VNAA - Visiting Nurse Associations of America

2012 VNAA National Award Recipients

The VNAA honored seven leaders from across the country for their contributions to home healthcare and hospice at the VNAA Annual Awards Luncheon held on May 3, 2012, at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. "Honoring our home healthcare and hospice leaders is an important aspect of the 2012 VNAA 30th Annual Meeting. It allows us to celebrate the unique qualities and contributions of individual leaders and staff working in nonprofit home healthcare and hospice," stated Andy Carter, President and CEO of VNAA. Read Press Release...

Below is a group photo of most of the National Awards Recipients and their nominators. View all photos and Awards Videos.

Dick Anderton Mentor of the Year

The Dick Anderton Mentor of the Year Award is the highest honor that VNAA can bestow on a leader of a nonprofit home healthcare or hospice provider. Named for the late Dick Anderton (the 1989 recipient), the Award recognizes outstanding contributions of an individual to the national nonprofit home healthcare and hospice movement. Active participation and demonstrated leadership in VNAA through such areas as committees, task forces and boards, should be in evidence. This outstanding leader shares knowledge and resources and mentors VNAA members, as well as his/her own staff.

William T. Smith, Ph.D
Aging in America, Inc., NY

View: Award Video | Photos

William T. Smith, Ph.D., who serves as President and CEO of Aging in America, Inc., has been a member of the board at Dominican Sisters Family Health Services (DSFHS) since 1996 and Chairman of the DSFHS Board of Directors since 2006. Bill has continually been an advocate for the work of the agency in caring for vulnerable patients, and his leadership has led to the successful development of a strong Board of Directors.

His loyalty to DSFHS is unwavering and he is a continual source of inspiration and ideas to the agency. During a long search process for a new CEO, Bill was an active participant providing continued guidance and advocacy to the staff while ensuring a smooth transition from a long-term CEO to a new CEO. He helped stabilize DSFHS operations, acted as advisor to the senior leadership team, and chaired the search committee for a new CEO. William is well regarded as a valued mentor and someone who leads by example.

Not only does he skillfully handle board issues, he also participates in every agency event and even volunteers to help deliver presents to the agency's neediest families during the Christmas season. Nationally recognized as an expert on gerontology issues having spent nearly three decades in the field, Bill serves on the boards of numerous organizations including the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (past Chair), International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging and the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (past Chair). Additionally, he currently serves on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation National Steering Committee on the future of paraprofessional long-term care workforce. His involvement on this national committee has the potential for positively affecting the shortage of home health care paraprofessionals.

During his career, Bill has generously shared his knowledge and experience as a mentor to those seeking careers in health care administration, providing direction and inspiration. He has mentored members of DSFHS' board and shared his knowledge with staff members. This particular award is the highest award you can receive from VNAA and Bill's dedication to and willingness to mentor others so that elders can be cared for with compassion is the reason why Dr. Bill Smith has been selected as this year's VNAA Dick Anderton Mentor of the Year.

Clinician of the Year:

This award honors a nonprofit home health care or hospice clinician working in a non-supervisory position (e.g., nurse, therapist, home health aide) whose achievements and contributions have enriched the individual's agency, the lives of his/her patients, and the image of the profession. This person should demonstrate an awareness of the total person in clinical interventions - physically, emotionally and spiritually - and take a culturally sensitive approach in care, with regard to ethnicity and socio-economic factors. Attributes of the award recipient may include: adding to the patient's quality of life; increasing community awareness of home healthcare, hospice and VNA services; participating in community or civic activities that have served to promote home healthcare or hospice; and acting as a member of a professional healthcare/homecare/hospice association.

Barbara Atkins, RN, MSN, ANP-BC
Visiting Nurse Service of New York, New York, NY

View: Award Video | Photos

Barbara Atkins, RN, MSN, ANP-BC, a 10-year veteran nurse practitioner in Visiting Nurse Service of New York's long-term care program, provides expert, compassionate services to geriatric, chronically ill and disabled patients. She has delivered exceptional care to patients, predominately older adults and persons living with HIV/AIDS, while pursuing home care-related research and publication.

