Two former HVHS graduates complete prestigious state-wide leadership program

Published 9:06 am Friday, May 24, 2024

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Two former Happy Valley High School graduates completed a prestigious state-wide leadership program this week.

Dustin Wilson, class of 2003, and Jessica Lenden-Holt, class of 2001, completed the Leadership TN NEXT program on May 21 rounding out a four-month leadership development program that selected 30 of the top emerging leaders from diverse sectors across the state to learn about issues facing Tennesseans. Leadership TN NEXT participants made stops in Chattanooga, Memphis, Paris Landing and Nashville to meet with city and community leaders to highlight issues and opportunities specific to Tennessee.

Wilson is the Chief for the Center for Development and Civic Engagement (CDCE) at James H. Quillen VA Medical Center. His journey began clinically as a Registered Radiation Therapist. His focus is to motivate and empower staff to make necessary changes to modernize, improve, and evolve Veteran healthcare within the VA. Wilson holds a Bachelor of Science in Allied Health from East Tennessee State University, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Tusculum University. He has completed multiple formal leadership programs, including the Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD) Program, VISN 9 Leadership Institute, the VA Virtual Aspiring Leaders Program (vALP), and the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program.

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In Wilson’s previous role as an Associate Group Practice Manager (AGPM), he was the first AGPM to join the National GPM Council, where he was able to positively impact the GPM community throughout the country at a national level. In October 2022, Wilson was recognized by the Tri-Cities/Virginia Business Journal as a recipient of the 40 Under Forty Award, which highlights the area’s emerging leaders. In May 2023, Wilson received the Commanders Award from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization.

Wilson is engrained in his local community through his partnership with the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce where he is a member of the steering committee for the Chamber Leadership Program. He holds adjunct faculty credentials at East Tennessee State University and the College of Charleston where he educates undergraduates in courses related to leadership, management, and healthcare administration. Wilson is a Servant Leader who has transformed many services and teams to provide results that not only impact Veteran care, but also employee satisfaction and trust.

His goal is to improve the lives of Veterans and employees by fostering a culture of

modernization and efficiency. He is a progressive, organized, forward-thinking Servant Leader who aims to continue the movement to modernize VA and be the healthcare system and workplace of choice in the state of Tennessee and the nation.

Lenden-Holt is the Chief Clinical Officer for Sidekick Therapy Partners, the largest pediatric private practice in the state of Tennessee. She also serves as the Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Tennessee Association of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists (TAASLP), Chair of the Philanthropy Board for the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences at East Tennessee State University, and is the Co-Founder of Dream Team Adapted Sports which offers free adapted athletic camps to children.


Lenden-Holt was a Whittle Scholar and received honors degrees from the University of Tennessee, a B.A. in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology as well as a B.A. in Spanish. She received her M.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders with an emphasis in Bilingualism and Multicultural Studies from the University of Texas-Austin.

She worked on the Texas-Mexico border providing therapeutic services to children with disabilities for seven years. After returning home to the Carter County area in 2014, Lenden-Holt has focused her efforts on supporting area at-risk youth through her participation on a variety of non-profit committees and in the creation of several area programs.

In her current role as Chief Clinical Officer for Sidekick Therapy Partners, Lenden-Holt oversees clinical policy and procedures, delivery of therapeutic services, and leadership support over 125 therapists in a variety of settings: school districts, teletherapy, and outpatient clinics. She has completed over 100 presentations and trainings throughout her career related interdisciplinary clinical practice, ethics, multicultural issues, bilingualism, evidence-based practice, leadership and advocacy for colleagues, community organizations, and local universities.

As VP of Legislative Affairs for TAASLP, Lenden-Holt leads advocacy efforts for audiologists and speech-language pathologists throughout the state and works closely with other professional state organizations to make positive impacts and change to improve access to healthcare services. As a former therapeutic foster parent and as a clinician, Lenden-Holt understands the importance of an interdisciplinary team approach to healthcare, education, and community involvement.

Lenden-Holt has served in leadership roles for the largest pediatric private practice groups in Texas and in Tennessee. She has founded or co-founded three different non-profit groups supporting an interdisciplinary approach to servicing families and children with diverse abilities.

Lenden-Holt has received multiple honors for her work in the community including Hall of Fame Inductee (2023)for the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences at East Tennessee State University, American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) Innovator 2023, 40 under 40 Award- University of Tennessee Knoxville 2023, 40 under 40 Award- Business Journal of the Tri-Cities 2022, and the Hometown Hero Award -Elizabethton, TN 2018.

She hopes to continue her advocacy and philanthropic efforts to improve access to high quality education and healthcare for all Tennesseans.

 “Leadership Tennessee NEXT is committed to bringing together diverse participants who are educated, engaged, and inspired to make Tennessee a better place while participating in a program that expands their personal, professional, and community networks.”