ATLANTA—Kaye Burnham Smith and LaMae Smith Williams, owners of Three Rivers Home Health Services in Eastman, recently were honored with the Entrepreneurial Leadership Award from Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University. The award was part of the Centennial Celebration of the College of Nursing as it recognized alumni and friends who had made outstanding contributions to the profession of nursing
Smith and Williams' names will be posted in the nursing school's new Hall of Honor for outstanding Georgia Baptist graduates. Smith said it's "quite humbling" to be recognized in the company of the other Georgia Baptist graduates whose names appear on the Hall of Honor.
"I was completely shocked," Smith said of winning the award. "It means a lot to me. I take my job very seriously."
Williams said she too was pleasantly surprised by the award.
"This is certainly an honor. There are so many fine Georgia Baptist School of Nursing graduates to choose from," she said.
Williams said she believes her education at Georgia Baptist School of Nursing helped make her a successful nurse and businesswoman. Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University is now the only nursing school in the South to require three years of clinical work.
"The right foundation makes all the difference in the world," she said.
Smith, a 1962 graduate of Georgia Baptist School of Nursing, realized the potential for a home health care business when her mother-in-law was suffering from cancer and needed home nursing assistance. A registered nurse and Eastman resident, Smith helped care for her ailing mother-in-law.
Time and time again, her mother-in-law asked, "What do other people do who are sick and don't have nurses who are relatives to help them?"
This question lingered with Smith and led her to partner with fellow Georgia Baptist School of Nursing graduate LaMae Smith Williams, who had assisted Smith in the care for her mother-in-law, to establish Three Rivers Home Health Services in 1979.
Over the years, Three Rivers Home Health Services has evolved from a three-employee agency offering limited home nursing care to a 120-employee agency offering a range of medical services in the home including skilled nursing therapy and physical therapy. When the company was established, it served seven counties in central Georgia. Now, it serves 18. Three Rivers Home Health Services serves 1,500 patients annually through 95,000 patient visits.
Brenda Duncan Nave, who graduated from Georgia Baptist School of Nursing with Smith in 1962 and nominated Smith and Williams for the award, said when she heard about the Entrepreneurial Leadership Award, the two women's names immediately came to mind.
"I'm amazed at what they've done," she said. "You have to be a very caring person and persevere to establish and maintain a home health agency. You have to deal with a lot of regulations and legislation, licensure, Medicare, Medicaid and regular surveys. You have to care about the patient. I don't think you establish a home health agency for the money."
Smith and Williams were selected for the Entrepreneurial Leadership Award because of the tremendous impact their business has had in central Georgia by providing quality health care for patients wanting to stay in the comforts of home.