Main Street Mover

Tonya Grissom is pictured with her dog, Rosie. SUBMITTED

Tell us a little about yourself. Where were your born, raised, and where you live now? Family? Married? Children?

“My name is Tonya Grissom. I was born and raised in McMinnville, the older of two children. I am blessed to have both of my parents still living and very active. I am not married but blessed with a wonderful significant other in my life, whom I’ve known since we were teenagers. I have three children, Keely, 25, Abby, 23, and Michael, 19. I currently live in Old Hickory and have called Nashville home for more than 20 years.”

Where did you graduate high school?

“I graduated in 1987 from Warren County High School – go Pioneers.”

College? Degree? Area of study?

“I earned my bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University’s college of mass communications. I am the first in my family to attend and graduate college, for which I am tremendously grateful to my parents for their commitment and support to my education.”

What was your very first job?

“My first job was at 15, working in a video store. Yes, that was when you had to drive to a video store and rent VCR tapes…and often the VCR to play them. My how things have changed.”

What’s your career path that led you to HCA as director of marketing and public relations? How did you climb the ladder? Are you director over all the hospitals or specifically TriStar Summit Medical Center?

“While I was a student at MTSU, I was offered the opportunity to participate in the cooperative education program. It was a yearlong commitment to postpone graduation, yet gain full-time work experience and get paid. I was hired at Centennial Medical Center as an intern. That experience gave me the love of working in health care. Within my first month, I was able to be in the delivery room of a mom having a scheduled C-section to deliver sextuplets. My job was to take photos for mama and also write a story on the family. I was in awe how the care team planned, drilled and then executed on that plan when the delivery happened. I was also at Centennial when HCA founder, Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., was well and visiting hospitals. He was an incredibly caring and patient-centered man. Seeing him interact with staff, physicians and visitors in the halls was extremely inspiring. His saying, “Good people beget good people,” resonates with me today. I think he would be incredibly proud of our hospital culture. After my internship, I graduated and was hired as a marketing assistant at River Park Hospital in McMinnville. I loved working in my hometown, however, the commute from Murfreesboro was grinding. I received a call one day from my former boss, Cheryl Read, then-marketing director at Centennial, who asked if I wanted to come back. I jumped at the chance and thus began the five years of marketing at Centennial, finishing as director of marketing and public relations.”

How long have you worked as marketing director at HCA? Where did you work prior?

“I have been with HCA for nine years, with my last four years at TriStar Summit Medical Center. I took off full-time work for five years to raise my children and work part time for Williamson Medical Center. When I was ready to resume full-time work, I was blessed to be hired by Clearesult in Donelson. Clearesult is a partnering company with TVA to offer Energy Efficiency consultation to residents with programs like Green Power Switch. I believe learning never stops, and this opportunity fueled my love of recycle, reuse and reduce. Then in August 2016, I received a call from a former colleague telling me about the position at TriStar Summit becoming open. I felt it was God pointing me to my next move.”

What are your job duties?

“Every day is different. Much of my time is spent supporting my fellow directors. I feel my job is to tell their stories and the story of our patients. I truly work with heroes and love the opportunity to share how we want to make their hospital stay better, faster and with the best possible outcomes. I write press releases, employee communications pieces, help design direct mail pieces, ads for digital and print, social media posting and reputation management on social channels. I was told once that to have a long career in marketing, you need to stay flexible, and that rings true especially today.”

What are some career highlights and biggest career accomplishments thus far?

“A career highlight for me happened in February when I was given the TriStar Division Marketing Star of the Quarter. My fellow TriStar marketing colleagues nominated me for the award. We have a wonderful team from southern Kentucky, northern Georgia and Middle Tennessee facilities. I am honored to be part of this incredible team and thankful we share best practices.”

How has COVID-19 affected your job? Did you have to work from home at all? 

“Just before COVID changed our lives, TriStar Summit was impacted by the March 3 tornado. COVID has modified our work processes. Wearing facemasks, social distancing and washing our hands is our new normal. Daily safety huddles and everyone’s commitment to patient and employee safety is first and foremost our daily priority. I did work from home for two weeks and was thankful to come back. I truly missed my coworkers.”

Is your home base at TriStar Summit Medical Center?

“Yes.”

The hospital environment must have changed so much since March. What’s it like working there during these surreal times?

“We are all temperature screened daily and must wear a mask at all times. Visitor restrictions are tough on everyone. We are allowing one visitor per patient, except in COVID care areas. Until we are able to social gather, our community outreach events are on hold. I miss having our lunch with the doctor quarterly events, as well as our Del Webb monthly health care education breakfasts. I know we all will be thrilled to resume gathering once COVID precautions ease.”  

Do you belong to any organizations? If so, does anything stand out?

“I am a member of Women in Business with the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce. I am also part of the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce and Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.”

What would be your business advice to someone getting into your field? Do you think it’s a good field to pursue?

“I love marketing and public relations. I would encourage him or her to strive hard to learn all you can from school, but your best knowledge will come from doing it day in and day out.”

Who is your mentor? Why? Are you a mentee to anyone?

“I have had some amazing mentors in my career and personal life. My mom is my biggest hero, as she worked her entire life around my brother and me, sacrificing and giving so we could do great things and be good people.”

If you could spend an evening with anyone, past or present, who and why? What would you ask?

“I would love to have dinner with my two grandmothers. My grandmother, Birdie, passed 20 years ago. I would ask her to show me how to make her chocolate gravy. I didn’t pay attention last time. My Grannie Cricket passed this past March at 91 years young. I would ask her to sing her “Happy Birthday” song to me one last time. Both ladies led incredible lives, raised big, loving families and lived during the Great Depression. I would love to hear their stories of hardships and akin it to today’s COVID.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received or given?

“The best advice I have received is to learn to say no without guilt. Other than that, life has taught me that unless I am asked for advice, it’s best not to give it.”

Hobbies?

“I love to go on the lake, read, fish, take a spin class at the Donelson YMCA and enjoy the vast greenways Middle Tennessee has to offer.”

Are you a foodie? If so, what is your favorite dish and favorite restaurants?

Honestly, I enjoy cooking at home as much as eating out.

What would surprise us about you?

“I love to watch “The Real Housewives of New York” and Orange County.”

Where do you see yourself in five years?

“COVID has taught me not to look that far ahead. I pray I am healthy and still working to share the awesome work my coworkers do at TriStar Summit Medical Center.”

What would you tell your younger self?

“Get more sleep and wear sunscreen.”

Any fur babies?

“I have a 9-year-old Welsh springer spaniel named Rosie.”

What and how are you doing during this pandemic?

“I’m reading a lot more and doing Zoom calls with my besties.”

Favorite movie or book or what are you reading or watching now?

“I am hooked on Yellowstone. I am currently reading my favorite author, Mary Kay Andrews, ‘Hello Summer.’”

Do you like to travel? If so, favorite place you’ve visited? Somewhere you’d love to visit when it’s safe?

“I love to travel. My last big trip was in March. Gary and I went to Ireland for seven days. We were in Dublin when we heard about the tornado on the BBC. The Cliffs of Moher were breathtaking, and photographs don't do it justice. I am open to any travel abroad, but I have Scotland on my must-do list.”

Some answers were edited.

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