Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Announces Three Finalists for Sue Ann Head Award

Meet the three finalists
Friday, May 19, 2023 | 08:00am

NASHVILLE - The judges of the Sue Ann Head Award for Excellence in Workers' Compensation have selected three professionals as finalists. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the Tennessee workers’ compensation system.  The Sue Ann Head Award is named in honor of Sue Ann Head, who served as the Tennessee Division of Workers’ Compensation Administrator until her retirement in 2011. Sue Ann led the division through several reforms that made the system more efficient and equitable for both employers and workers during her 40+ years of service. 

“We hope that spotlighting these three finalists will inspire all who touch the workers' compensation industry to strive for the excellence that the late Sue Ann Head envisioned for Tennessee.” said Troy Haley, current Administrator for the agency. 

The three finalists are: 

Katherine "Kitty" Boyte

Katherine "Kitty" Boyte

Katherine "Kitty" Boyte, a partner at Peterson White, LLP in Brentwood, Tennessee. Boyte has practiced law almost exclusively in the realm of workers’ compensation since 1988. She is a frequent speaker and contributor in the workers' compensation industry.

Kitty is a frequent lecturer on “all things workers’ compensation,” assisting clients ranging from manufacturing facilities, construction employers, trucking companies, insurance personnel, health care providers, and fellow attorneys as they navigate the ever-changing world of workers’ compensation. 

Her associates consider her the "go-to" lawyer in the industry for questions, strategy, and her countless contacts within the medical profession.  She has practiced in almost all 95 counties’ state courts and frequently appears in all the Courts of Workers’ Compensation Claims from Gray to Memphis.

She has shared her expertise as a guest professor at the Nashville School of Law and a guest lecturer in Business Ethics at Middle Tennessee State University.

She served on the state's Workers' Compensation Advisory Committee, Medical Fee Schedule Committee, and Telehealth Study Group. Kitty is an active member and past president of the Mid-South Workers’ Compensation Association, an active member and past president of the Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association, has served on the Board of Governors of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a Fellow of the Nashville Bar Association. 

David Dunaway

David Dunaway

David H. Dunaway is an attorney at Rick A. Owens Law Offices in Maryville, Tennessee with nearly 50 years of experience helping injured employees receive workers' compensation benefits in Tennessee. Nominator Joseph H. Van Hook writes, "This individual has more compassion for employees than any claimant's attorney I have worked with."

In 1975, he established and practiced law generally in a multi-attorney law office which has now represented over 16,000 blue-collar and white-collar injured workers in state and federal courts. 

Mr. Dunaway exercises extraordinary creativity in his litigation. Not only does he review and litigate under existing law, but he is also not afraid to litigate issues that will modify, change, repeal, or even extend existing law. He has been involved in multiple constitutional challenges using this innovative legal analysis.

Mr. Dunaway has a reputation for always working with the injured worker in mind: striving to protect the rights of the Tennessee worker.

Chelsey Searcy

Chelsey Searcy

Chelsey Searcy is the Safety Program & Workers’ Compensation Manager at Davidson Transit Organization (WeGo Public Transit).

Chelsey started her career in workers' compensation as an operations specialist at Travelers Insurance. She soon became an investigative case manager; three years later, she began negotiating settlements. Chelsey then used her knowledge from Travelers to join the Davidson Transit Organization.

Chelsey handles many things in rapid succession. She believes working quickly in a rapidly evolving environment is essential to staying on top of everything. In a matter of a few months at WeGo, Chelsey implemented significant, stabilizing changes to a once unstable department. She trained other supervisors to be advocates rather than adversaries. Her work has been instrumental in improving the overall culture: helping others see workers' compensation as a program to help their employees get back to work as quickly as possible.

Nominator Nick Oldham commented, "Much like Sue Ann Head, Chelsey leads with her mind and teaches with her heart." 

Meet the Judges

The judges for this year's award are:

  • Marshall Davidson, III, Chief Disciplinary Counsel for the Board of Judicial Conduct and former Presiding Judge of the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board
  • Abbie Hudgens, retired former administrator for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation
  • Mike Shinnick, retired former workers' compensation manager at the Department of Commerce and Insurance

Winner Announced in June

All three finalists will be acknowledged, and one will ultimately be selected as this year’s award recipient, at the Tennessee Workers' Compensation Educational Conference next month in Murfreesboro.

The Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) administers and enforces the workers’ compensation law by assisting both employees and employers in minimizing the impact of work-related injuries in Tennessee. 

The Sue Ann Head Award is one way that the BWC recognizes the outstanding work of those dedicated to making the workers’ compensation system work better for everyone.