Each year, the holiday spirit only amplifies the gratitude and admiration we have for health care professionals in Texas hospitals. Although we celebrate their hard work and dedication year-round, health care workers’ unwavering commitment and compassionate care means even more to their patients and their community during the holiday season.
That’s why Texas health care heroes deserve special thanks from all of us during this time of year!
For the 12 days leading up to Christmas, THA is honoring 12 health care heroes from across Texas who have made a remarkable difference in their hospital and their community. Please join us in celebrating and thanking our 2023 health care heroes:
UMC El Paso
Ana Acosta is UMC’s Injury Prevention and Education Specialist and Safe Kids El Paso Coordinator for Trauma Services. She has worked to bring awareness to trauma prevention in the community by organizing and partaking in events, such as Bike to School Day, National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and Stop the Bleed. Ana is also a member of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of El Paso, which raises awareness on the importance of water safety.
Medical City McKinney
Kiama Bryant is an ICU RN at Medical City McKinney. As an ICU RN, Kiama brings a positive impact to her patients and coworkers on a daily basis. She values service not just within the hospital but also through her active involvement in Girl Scouts and various volunteer programs. Her contributions extend beyond patient care, as she actively shapes her unit’s culture and advocates for impactful process and policy changes, showcasing her dedication to improvement and excellence always. Kiama’s resilience and frontline leadership were instrumental in leading the unit through the aftermath of the Allen shootings, highlighting her profound impact on the unit’s ability to heal and move forward during challenging times.
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center
Lucas Friedel steers the Respiratory Therapy Department at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. He fondly refers to respiratory therapists as the ‘Batman of Health Care,’ silently swooping in to save the day, their names often unknown. Respiratory therapy, often the unsung hero, was brought into the spotlight during the pandemic, with caring for mechanically ventilated patients in the ICU as just one facet of their invaluable duties. Under Lucas’ steadfast guidance, the Respiratory Therapy Department, alongside the ICU Nurses, have spent the past two years without a single case of Ventilator Acquired Pneumonia, a testament to their unwavering commitment to patient care and safety. Lucas’ team attributes their success to his precision and leadership along the way.
Melody Gardner, MSN, MHA, BSN, RN exemplifies what it means to be a servant leader. She is dedicated to serving patients and educating the next generation of nurse leaders. As senior director of nursing for BioTel, Behavioral Health, the North Texas Poison Center and Parkland’s Observation unit, Melody’s compassion reaches far beyond the hospital’s four walls. She goes the extra mile to provide support for her staff and is willing to cover their shifts when needed. Her staff describes her as a “stoic example of nursing, always the mentor, always approachable and always there for all who need her.”
El Paso Children’s Hospital
Caring for the youth has been a long-held mission for Cassandra Hellard, a registered nurse in the general pediatric unit at El Paso Children’s Hospital in El Paso, Texas. As a young girl Cassandra was always looking out for her peers and those younger than her and now four years into her nursing career nothing has changed. This Daisy Award winning RN is part of multiple councils within the hospital and her designated department such as the Unit Based Council, Clinical Staffing Committee, Peer Review Committee and the Peer Interview Committee. Cassandra is committed to improving patient care and when asked about her overall personal mission she said, “I take care of my patients the way I would want my family members to be taken care of.”
UT Southwestern Medical Center Dallas
As assistant director of command center operations, Neely is constantly aware of all movement going on in the hospital. Her primary role is ensuring that patients are safely and efficiently transferred in, out, assigned to the appropriate unit, and discharged. Hospital throughput and patient flow optimization are vital to hospital operations and enhancing the patient care experience and Neely is at the forefront of UT Southwestern’s throughput operations. Her colleagues consistently recognize her for her efforts of going above and beyond and doing what is necessary to ensure the patient gets what they need. She comes in early, stays late, is there during nights and weekends when needed, and is always going the extra mile to support her team.