Barbara didn't end up in the nursing profession by accident. Growing up in Jamaica, Barbara witnessed how people in her community brought their medical, social and emotional problems to her grandmother, who had a way of making them feel better. Barbara's grandmother always wanted to study nursing, but never got the opportunity. After immigrating to New York, Barbara decided to pursue her grandmother's dream. Her first job was in the emergency room of a city hospital, but Barbara also began working per diem in home care. Her first patient was a 96-year-old woman living in a NYC housing project. After meeting that first home care patient, Barbara knew that she had found her niche in home care nursing. Giving back to her community through nursing and nursing education offers Barbara deep fulfillment and a way of honoring both her grandmother and her first home care patient.

Barbara serves as the Clinical Education team leader of VNSNY's Geriatric Education Program in Home Care (GEPIHC). GEPIHC addresses unique characteristics required to provide nursing care for older adults. The nursing process is applied to help patients and nurses adapt to physiological, psychosocial, and developmental changes that accompany normal aging. She helped develop the GEPIHC curriculum and syllabus to prepare VNSNY's nurses for the Gerontological Certification exam given by American Nurse Credentialing Center. Barbara and the GEPIHC team wrote the course proposal, obtained Institutional Review Board approval, and validated a tool called Assessment of Geriatric Capacity in Home Care. The GEPIHC course Barbara developed examines issues and trends in caring for VNSNY's geriatric population, constituting eighty percent of home care clients. Last year Barbara completed a post-master's certificate in nursing education from Hunter College, and she currently is pursuing a doctoral degree in nursing practice at New York University College of Nursing.

Since GEPIHC began in early 2009, Barbara has served as co-instructor supporting scores of colleagues in pursuing professional development. Over fifty VNSNY nurses have already earned certification. Through GEPIHC, Barbara develops expertise while disseminating knowledge across VNSNY's regions, to boost the competencies of home care nurses in assessing, managing and evaluating geriatric patients.

Barbara is not just involved in her agencies activities but is also involved in the Visiting Nurse Associations of America, American Nurses Association, the Delta Zeta chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, Nurse Practitioners of New York, and American Nurses in AIDS Care (NY chapter). Barbara is an individual who is passionately committed to high standards in clinical expertise, education and research, commitment to community, teamwork and innovation. For her rich contributions, Barbara Atkins has been named the VNAA Clinician of the Year.

Administrative Manager of the Year

This award recognizes contributions by a home health or hospice program manager in administrative functions (rather than clinical areas.) It recognizes outstanding managers who have made major contributions to the mission of their agency through areas including, but not limited to Financial management, Development, Public relations, Marketing, Information management and Human resources management. General indicators of success encompass building a more effective and efficient organization from an administrative perspective as reflected in agency growth, financial success, employee satisfaction, and/or positive community impact.

Judy A. Fancelli, BS, RN
VHA Health Group, Red Bank, NJ

View: Award Video | Photos

Judy Fancelli, BS, RN, Vice President of Business Initiatives at VNA Health Group in Red Bank, NJ, is this year's VNAA Administrative Manager of the Year Award recipient. Through her leadership, over 3,000 patients are referred for care each month from more than 60 facilities including hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior housing. While her main objective is to increase referrals for her agency, she is always looking to promote nursing excellence and offer a higher level of quality care for patients.

Ever conscious of physicians' and facilities' challenges to provide patients with the best possible care, and determined to present home care nursing at its best, Judy reorganized the entire central intake process to improve efficiency. At her suggestion, the agency managed service calls for more than a dozen external physician offices, facilities and case management companies, as well as the home care telephone inquiries for the agency. Judy initiated the development of a new state-of-the-art call center that is capable of routing calls from all over the state to the correct regional office. The call center is staffed by registered nurses who are extremely successful in preventing unnecessary emergency room utilization, as well as encouraging those who need immediate care to obtain it. Today the call center is fully implemented, receiving more than 700 calls a day with a drop rate of one to two percent.

