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Exceptional Leadership: Nancy Eckert Receives 2024 FIERCE Legacy Award

Exceptional Leadership: Nancy Eckert Receives 2024 FIERCE Legacy Award

By Deborah Holmen, M.Ed., NBCT 

Meet the 2024 FIERCE Legacy Award Winner, Nancy Eckert. This prestigious award is given annually to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, service and impact in the Greater Gainesville community. Eckert’s achievements genuinely embody the spirit of a FIERCE legacy. 

Eckert is driven by a deep-seated passion to make a difference in her community and beyond. As the president and CEO of LifeSouth Community Blood Center, her unwavering dedication and compassion have saved countless lives and supported those in need. 

“I am fiercely dedicated and committed to two aspects of my life. One is my family, and the other is helping people through my work with the blood bank. Both are long-term commitments requiring hard work, patience, persistence and love,” she said. 

Eckert’s 50-year marriage with two successful children is a testament to her devotion and commitment. She also takes these attributes into her professional life.  

Throughout her tenure at LifeSouth, Eckert faced many challenges and fostered immeasurable growth.  

“I am proud of what we accomplished when I joined LifeSouth Community Blood Centers (then Civitan) in 1980. Technical advancements assisted us in finding compatible blood for multiple transfused patients with special needs, such as sickle cell patients. We [also] wrote an FDA-approved computer program for tracking the blood through the system. Because there was a shortage, we started a medical technologist training program.”  

Her transformative leadership turned LifeSouth into a regional powerhouse, extending its reach throughout the southeast and beyond, saving more lives than ever before. 

“During that time, I held multiple managerial positions, becoming CEO in 1994. Through the years, we grew from serving three hospitals in Gainesville to drawing blood donors and serving over 100 hospitals in North Florida, Alabama and Georgia. When I became CEO, we were an $8M organization. When I left, we were a $110M organization that grew from 100 employees to 1,000.” 

In the 1990s, LifeSouth initiated its Cord Blood Program at Shands Hospital and the University of Florida. The program’s goal was to collect blood from the placenta of healthy newborns, process it and preserve the cells through cryopreservation. These viable cells were then listed in a global database and accessible to patients requiring bone marrow transplants. 

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“Today, we are one of only five Cord Cell Banks licensed by the FDA. The Cord Bank gave us the resources and expertise to provide researchers with much-needed donor cells. We started a Donor Testing Lab in Atlanta. This lab performs all the disease testing the FDA requires for multiple blood centers nationwide.” 

After a long and successful career, Eckert recently retired, leaving a legacy of service, leadership and compassion. Her commitment to positively impacting the region and beyond is an inspiration. 

When asked what the FIERCE Legacy Award means to her, she humbly replied, “Recognition that blood banking is a vital part of our healthcare system. It is possible only because of the blood donors. These people are helping another person who they will never know. It is not ‘What’s in it for me?’ but rather, ‘I want to give, so another may live.’” 

As Greater Gainesville celebrates Nancy Eckert as the 2024 FIERCE Legacy Award Winner, it is only natural to honor her dedication, passion and unwavering commitment to making a difference. The community is deeply grateful for her leadership and impact and looks forward to seeing the continued ripple effects of her work for years to come. Congratulations, Nancy, on this well-deserved recognition. 

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