Medical City Dallas
Molly Miller is a cardiac rehab nurse at Medical City Dallas. Molly is known among patients and fellow nurses for her kind, caring and supportive demeanor. She approaches patient care with compassion and attention to detail. Recently, Molly paid extra close attention and voiced concern for the patient when she noticed something wasn’t quite right. The patient did in fact require immediate intervention and the unit was able to provide life-saving care thanks to Molly’s observation. That patient shared, “If it weren’t for Molly, I’d be dead right now.”
Paras Patel, M.D.
Dr. Paras Patel is a board-certified interventional pulmonologist with specialized fellowship training. He is a part of the Comprehensive Interventional Pulmonary Program at JPS Health Network, a unique program that only a few hospitals in Texas offer. The program includes the robotic navigational bronchoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure that helps diagnose lung cancer and its stage, leading to early detection and improved quality of life for patients. Dr. Patel’s fellowship training allows him to be the only JPS Physician to operate the robotic navigational bronchoscopy, which has improved the lives of many patients. Previously, patients with small lung nodules had to wait until they grew before being diagnosed and staged, often leading to a stage two or three diagnosis. However, with the robotic navigational bronchoscopy, these nodules can now be detected at stage one, allowing for earlier treatment and better outcomes.
Erin Perez, DNP
Dr. Erin Perez, APRN, ANP-C,AGNP-C, ACHPN is an adult and geriatric nurse practitioner that subspecializes in palliative and hospice care at University Health. Dr. Perez is an avid advocate for the nursing profession and high-risk patient populations. She is recognized as a pioneer in advancing Supportive Palliative Care for vulnerable Texans. In May of 2021 Dr. Perez won her first elected position for Live Oak City Council Place three by 60% of the vote. Her work and advocacy has also changed the landscape by creating a new service line in Senate Bill (SB) 916 for the 86th legislative session that defined Supportive Palliative Care from Hospice Care in Texas statute. She has been a lead contributor for the legislative report recommendations, bill drafting and state deliverables for the Texas Palliative Care Interdisciplinary Advisory Council since the inception in the 84th legislative session. She published a bilingual guidebook with an accompanied master class video on Goals, Wishes and Advanced Care Planning through Nurses Care Hub for health care clinicians, patients and families.
CHRISTUS Southeast Texas
In a moment that required swift and decisive action, labor and delivery nurse Mary Stankus (right), equipped with the CPR training she received, demonstrated extraordinary courage and skill. When two young girls were discovered unresponsive after being pulled from a swimming pool, Mary and her brother immediately leaped into action, administering life-saving CPR. Their quick thinking combined with the invaluable CPR skills acquired through dedicated training played a crucial role in reviving both girls before the arrival of first responders. This remarkable incident serves as a powerful testament to Mary’s dedication to the well-being of others and her ability to act decisively in the face of adversity. Her actions not only saved lives but also underscored the importance of CPR training in the community.
Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital
It took Rhonda Trotter, RN, nearly four decades to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse. In 1983, when she graduated from high school, she was a single mother living with her parents and trying to chart a path to a successful career. But obstacles kept getting in the way of her nursing education—first, caring for her own child, then caring for her ailing parents, while working a demanding job at the U.S. Postal Service. Then came the pandemic. But in January of this year, she earned her diploma, and later the same month, she earned her RN license. In March, she started working at Memorial Hermann Southwest. “I tell people: I graduated from nursing school at 57 years old. It’s never too late to accomplish your dream,” Trotter says.
Team JamieLynn and AmieLynn
Cook Children’s Medical Center
In January, a team of 25 medical professionals, including six surgeons, made headlines around the world after the successful surgical separation of conjoined twins for the first time in Cook Children’s 105-year history. While the surgery itself was heroic, the team’s work began months before the birth of JamieLynn and AmieLynn Finley and their arrival at Cook Children’s NICU soon after. This team worked in lock-step to provide the innovative care the girls required to support their unique growth and development needs, and to orchestrate the complicated 11-hour separation surgery. Thanks to their imagination, skill and collaboration, today, the Finely sisters are enjoying their lives together, but separate.
Congratulations to this year’s health care heroes, and thank you all for your continued dedication to your hospital and your community.
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