State medical board director Hughes dies suddenly

Credit: AJ Reynolds / Brenau University

Credit: AJ Reynolds / Brenau University

Longtime state employee worked tirelessly in dual leadership roles

The executive director of two state boards charged with helping Georgia maintain an adequate supply of competent doctors and other healthcare workers has died.

LaSharn Hughes, a veteran state employee who managed both the Georgia Composite Medical Board and the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce, died Oct. 28 after suffering a heart attack, according to her husband, Michael Hughes.

Before her death, Hughes had been operating without any deputy directors for either board, her husband said. She also was taking care of her elderly mother who lives in their home.

“She just felt like she was doing what was best for the state of Georgia, trying to ensure that they had qualified, well-trained doctors to take care of the citizens,” her husband said. “She reached out and touched so many lives that she just felt like she had to do it.”

The Georgia Composite Medical Board handles licensing and disciplinary actions for the state’s physicians and some other health care professionals. The Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce is the arm of the state government that seeks to help supply underserved areas of Georgia with adequate numbers of health care providers.

“My family, my staff, and I are sending our thoughts and prayers to LaSharn’s family, friends, and co-workers,” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “She was a wonderful leader, professional, and public servant. We all enjoyed working with LaSharn and benefited from her positive attitude and work ethic. She will be missed dearly by all who knew and loved her.”

Dr. Terri McFadden, chairwoman of the Board of Health Care Work Force and professor of pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine, described Hughes as “the consummate professional.”

“This is an incredible loss for our state,” McFadden said.

Hughes deftly handled everything from budgets, to working with the General Assembly, to making sure board members were aware of rules governing the board’s work, she said.

“She was the most courteous person who always made you feel heard, even if she didn’t agree with you. She had an incredible way of hearing you out and giving you the opportunity to share concerns,” McFadden said.

Credit: AJ Reynolds / Brenau University

Credit: AJ Reynolds / Brenau University

Hughes made time for everyone who was important to her, her husband said.

“At 10 o’clock at night, she was sending emails back and forth to people. You can ask any of the board members,” Michael Hughes said. “They called, emailed, and they’d be like, ‘Why are you answering emails? We’re doing this because we’re at work, and we’re just sending it so we won’t forget.’ And she’s answering.”

Hughes, who was born in Birmingham, Ala., began her career with the state in 1986 as a secretary in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. She worked her way up the ranks, going on to oversee licensure for athletic trainers, counselors, funeral homes, social workers and nursing homes. Meanwhile, she earned a master’s degree in business from Brenau University.

She served as executive director of the medical board from 2003 to 2014, then retired from the state and spent a year as a vice president for the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

Hughes said in a 2017 article in the online Brenau Window that while she made more money during this time, she didn’t feel as fulfilled as she did working for the state.

“I like the feeling that I’m making a difference,” Hughes said. “Heck, even seeing a huge certificate on the wall of a mortuary that I licensed gives me a sense of satisfaction. I think, ‘I played some small role in that.’”

She returned to the state in 2016 to oversee the workforce board and the following year found herself managing the medical licensing board again, too, after the abrupt departure of her successor in the role.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Greener Pastures Funeral Home in Powder Springs, with visitation from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Her funeral service will be private.

Along with her husband and mother, Hughes is survived by three adult daughters, one adult son, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.