Medical Center Presents Prestigious Annual Awards to Top Staff

Board Awards Showcase Six Individuals, Four Teams, Who Exemplify Excellence

January 25, 2010

Today, during the University of Rochester Medical Center Board’s annual meeting, Board Chair Ron Zarrella presented the 2009 Excellence Awards to some of the institution’s most exceptional employees. Altogether, six individuals and four teams were singled out for their unwavering personal and professional dedication to integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence.

The awards are among the highest honors given to Medical Center employees, as they are the only institution-wide awards that recognize staff from throughout the Medical Center’s many divisions, including Strong Memorial Hospital, Eastman Dental Center, the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Individual Awards

Vanessa Buckholz – administrative assistant to Eastman Institute for Oral Health Director Cyril Meyerowitz, D.D.S, M.S. – received this year’s Board Excellence Award in the Dentistry category. Meyerowitz says Buckholz is personable, phenomenally well-organized, tech-savvy, and pays close attention to detail. Day after day, she juggles many responsibilities in the director’s office – everything from arranging new resident and student orientations, to facilitating faculty surveys and appointments, to processing international visas and applications, to serving as a general resource for faculty, residents, students and staff. On top of this, she also provides support to the Eastman Dental Center Foundation Board and its Academic Advisory Committee. Buckholz lives in Lima.

This year’s Board Excellence Award-winning physician – surgical intensivist David Kaufman, M.D. – is known for his compassionate clinical judgment. He’s also a well-loved teacher, racking up just shy of a dozen education excellence awards for his medical instruction over the past 20 years. An associate professor of Surgery, Anesthesiology, Medical Humanities, Medicine and Urology, Kaufman’s role in the surgical and medical ICUs involves caring for the sickest of patients – and occasionally offering comfort and counsel to grieving families as he guides them along some of the weightiest choices they’ll ever make. Colleagues say that Kaufman’s patients trust him implicitly – and rightly so. He lives in Rochester.

Winner of the 2009 Excellence Award for Business Administration, Louise Criticos, director of Friends of Strong, is at the helm of the team that manages the hospital’s approximately 1,330 volunteers. On top of this, she also oversees the hospital’s lobby (including its recent redesign) and waiting rooms, information desk, specialty and gift shops, patient discharge process, flower delivery program, pet therapy program, and important annual fundraisers. A true professional, Criticos has mentored countless peers while serving as president of the New York Association of Directors of Volunteer Services between 2004 and 2006. She lives in Penfield.

Nurse manager Lisa Cabrera, R.N, is the recipient of the 2009 Board Excellence Award in Nursing. Under her guidance for 3 and a half years, the fifth floor neurosurgery unit (5-3600) has become a force to be reckoned with. Patients repeatedly applaud the stellar care they received there, noting the staff’s professionalism, dedication to details, and eagerness to put patients at ease. Cabrera continually pursues excellence, and challenges others to do the same. In fact, with the help of her staff and leaders, she recently launched an educational workshop to help nurses learn the finer points of tending to patients who are at a progressive care level (that is, those who have stepped down from an ICU, but still may need more intensive care than the average patient on the unit). She lives in Churchville.

Eric Hines, who works on an oncology unit, won this year’s Excellence Award for the Environmental Services category. Patients frequently praise not only Hine’s cleaning prowess, but also the warmth and friendliness he extends to patients, families and co-workers. Since Environmental Service staffers form one of the hospital’s first lines of defense against the spread of infection, the cleaning they perform must be done according to exacting standards. In this arena, Hines not only excels, but he also works hard to continuously improve. Outside of work, he attends Monroe Community College, where he is studying to become a counselor. He lives in Rochester.

The 2009 Board Excellence Award in the Clinician category was presented to Lisa Saubermann, Pharm.D., an associate director of Clinical Pharmacy Services for more than four years before she was drafted to the hospital’s eRecord project team this past fall. While working with Pharmacy, Saubermann played a key role in developing and executing drug safety initiatives, supervised a team of more than a dozen clinical pharmacists spread across various the hospital’s various specialties, and worked tirelessly each fall to support the hospital’s flu immunization effort (working through vaccine supply shortages to help keep both staff and patients protected). She lives in Pittsford.

