November 2018 saw health care colleagues and community leaders gather to celebrate the caring, compassionate and giving spirits of five individuals as part of the Northern Inyo Hospital Foundation’s third annual Avenue of Excellence Awards Dinner. As the warm autumn sunset gave way to a chilly night, the evening became a real celebration of the individuals chosen by their communities and colleagues for the honors about to be bestowed. In their acceptances, each would humbly convey that their contribution was simply being part of the Northern Inyo Healthcare District (NIHD) team, simply doing their job, simply serving their constituents. Yet, as NIHD Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kevin S. Flanigan noted, even a team needs a champion who remains energized and focused when others begin to wane in their enthusiasm. These five individuals exemplify what it means to lead by example and to work with others to accomplish a goal.
The evening’s ceremonies kicked off with an unexpected award presentation to recently retired NIHD Trustees Pete Watercott and Dr. John Ungersma. The awards to Pete Watercott and Dr. John Ungersma, whose names will go forward on recurring Lifetime Achievement Awards, were a complete surprise to both. The Pete Watercott Award will be for an individual who, through work and dedication, has advanced the social service fabric of our communities, resulting in improved health outcomes for the people of Northern Inyo. The John Ungersma, MD Award will be awarded to the person whose work in health care has exemplified the District’s Mission of improving our communities, one life at a time.
This year saw the Physician of the Year award go to Dr. Charlotte Helvie for her role in developing the Bronco Clinic at Bishop High School. In her remarks, she made it clear she was just one piece to this hugely successful project. “The Bronco Health Clinic, which had been a dream for many years, only became a reality because of the hard work of Colleen McEvoy, our Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, combined with the commitment of our health care district and school district to come together to improve access to medical care for our adolescents.” Dr. Helvie says she cannot wait to see what can be accomplished in the coming years, as a community, as a healthcare district, and, of course, as an individual.
The Daisy Award winning Nurse of the Year went to Abel Jones. He was nominated for the award by a patient’s family, Barbara and Paul Laughon, for the comfort care he provided to Barbara’s mother after she fell and suffered what would prove to be a fatal brain bleed. He was chosen for the award out of a field of more than six nurses. The secret to his compassion is two-fold. “I try to maintain a really positive attitude when caring for people. It goes a long way in establishing rapport, and it makes those hard, emotional situations easier for my patients and I to handle,” he explains. The second secret weapon is his wife, Monica. “We’ve been married for over six years and took turns supporting each other as we both went back to school for our current careers,” he says. “I can’t imagine being able to become a nurse without her.”
The final recognition of the night, the Employee of the Year award, went to Project Manager Lynda Vance for her recent work as the project manager overseeing the implementation of the Healthcare District’s new Electronic Health Record. For the better part of the last 16 months, Vance has expertly communicated the District’s needs with more than 25 vendors involved in the new system. She also has coordinated and scheduled hundreds of hours of meetings and trainings, and as her co-workers like to say, she did it with a smile. Lynda was quick to thank her husband, Jeremy, and sons Ashtin and Zander, for their love and support. “Without them, I would not be where I am today.” “Our life is an amazing adventure, and I would not want it any other way.” She went on to thank the teams she works with every day. “Your support has offered me a good working environment, and while this award is addressed to me, I truly feel your efforts in this team effort should not go unnoticed.” Vance extends her thanks to Information Technology Services, Informatics, and all the committees she worked alongside during the launch.
This year, money raised from the event will support the Foundation’s goal of bringing new imagining software to the surgical suites of the hospital. This will allow for very high-resolution images of a patient's ailment to be added to their medical record and shared with other local providers or to specialty-care providers out of the area. The hope for this new technology is to enhance a patient’s experience when seeing other providers and may reduce the need for additional procedures or tests. This year saw another first for the Foundation, and with better collaboration and through both organizations’ desire to support the District, the Foundation will be partnering with the NIH Auxiliary to help the District complete the purchase of this new technology for the surgical suites.