas City, Mo., area.  

For more than 25 years, Karen has been dedicated to the home medical equipment industry, initially managing a local HME company before starting Mobility First, Inc. in 1997.   

Besides her commitment to her patients and community, Karen has been an industry advocate for many years. She has served on her local MAMES board since 2008, and is currently the Missouri state chair and chairperson for the education committee. She is also an active participant in the MAMES rehab committee and sits on the Missouri Medicaid DME advisory board - assisting her state with understanding the intricacies of the effect health care regulations have on HME providers and the patients served. Karen also advocates for the HME industry by attending AAHomecare’s annual DC Fly-in to help educate lawmakers on the current legislative climate of the industry she so passionately serves.   

In 2018, under Karen’s direction, Mobility First became the sponsor for Kansas City Youth Power Soccer League-the first competitive team sport designed and developed specifically for power wheelchair users. With her support, kids grades K-12 in the Kansas City area have the opportunity to join a sport with their own peer group.

Outside of the workplace, Karen enjoys spending time with her three children and husband, Bill. Prior to her daughter leaving for college, she enjoyed coaching competitive volleyball. Karen also enjoys watching her son wrestle. When she’s not supporting her kids during their extracurricular activities, Karen enjoys spending time at the lake house with family and friends.

Colleen Hunter, Owner, Browning’s Pharmacy and Health Care

Colleen Hunter is the owner of Browning’s Pharmacy and Health Care, with locations in Melbourne and Winter Garden, Fla. She is a fourth-generation Floridian and native of Melbourne. She lives in Melbourne Beach with her husband, Jim. They have a daughter Morgan (21).  

Upon graduating from Melbourne High School and the University of Florida with her master’s degree in accounting, Colleen worked as a C.P.A. for several years before joining the family business in 1995. She is proud to have taken over ownership of Browning’s Pharmacy and Health Care in 2011.

Browning’s Pharmacy and Health Care follows the mission, “Browning’s is a service-oriented, professional, caring company providing high-quality home medical equipment, rehabilitation equipment, pharmaceutical services, enteral feeding, respiratory services, and specialty items that our community requires.” The staff truly cares about each customer and helping them find what they need to make their life easier or for that of a loved one.

Browning’s celebrated 56 years in business this year. In 2017 they purchased a building in Winter Garden and expanded their existing presence in the area by adding a retail store to their existing custom rehab business. Also, Colleen's husband, Jim, joined Browning’s to help manage and grow the two locations.

Colleen cooks meals for The Haven for Children. In her spare time, she likes to fish offshore, cook, and spend time with her family.

Deanne Sandvold, Vice President and Owner, EZ-Access, a division of Homecare Products, Inc.

Deanne Sandvold founded Homecare Products, Inc. (dba EZ-ACCESS) in 1984 with her mother, Glenda Everard.  Deanne has extensive experience in sales, marketing, manufacturing, human resources, managing, event planning, and corporate culture, all of which she has developed over the 34 years in running the company and through professional coaching. She also has experience in not-for-profit organizations, charity, mentoring, and strategic planning. 

Deanne has created a corporate culture that attracts and retains the best of the best.  She ensures that each and every one of the company’s 200 employees is cared for and feels valued, and is provided opportunity for growth and success in the workplace as well as time to participate in philanthropic endeavors in both our local and HME communities.  Deanne’s care for her teammates is evident through her communications in monthly newsletters and celebrations of milestones, and the impact is vast.  Her employees enjoy a welcoming atmosphere and in turn their dealers experience a warm culture, and end users enjoy a product that has been made with pride.

Meet the 2018 HME Woman of the Year Selection Committee

Liz BeaulieuLiz Beaulieu, Editor, HME News 
Liz Beaulieu has covered the HME industry for more than 10 years. Prior to joining HME News, she worked as a reporter for a weekly newspaper in Kennebunk, Maine. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maine and a master's degree in non-fiction writing from the University of New Hampshire. 

Andrew Morse, Assistant to the President for Board and Governmental Relations, University of Northern Iowa
Dr. Morse oversees the Office of Governmental Relations at Northern Iowa and directs the university's federal policy initiatives and priorities. Prior to Northern Iowa, he was consultant and project director at Keeling & Associates, a higher education consulting firm, and he directed the federal policy research and advocacy efforts of a national higher education association based in Washington, D.C. 

Rita Stanley, Vice President, Government Relations, Sunrise Medical
Rita has been with Sunrise Medical, or a division of Sunrise, for 35 years. She advanced rapidly from sales associate to ultimately assuming her current role as vice president of Government Relations - a role she’s embraced with a “get it done” attitude for nearly 20 years.  

Barbara Leech, Chief Executive Officer, Healthline Medical Equipment, Inc.
Barbara is chief executive officer for Healthline Medical Equipment, Inc. She has worked in the HME industry for 27 years, 25 of which have been at Healthline. Under Barbara’s direction, the company, headquartered in Wichita Falls, Texas, has grown from three locations to 12 with 196 total employees. Barbara is the 2017 Woman of the Year winner.

Douglas Coleman, CEO, Rocky Mountain Medical Equipment LLC, DBA Major Medical
Douglas has owned and operated full-line, respiratory and retail home medical equipment stores in Colorado for nearly 30 years. He is president of the Colorado Association for Medical Equipment Services (CAMES), the chair of the State Leaders Council for the American Association for Homecare, and sits on the Colorado Medicaid Advisory Board. In 2018, Douglas was awarded the Mal Mixon Legislative Advocate Award by AAHomecare.