Team Awards

A Team Excellence Award was given to the ALC Census Management Team – a small-but-powerful eight person group comprised of senior social workers, nursing home placement specialists, and senior staff from Financial Case Management. Meeting daily, this group works quietly, almost invisibly, to overcome some of the most complex challenges our hospital faces: Securing safe discharges for patients who, quite simply, don’t have an appropriate place to step down to. Having reached ALC (Alternate Level of Care) status, these patients no longer require hospitalization, but may still have behavioral problems (e.g., dementia, personality disorders) or complicated therapeutic requirements (e.g., dressings for deep wounds), may lack aftercare insurance, or may have an infectious disease that prevents their co-boarding with others. The ALC Census Management team works through each of these roadblocks to find safe havens where these patients can continue their recoveries. This team includes Social Work’s Kelly Luther, L.M.S.W.; Katie Dieter, B.S.W.; Peg Bierley, L.M.S.W.; Mary Fitzgerald, B.S.W.; and Crystol Mihaly, L.M.S.W.; together with Financial Case Management’s Valerie L’Abbate and Melody Bogdon.

A second Team Excellence Award was presented to the Central Line Infection Improvement Project team, which has worked diligently to help eliminate catheter-associated bloodstream infections. (While catheters deliver important medicine, hydration and nutrition, historically, at hospitals nationwide, they have also been a prime target for bacteria.) This team pored over research and developed a simple, cost-effective checklist of best practices for catheter care. By using this checklist to re-train staff hospital-wide, the team helped cut these infection rates in half. The team includes Mike Apostolakos, M.D., F.C.C.P.; Mary Wicks, R.N., M.P.A., NEA-BC,; Paul Graman, M.D.; Patricia Reagan, Ph.D.; Jan Schriefer, Dr.P.H.; E. Kate Ireland, R.N., M.S.N.; JoAnn Popovich, M.S., R.N., NE-BC; and Nancy Adair, M.S., R.N.

The third Team Excellence Award was presented to the Surgical Pathology Unit’s Rapid Tissue Acquisition Team, which has been collaborating with Operating Room (OR) staff to standardize its process for collecting specimens (aiming to more accurately label and document tissue samples, as well as transport them to the lab sooner). This team – headed up by Surgical Pathology’s director, David Hicks, M.D., and operational coordinator, Robyn Sage – armed pathology technicians with cell phones, and asked the OR team to call these techs the moment a specimen was ready for retrieval. While it may seem like a simple idea, it has worked wonders: By being proactive and ‘pulling’ specimens into the lab, the team is able to improve the quality of these tissue samples by having them “fixed” four times faster than before. This quick turnaround is increasingly important as the field of Pathology begins to put a new focus on the delicate, inner-workings of the cell (for instance, tracing the behavior of signaling molecules) to better understand the behavior of diseases, like cancer. In fact, just this month, new national guidelines (from a joint task force of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and The College of American Pathologists) will regulate how quickly breast tissue samples are collected and prepped in the laboratory. In addition to Hicks and Sage, this team includes Laurie Baxter, M.S., P.A., A.S.C.P.; Daniel Nowak, R.N., M.S.; Kathy Kurtelawicz, R.N., Ivelisse Vicente, R.N., M.S., R.N.F.A., C.N.O.R.; many clinical support technicians from Specimen Management, Gross Room Staff, and the entire OR team.

The fourth and final Team Excellence Award was presented to Ambulatory Pediatrics, who won for their foresight and tenacity in dealing with the H1N1 flu pandemic. While outpatient pediatric care medical director Neil Herendeen, M.D., and nurse manger Christine Maness, R.N., played key roles, handling the epidemic took a true team effort. After weeks of careful contingency planning, the team hunkered down for many hectic days of managing overflowing waiting rooms, answering phone calls from concerned parents, and administering thousands of doses of vaccine.

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