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BLOG: Health Care Champions banquet emphasizes gratitude

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Gratitude was the theme last night during the 2017 Health Care Champions banquet at DoubleTree Hotel. It was fitting with the season, considering Thanksgiving is next week. But I’m certain had the event been hosted anytime of year, the same atmosphere of thankfulness would have shone through. It’s just the health care way, in an industry that truly takes a team.


We honored 14 professionals in five categories – top doctor, therapist, technician, nurse and administrator – and had a very diverse cohort within those occupations.


Prior to the banquet, we enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and networking in the atrium. Having read and written the profiles for the honorees, it was wonderful to get to meet that support team they spoke of often. Afterward, we moved into the banquet hall for a cordon bleu dinner and ceremony to honor our champions.

Upon receiving their awards, each honoree was given the opportunity to say a few words. In keeping with the theme of gratitude, all those who did speak recognized the team that enables their work.


“They’re the ones who do the heavy lifting and make me look good,” said Dr. Albert Leonardo Jr. with Mercy Supportive and Palliative Care, a Top Doctor honoree.


“Thank you to everyone in my life that makes me better,” said therapist honoree Dr. Matt Costley, behavioral health consultant and psychologist for CoxHealth.


Top Doctor honoree Dr. Tracy Davis, co-owner of Excel Dental, thanked what I later heard her refer to as her “posse.” These are the people, she said, who continue to enrich her life and make her a better doctor.


“Children teach unconditional love, joy and laughter and how to share that with patients,” Dr. Davis said, adding that she has been fortunate to have a second medical family and mentors. “My team is supportive.”


Earlier that day, Davis said she was sorting through the numerous sticky notes around her desk, and found one that she brought to the banquet. The note was a reminder to always seek ways to help others in the way most pertinent to them – and it’s a good reminder for the rest of us, as well.


“Think of how you can be the answer to someone’s prayer today,” Davis said, reading the sticky note. “That’s how we can all be health care champions.”


I recommend taking the time to read all the profiles of these honorees – you’ll be impressed. Until then, here is a quick recap of this diverse group of individuals who make Springfield health care a better industry.


Leonardo, who is a physician and the medical director of Mercy Supportive and Palliative Care – working an often-misunderstood area of medicine with kindness and professionalism – has many stories to tell alongside his wife who joined him yesterday evening.


Davis, her husband, numerous co-workers and the clan of four little ones filled the atrium with laughter and stories as she shared her adventures working at Excel Dental and participating in philanthropic efforts worldwide.


Hospice Vice President of Operations Amy Ford for Integrity Home Care + Hospice, Mercy Hospital Springfield Executive Director of Medical Services Diane Meldi and CoxHealth Center for Addictions Director Tressa Moyle represent an area of medicine that doesn’t often include direct patient contact, but ensures the patient experience is safe and professional.


Our nurses are extraordinary and diverse, including Rebecca Humphreys who does bedside nursing at CoxHealth; Jennifer McTague who cares for Mercy NICU’s tiny warrior babies; and Lana Garcia, who champions the weighty job of a sexual assault nurse examiner.


The category of technician is near and dear to my heart as my husband is an emergency medical technician. This category includes one of the first CoxHealth advanced practice paramedics, Michael Gooch, who is also a valuable asset in training the next generation of medics. Freya Whalen, who works as both an EMT and an obstetrical technician at CoxHealth, has an impactful story of empathy. Deputy Chief Jeff Hawkins from Taney County Ambulance District played a large role in his district achieving its national accreditation – a difficult and rare feat to accomplish.


Therapists provide a vital function to the health of the Springfield community, and our three honorees fight for that wellness from many angles. Costley helps those in rural areas get connected with behavioral health needs as a consultant and psychologist for CoxHealth. Michelle Parsons has the interesting and vital job of a speech pathologist for Citizens Memorial Healthcare. And Carrie Thomas? Well, the numerous types of therapy she is certified to provide at her business, Carrie Thomas LLC, make her resume a mile long. Let’s just say she’s a certified Daring Way facilitator.


Of course, none of this is possible without our judges – many of whom were present last night. They are Cindy Baker, owner of Touchstone Counseling LLC; Cheryl Briggs, owner of DermaHealth Laser & Skin Care Clinic; Barbara Brown-Johnson, executive director of Child Advocacy Center Inc.; Steve Vaught, a senior vice president at Simmons Bank; and Emilio Vela, CEO of Southwest Center for Independent Living.


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