She is also dedicated to improving her community. Judy learned that a neighborhood hospital was challenged by a large number of re-hospitalizations by congestive heart failure (CHF) patients. She convinced the hospital to collaborate in an initiative to provide CHF patients discharged from the hospital with in-home telehealth monitoring. She worked with the hospital's cardiologists to define the appropriate CHF patient profile for telehealth monitoring and established a protocol for transitioning the patient from hospital to home. The collaboration has been an overwhelming success, reducing the hospital's average length of stay by half a day and re-hospitalizations by eleven percent.

Although Judy is an administrative manager, she never strays from the grassroots mission of the organization to assist patients regardless of circumstances. For example, a case manager called Judy asking if she would consider accepting a patient with very complex needs. This woman had already been turned down by other care providers because of the complexity and cost of her condition. Judy pulled together an integrated team of caregivers to provide the care the woman needed. Because of the multiplicity and complexity of the supplies required, Judy recognized that anyone who took the case would incur unreimbursed costs. She was able to obtain the approval of the agency to cover these excessive costs. This type of situation, without Judy's assistance as a constant point of contact, would have been extremely difficult to facilitate.

In another instance, an elderly woman slipped and fell on ice. She went to the ER and because she had shattered her arm, required immediate surgery. The woman's husband had just been diagnosed with cancer and was given a limited time to live. Not wanting to leave her husband, the woman refused to go to a rehab facility. Judy was called for assistance and in less than twenty-four hours, help was on the way even though the area where the woman lived was outside of the agency's normal service area. Judy helped the woman transition with nursing and physical therapy at home so that she would not have to leave her husband. The woman's husband passed away four months later but because of Judy's help, the woman was able to be by her husband's side through his end of life journey.

The award winner is a devoted nurse and patient advocate, and is always ready to do whatever it takes. To Judy, nursing is as much a life commitment as a career. She is a devoted community health nurse and patient advocate who leads by example, encouraging her team to be mindful of the mission and vision of the organization - to be the safety-net provider to those in need. For these reasons and many more, Judy Fancelli has been named the VNAA Administrative Manager of the Year.

Grassroots Advocate of the Year:

The Grassroots Advocate of the Year Award recognizes strong and innovative outreach to policy makers on the federal and state levels. Recipients of the award promote the role and services of nonprofit home health and/or hospice to their policy makers. Examples of activities include but are not limited to: active participation in VNAA advocacy efforts; successful events involving Members of Congress or Administration officials related to home health or hospice visits done in conjunction with VNAA's policy agenda; innovation in terms of grassroots lobbying that can be shared with VNAA member agencies; strategic relationship building with congressional offices; and presence at local events organized by congressional offices.

Richard C. Corcoran
VNA Community Healthcare, Inc., Guilford, CT

View: Award Video | Photos

Richard J. Corcoran serves as Chief Financial Officer for VNA Community Healthcare, Inc. in Guilford and Hamden, Connecticut, as well as Chairman for the Connecticut Association for Home Care and Hospice. This past year, Rich, led a group of Connecticut home care leaders on visits with Hill staffers to support a two-year moratorium on further Medicare cuts to home care, to support an amendment to the document requirements for Face to Face and finally oppose co-pays for home health.

This year, Rich has developed strong relationships with Connecticut Congressmen Courtney, Lieberman, Delauro and Dodd - all of whom have been key movers of health policy and frequent VNAA grassroots targets. Rich has invited members of congress to tour his agency, meet his staff, and to go out into the homes of clients to experience a home health visit. He believes legislators need to have the 'experience' to make the best policy decisions. Rich is a staunch believer in the not-for-profit mission and the value proposition that VNAs bring both to their communities and to federal and state government in terms of being the cost effective solution to solving the health care and financial crisis.

As Chairman of the State Home Care Association, Rich motivates, and engages his peers by challenging them to reach out to their legislators at every opportunity, and works closely with Association staff on letter writing campaigns, media outreach, grassroots messaging and legislative priority-setting.

Rich has been one of those rare Association Chairmen who challenges his own agency along with the state Association and it's members. He not only attends Board meetings, but also sits on the following committees: Policy, Government Relations, Community Awareness, Business and Finance and Hospice and Palliative Care.

