Manager of Population Health Marketing at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus and former Wellston resident, Katie Thomas, has received the Tom Poling Practitioner of the Year Award for 2021.

Candidates for the award are selected based on contributions to the public-relations profession, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), PRSA Central Ohio and the Central Ohio community. According to the PRSA chapter based in Central Ohio, Thomas’ audience-first approach and innovation with public relations has included everything from traditional marketing and public-relations strategies to grassroots engagement and event planning.

Apparently, when the staff of Nationwide Children’s are surveyed for customer feedback, Thomas normally receives the most positive feedback, due to her clients having received the best results from her service and strategies. She was also considered for the award due to her managing of the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s, which opened just before the start of the pandemic. During this time, she assisted with managing messages and special events for diverse audiences.

During the pandemic, Thomas created mental health coronavirus resources for parents, educators and caregivers that helped individuals remain mentally healthy through an extremely trying time. In total, the content she developed through the On Our Sleeves movement for children’s mental health reached nearly two million people worldwide.

Additionally, Thomas served as the president of PRSA Central Ohio throughout 2020. While she served in the leadership position, PRSA held its first virtual program just 10 days after the statewide shutdown and continued with this format for the rest of the year. Thomas also worked to install a Diversity and Inclusion Officer as a permanent position on the PRSA Central Ohio Board, which was approved by the national organization last year.

With this in mind, PRSA acknowledged Thomas’ dedication to students, as she is willing to meet with PRSSA chapters and students to provide advice and support. This led to Thomas being inducted into the 2020 PRSSA Hall of Fame.

“I am honored to be chosen as the Tom Poling Practitioner of the Year,” Thomas stated in response to her most recent honor. “I knew 2020 would be one of the most exciting times in my career, with opening the new Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children's Hospital and serving as Central Ohio PRSA president. Along with that excitement, though, came the professional and personal challenges that COVID-19 brought. However, this challenge provided more opportunities for me to grow as a professional. With my team, we worked to educate America on behalf of the On Our Sleeves movement for children's mental health, a vital resource for families amid the pandemic, along with messaging about how families could access necessary primary care. As the Central Ohio PRSA president, I continued moving our chapter forward in a virtual setting. We held our first virtual program just 10 days after the statewide shutdown and held multiple educational opportunities, including a two-track virtual conference. I am so appreciative of being selected by my colleagues for this honor.”