Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Announces 2020 Spirit of the Region Award Recipients

With a virtual crowd of nearly 300 attendees, yesterday the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its biggest celebration of the year.

The Nashville Chamber recognized four individuals who propel the region forward by devoting their time and energy to helping advance key regional priorities. Award recipients included Missy Acosta, posthumously Samuel H. Howard, Dr. Alex Jahangir and Dr. Wright Pinson.

“Since 2008, the Chamber’s annual awards have honored individuals and companies that have contributed the most toward our organization’s purpose of creating economic prosperity by facilitating community leadership,” said Ralph Schulz, President and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “These individuals embody the Chamber’s brand promise to belong, engage, lead and prosper while helping position Middle Tennessee for continued success.”


Missy Acosta, Vice President, Brand Strategy, Delta Dental of Tennessee

Missy Acosta serves as vice president of brand strategy for Delta Dental of Tennessee and is the chair of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Conditions Council (BCC). The BCC is comprised of business leaders from a cross-section of the region’s economy who gather regularly to provide insight into current and emerging economic conditions. Acosta’s leadership of the BCC has come at a critical time for Nashville’s economy, providing regular updates on the impact COVID-19 has had on Nashville’s key industries. Acosta has more than 25 years of experience in consumer branding and marketing across a diverse set of industries, including insurance, healthcare, technology, economic development, public utilities, entertainment, and consumer products. She values community engagement, having served as a board and committee member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, American Diabetes Association, Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dismas, Inc., Kiwanis of Nashville Foundation and Nashville Cable.

Samuel H. Howard, Posthumous Award

The legacy of the late Samuel H. Howard will be felt for many generations. He became the first African American chairman of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Governors in 1998 and was actively involved as one of the region’s top business and community leaders for nearly five decades. Originally from Oklahoma, Howard was the one of the first Black White House fellows in the 1960s. Howard founded Phoenix Holdings, Inc., and Phoenix Communications Group, Inc. in the 1970s, and his career included roles at Meharry Medical College, Hospital Affiliates International, the Hospital Corporation of America and Xantus Corporation. Among his many community leadership roles, Howard chaired the Urban League of Middle Tennessee and co-founded 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee. While his awards and accolades are many, he will best be remembered as a leader who always reached back to help and mentor others. He is survived by his wife Karan and two children, Anica Lynne Howard and Samuel H. Howard II.

A. Alex Jahangir, M.D, Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Orthopedic Trauma Surgeon, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Dr. Alex Jahangir is a Nashville native and top civic leader, serving as chair of Metro Nashville’s Coronavirus Task Force and chair of the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Health. An expert in health policy and the delivery and business of healthcare, Dr. Jahangir is a professor of orthopaedic surgery and an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He also serves on the board of the Adventure Science Center. Since March of 2020, Dr. Jahangir has become a household name in the Nashville area through his role on Metro’s Coronavirus Task Force. In a time of uncertainty, he provides guidance and assurance to Nashvillians to help curb the spread of the virus and promote a safe and healthy recovery.

C. Wright Pinson, M.B.A., M.D., Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

In addition to his leadership roles at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), Dr. Wright Pinson is the chair of the Nashville Area Chamber’s regional economic development initiative, Partnership 2020. Since July 2019, Dr. Pinson has been leading the effort to develop the next five-year economic prosperity plan for the Nashville region, Partnership 2030. The impact of COVID-19 has altered the timeline for the plan rollout, requiring a thoughtful approach to ensure the plan meets current and future needs of Middle Tennessee. While providing critical leadership to the Chamber, Dr. Pinson serves a key role in VUMC’s COVID-19 response. Prior to the pandemic, Dr. Pinson had already made a lasting impact on the region’s healthcare industry. He helped organize and lead the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network, a 50-hospital affiliated system covering the state of Tennessee; he co-founded the Management in Health Care master’s program at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management; and he has been an active clinical and laboratory investigator in the field of transplantation surgery receiving numerous awards for his work.

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