Charles Spencer, Mercy Hospital Ardmore director of guest services, has been named a "Spirit of Tomorrow" award winner by the Oklahoma Hospital Association.

Spencer was one of 41 "front-line, behind-the-scenes and administrative employees, physicians and board members" from across the state honored with a Spirit award during the 2013 OHA annual convention. The award lauds the honorees for demonstrating, "... a spirit of successfully navigating and setting a course for the future of their department or the hospital by proactively addressing likely changes in the future."

Susie Wallace, OHA director of communications, said each award recipient was chosen by his or her hospital for:

- Exemplifying the Spirit of Tomorrow by providing a visionary and proactive approach to their particular service area

- Being a catalyst for progress in planning for changes in health care and the way hospitals do business

- Demonstrating innovative forward-thinking in his or her approach to problems and solutions

- Fostering and demonstrating a successful approach that will lead to better preparedness in the coming years in the hospital or community.

Spencer said he was delighted to be named an award winner for local efforts to reduce childhood obesity.

"Being recognized by Oklahoma Hospital Association is a really nice honor. The 'Shape Your Menu: School Cafeteria Process Re-engineering Project' was designed with the goal to impact childhood nutrition and reduce childhood obesity," he said. "Our team saw a need for healthier eating habits in our southern Oklahoma communities and decided that starting healthy habits during childhood is crucial in the success of creating a healthier tomorrow for our neighbors."

Kathryn Abbey, Mercy Hospital Ardmore vice president of Mission and Ethics, called Spencer "very talented and very creative."

"He also has a great reputation for both in our community, so he was a natural for leading such an interagency program," she added. "Students from HFV Wilson Community Center were the 'critical tasters' for the first seminar, and it was no surprise that they voted in favor of the new recipes and foods.

"Cafeteria workers who began the first two-day conference quite skeptical, soon became avid supporters of the new ways to deliver healthy food. It will take time to make lasting cultural changes, but Charles is off to a great start and has received statewide attention for the program. We are proud of Charles and his passion to help kids."