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Healthcare Heroes: Dr. Terry Metzger and Lani Dickinson
Metzger and Dickinson
Dr. Terry Metzger and Lani Dickinson are being recognized as Healthcare Heroes.

Editor’s note: Throughout the year, Jeffrey Lewis, President of Legacy Health Endowment, honors different healthcare professionals and/or community leaders who continually make a positive impact on the community at large. 


Dr.  Terry Metzger is the Superintendent of Denair Public Schools.  She is an educator who changes people’s lives for the better.

Her personality is infectious.  She has a tough exterior, but a caring and compassionate heart.  For Dr. Metzger, every child is important, and every mind deserves to be cared for, nourished and developed, so students graduate public school with the tools to change the world in any way they wish.  The tough part is helping them get there.

Dr. Metzger is a staunch advocate for better education.  But her commitment extends well past the curriculum: Every child who comes to school hungry, or in need, will find a path to the office of a principal or Superintendent willing to help them solve whatever crisis they are facing.

Denair is a community that was devastated by the last economic downturn, and years later is still recovering.  Dr. Metzger recognized this and quietly began advocating for families to donate to clothes closet so that students in need would have an avenue for assistance.  The closet includes other critical items, such as toiletries, because she recognized that even simple things like soap, toothpaste, and deodorant are not affordable for all.  Her advocacy outside the school system is well-respected and revered.

Dr. Metzger holds 30 years of wide-ranging experience in education. She began with early childhood and after-school programs before teaching in middle and elementary school settings and ultimately serving as a school and district administrator. She earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from CSU Stanislaus and currently teaches at the university level. 

Dr. Metzger believes that schools must provide students with the skills they need to effectively compete in our global economy. She says, “It is critical for students to apply their learning to solve challenging problems and equally important for them to conduct themselves with integrity as they work with others in college, the workplace, and life. Because students learn in different ways and at different rates, schools should provide a variety of rich opportunities for students to build upon their strengths and connect learning to their lives.”

A grandmother, mother, wife, and lifelong caregiver, Dr. Metzger, is a nurturer one life at a time.  Dr. Metzger may not be a household name, but she rises to hero status in my world.  With dedication, determination, and kindness, she cares for each child as if he or she were her own.  She is also loved, respected and admired by her husband, JR, who recognized early on what a gift “Metz” was to his world and ours.

Dr. Terry Metzger is a rising star.  She is caring, compassionate, determined, and a wonderful example of excellence in education – a gift to Denair and to all who know her.          


Lani Dickinson is the CEO of Emanuel Medical Center.  Like all of the women I am honoring today, she is not a household name.  She has never sought headlines or aspired to run for office.  Instead, she has focused on making healthcare a right, not a goal.  And, her path to becoming a CEO was filled with enormous challenges.  But she always believed that every problem was an opportunity waiting to happen.

Lani grew up with a mom who was a drug addict.  At a very young age, she quickly learned how to care for herself, and often for her mother.  With these lessons sown into the fabric of who she was, and would ultimately become, she resolved to never be in a position where she had to depend on someone else to do for her what she could do for herself.  It has fueled her to be even more present in a personal transformation arena supporting mental and emotional well-being.  These were hard life lessons internalized at a very early age, which gave her a firm understanding of how and why people become addicted to drugs and alcohol, but also the importance of never being ashamed of where you come from and the circumstances surrounding your life.

Lani used her life lessons to pursue a nursing degree at Modesto Junior College and later completed her Bachelor of Science degree at CSU Stanislaus.  From there, she kept striving for more education and greater tools.  She earned a master’s degree in Business Administration and continues her education every day through the various roles she plays at Emanuel and within the Tenet Healthcare System.

As the CEO of the hospital, Lani believes that any patient or family member who has a concern or criticism should have access to her.  Her philosophy is simple: “we can only get better through direct communication with our patients and their families.”

Imagine the last time a hospital CEO encouraged patients and families to call or email directly with a comment or concern and was willing to personally respond.  That is part of the Lani culture: always keep the patient (and family) first and never be too busy to listen and respond.

Lani strives to make Emanuel Medical Center one of the top hospitals in the region.  She often faces significant opportunities from a variety of places, ranging from the regulatory community to creating access to care for the uninsured and under-insured.  She is working hard to recruit more doctors to our community, often driving hours for meetings to explain to them why they want to come to Turlock.  With her Chief Strategy Officer, Lynis Chaffey, this band of dreamers are relentless in their pursuit of recruiting more medical providers.  And, while they have had some success, Lani recognizes that we still need a lot more, including specialists.

There is little that is glamorous about being a hospital CEO.  The hours are long, you are on call 24/7 every day of the year, and while you are tackling significant problems, there are always alligators at your feet trying to eat away at whatever progress you have made. 

Lani redefines excellence every day.  With a smile in her eyes and determination on her face, she tackles every new challenge.  Turlock has been blessed with having Lani as the hospital CEO: – demonstrating that brains, not gender, are key.

— Jeffrey Lewis is the President of Legacy Health Endowment.  The views expressed are his own.