Community appreciation for three leading healthcare providers rang out loud and proud during the inaugural Avenue of Excellence Awards Dinner hosted by the Northern Inyo Hospital Foundation.
The dinner, silent auction and awards ceremony drew a sell-out crowd of healthcare professionals and local supporters to Cerro Coso Community College.
Honored for their service and dedication to quality healthcare at Northern Inyo Healthcare District were Stacey Brown, MD, Physician of the Year; obstetrics nurse Rhonda Aihara, 2016 DAISY Award winner; and, quality and infection control nurse Robin Christensen, Employee of the Year.
In accepting the DAISY Award, Obstetrics Nurse Rhonda Aihara thanked those who supported her efforts during her career, including her family, as well as Interim Chief Nursing Officer Tracy Aspel, Perinatal Manager Summer Gilstrap and fellow nurses Chris Hanley and Anneke Bishop.
“I am honored to receive this award,” Aihara said. “There are easily 20 to 30 nurses with whom I could share it. I feel like I’m one spoke in the wheel that turns the whole hospital. We all have a part, and we all work interdependently of one another, but together we are a great team.”
The DAISY award, announced in May as part of National Nurses Week, honors the super-human work nurses do for patients every day. Patients and their families, as well as other nurses within the organization, nominate nurses for the DAISY award. In Aihara’s case, two patients nominated her for the honor. Aihara is the fifth DAISY winner at NIHD.
Dr. Brown, the founding and current director of NIHD’s Rural Health Clinic, waxed nostalgic about his 20 years in Bishop as he accepted the 2016 Physician of the Year award.
He credited his colleagues who recruited him to the Family Health Center for forming the core of his primary care experience; and, he praised every Rural Health Clinic employee for building a healthcare foundation poised to move into the future.
“Thank God for the open-to-the-public strategic planning meetings the NIHD Board of Directors have put together as we all try to figure out exactly where we’re going,” Dr. Brown said. “This type of planning process gets us to look at what might be the future of rural medicine. We have to shift from inpatient disease-based care to preventative outpatient care. We need to leverage technology such as telemedicine. If a five-year-old can get on FaceTime, you have to ask yourself: Are we really that backward that we can’t leverage this kind of thing to improve patient health care?”
Dr. Brown encouraged those in attendance to look at what they can do to improve healthcare and life in the Eastern Sierra. “There’s something out there each of you can touch, something each of you can do, and on that spectrum, it may seem super ridiculous right now,” he said. “But if you move that one thing from the ridiculous to the critical, just imagine what an amazing place this would be.”
Robin Christensen, the 2016 Employee of the Year, came up through the ranks of the hospital in her career, starting as a Certified Nursing Assistant going on to earn her Licensed Vocational Nurse and Registered Nurse certifications, and ultimately her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing last year.
Christensen is responsible for overseeing much of the electronic data records required by state and federal regulators, plus she is the Infection Control Specialist. Without Christensen’s work, the hospital would not receive some of the added funding for quality care and the hospital would run the risk of unnecessary infections.
“I could not have done this alone,” Christensen said. “I’ve done it with everyone’s support here at Northern Inyo Hospital. Everyone has had a hand in my success, and I’m thankful for their advice and encouragement. I’ve learned the best way for anyone to achieve success is to surround oneself with the best people. For me, the best people are my family, my friends, the employees of NIH, and the community of Bishop.”
Christensen also thanked Interim Chief Nursing Officer Tracy Aspel, former Medical-Surgical Unit Manager Barbara Smith and former Chief Nursing Officer Kathy Decker for their support.
The NIH Foundation provides financial support to NIHD in purchasing equipment and funding health programs and initiatives that provide services to the greatest number of persons served by the healthcare district.
An anonymous donation made in recognition of the outstanding care given by the NIH nurses has funded several new programs. Monies raised from Saturday’s dinner will finance future programs.
Among the programs the Foundation has aided with this year: the implementation of the CareShuttle transportation program and NIH’s new Breast Health Center.
In the two months since its launch, the CareShuttle transported dozens of patients to and from medical appointments when other transportation options were not available.
In those two months, the CareShuttle has traveled nearly 2,400 miles.
The Foundation purchased equipment for the new Breast Health Center as well. The Breast Health Center provides in-depth breast health care, from screening and diagnosis to breast cancer treatment and supportive resources.
“We’ve had an incredibly successful year with an extremely dedicated and skilled workforce,” said Kevin S. Flanigan, MD MBA, the Chief Executive Officer of NIHD. “The dinner was a fantastic celebration of the District and what it means to this community. Their outpouring of support was humbling, and we look forward to working with our community leaders to take rural healthcare into the future.”
The NIH Foundation Board of Directors consists of Board Chair Ken Partridge, vice-chair Kay O’Brien, secretary Mary Mae Kilpatrick, treasurer Debbie Core, and directors Pete Watercott, Caddy Jackson, Carole Wade, Jack England, Richard Meredick MD, Linda Emerson and Sharon Moore. Greg Bissonette serves as Executive Director.