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Health Care Heroes

There are many health care heroes that perform medical miracles within the walls of the WakeMed system each and every day.  Last week six of our own were honored by the Triangle Business Journal as Health Care Heroes.  Here’s a little bit about each of our winners and why they were chosen.

Mary Szymkowski, Veterinarian with Animal Hospital of Peak Plaza and WakeMed Volunteer
Honored in the volunteer category

I remember Mary and her first dog – we called her Holly Holstein as she was marked like a cow! Since 1993, Mary has logged more than 600 hours visiting patients and bringing a bit of joy to our hospital. She has such a history with us! She now fills a unique, dual role as an on-site volunteer with Tootsie, and as one of our volunteer veterinarians who provide medical and behavioral assessments for participating dogs.

She is our ‘go to’ vet when we need research on a particular infection control issue and ensures that we have the information we need to make our environment the safest for all concerned. The energy she has invested in this program is amazing. I could never repay her for what she has done to help us start and maintain what I would call one of the best Hospitality Pet programs in the country.
-Bethany Kelly, Manager WakeMed Cary Hospital

Elaine Rohlik, Executive Director Rehab Hospital
Honored in the manager category

Elaine came to WakeMed as a case manager, helping patients and families navigate the newly opened hospital. She quickly advanced into management as hospital administration recognized her strong leadership skills.

She has spent virtually her entire career at WakeMed Rehab building this one-of-a-kind physical rehabilitation system. It has been her longstanding devotion to providing health care to people with traumatic injury and disability that has resulted in the multitude of quality programs at WakeMed Rehab.

Elaine has grown WakeMed Rehab by listening to the needs of patients and families, constantly researching and gaining insight into best practices in the rehab industry, and thinking outside the box to craft programs that result in the best possible patient outcomes, offer convenience to patients in both the inpatient and outpatient setting and contribute to the health & hospital systems’ success.

Robin Carver, RN, BSN, CIC, Director of Infection Prevention & Control
Honored in the nurse category

WakeMed has celebrated many milestones in infection prevention thanks in large part to Robin’s steadfast efforts.  Some of these achievements include:

• A highly significant decrease in the incidence of hospital-acquired MRSA infection, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be deadly.

• Elimination of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) in the Medical Intensive Care Unit.   VAP is the most expensive and deadly hospital-acquired infection.  It carries a $40,000 additional cost of care per case and a mortality rate of more than 27 percent. 

• An 87 percent decrease in central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit.  These infections add more than $35,000 to the cost of care and up to 25 percent of patients who develop a CLABSI will die from it.

• Sustained improvement of health care worker hand hygiene compliance since January 2009. WakeMed’s employees continue to maintain a 90 percent compliance rate.  Nationwide, the health care worker hand hygiene compliance rate is only 40 percent.  Hand hygiene is the best way to prevent infections in hospitals. 

William G. Pittman, III, MD, Hospitalist Director, WakeMed Raleigh Campus
Honored in the hospitalist category

William Pittman, MD leads a team of 30 hospitalists at WakeMed Raleigh Campus. “Dr. Pittman has raised the bar in the field of hospitalist medicine. He has succeeded in creating a work environment in which every one of his hospitalists is able to thrive.

He has accomplished this by helping his partners meet constantly evolving work challenges, while at the same time recognizing their personal needs, facilitating open dialog within the team, and offering constant support whenever needed. By thoughtfully balancing his dual roles as administrator and clinician, he has earned the deep respect and support of all those around him, enabling him to be exceptionally effective.

He has a unique ability to fuse all of the diverse qualities required to be a superior director: top notch and up-to-date clinical skills, compassion, ability to project authority without arrogance, dedication to teamwork, excellent communication skills, and commitment to the field of hospitalist medicine.”

-Ted Tsomides, MD, PhD, Hospitalist, Department of Hospital Medicine, WakeMed Faculty Physicians

Keith L. Hull, Jr., MD, Neurologist and Medical Director, WakeMed Stroke Center
Honored in the physician category

Dr. Hull has been an outstanding leader and innovator in stroke care in Wake County and beyond. As medical director of the WakeMed Stroke Center, he has championed stroke prevention and treatment and has laid the groundwork for more innovation to come. The work he has done through helping to create a certified Stroke Center and the opening of a TIA Center at WakeMed has helped improve the outcome for thousands of patients who present to WakeMed’s Emergency Departments.

Often in medicine, novel medications, procedures and concepts run the risk of being ignored unless earnest personal efforts are invested in the application of these treatments. Practicing quality neurology for 30 years, Dr. Keith Hull has garnered the unquestioned respect of his peers.

This recognition within his peer group and the professional earnestness applied toward the recently develop WakeMed stroke program has assured this community that cutting edge stroke care will not be ignored. His guidance as Medical Director of the WakeMed Stroke Center has certainly merited his nomination as a Health Care Hero.
-William G. Ferrell, MD, Raleigh Neurology Associates

William H. Lagarde, MD, FAAP, Pediatric Endocrinologist and Medical Director Children’s Diabetes and Endocrinology
Honored in the Physician Category

WakeMed welcomed Dr. William Lagarde, a pediatric endocrinologist, to the position of director of WakeMed Faculty Physicians – Children’s Diabetes & Endocrinology in 2007. 

“Dr. Lagarde’s commitment and compassion for children was evident from the moment he began working at WakeMed,” says Langdon.  Patients and their parents constantly sing his praises for the many ways he goes the extra mile to teach, to care and to heal.  “He’s brilliant, but he can bring highly clinical information about complicated endocrine diseases down to terms parents and even pediatric patients can understand,” says Langdon.


One thought to “Health Care Heroes”

  1. I am thrilled to see Dr. Szymkowski receive this honor. She and Dr. Gene Bailey at the Animal Hospital of Peak Plaza are my Veterinarian Heroes. Approximately three years ago, my dogs were trapped in my home after a house fire. After a heroic rescue by the Apex Fire Department and Emergency Care in Cary, Dr. Szymkowski and Dr. Bailey were there with love and support for my family and my pets any time I needed them. I could call them day or night and they were always there for just not my pets, but me. Congratulations, Dr. Szymkowski. I am proud of you.

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