Rich frequently asks, "How can we get people to understand the value of home care?" It does not matter whether it is a local business leader, physician, or friend; he is quick to tell them the story of home care. Rich is a passionate and caring grassroots advocate who understands public policy and the value and opportunities that personal connection and legislative advocacy brings.

Program Manager of the Year:

The Program Manager of the Year Award recognizes contributions by a home healthcare or hospice program manager. These contributions may include development and implementation of a new or non-traditional program; managing and growing established program services and resources; institutionalizing quality standards; and activities that significantly improve the agency and its ability to serve the community. General indicators of success encompass satisfaction level and number of customers served, financial gain, public recognition, and forging new and non-traditional partnerships.

Maribeth Gallagher, DNP, PMHNP-BC
Hospice of the Valley, Phoenix, AZ

View: Award Video | Photos

Maribeth Gallagher, Dementia Program Director at Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ, is this year's VNAA Program Manager of the Year Award recipient. Inspired by her mother-in-law's journey with dementia, she gave up a singing career to use her gifts to make a difference. Faced with the challenge of how to provide dementia patients and their loved ones with the same excellent end-of-life care afforded to those with more common hospice diagnoses, Hospice of the Valley's dementia program, led by Maribeth has pioneered a new model for dementia comfort care, customizing care strategies to the specific needs of persons with advanced dementia, as well as supporting their families and caregivers. Additionally, the program has established a framework for training both professional and non-professional caregivers to provide the essential knowledge-base and discipline-specific skill development necessary for providing dementia care that upholds dignity and optimizes comfort and quality of life for the person with advanced dementia. Every day, the Dementia Program serves more than 600 hospice patients with advanced dementia and their families.

While the approaches to dementia care and caregiver support are grounded in current research, they are not standard practice worldwide. Since 2003, Dementia Program team members have shared their expertise with many hospices around the country that have started their own programs incorporating meaningful connections and sensory approaches into care. Maribeth has helped pioneer the Stimulation of Senses or S.O.S.b" bag, a kit containing numerous items that offer sensory stimulating and calming experiences for persons with dementia. Additionally, she assisted in creating free Mini-Dementia Conferences for caregivers of persons with moderate to advanced dementia. In these workshops, caregivers gain insight into their own experience while learning dementia comfort care techniques customized to their unique needs. Furthermore, she co-created Hospice of the Valley's Helping Our Memory-Impaired Elders or H.O.M.E. program to provide medication, behavioral and social assistance to families dealing with challenging dementia patients who are not yet eligible for hospice services.

Maribeth passionately communicates that excellent dementia care is feasible and realistic once caregivers understand basic dementia care principles. She is compassionate, brilliant, kind, an incredible team-builder and eager to share her knowledge with others. Maribeth is revered by the nursing assistants, whom she honors with great respect and collaborative inventiveness for their challenges in providing hands-on care. She has taught HOV's staff to sing to their dementia patients, and created CDs of oldies and spiritual passages with slowed-down tempos so those with advanced dementia can still sing along. Her work has made HOV a national and international resource for the care of persons with advanced dementia. It is for these reasons and many more that Maribeth Gallagher has been named this year's VNAA Program Manager of the Year.

Agency Board Member Volunteer of the Year:

The Volunteer of the Year - Agency Board Member Award recognizes a board member who best exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism. This is the board member who "goes the extra mile" when it comes to service to their agency. Nominee criteria include serving as a resource to the agency and staff; providing support to the organization's activities and programs; and promoting the organization's image and community visibility.

Charles J. Fanaras
Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association, Concord, NH

View: Award Video | Photos

Charles J. Fanaras, Trustee and Development Committee Chair for Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) in Concord, NH, is this year's VNAA Agency Board Member Volunteer of the Year award recipient. For seven years, Charlie, who owns The Prescription Center, has been an annual contributor and lead supporter of the Passion for Caring and Lights of Life events by donating a sizable contribution to the mission of Concord Regional VNA. His support helps Concord Regional VNA continue to provide the best possible end-of-life care through their Hospice Program and also serve vulnerable young families in the Parent Friend Program.

In 2008, Charlie's involvement in the mission of Concord Regional VNA increased further when he became a member of the Board of Trustees, the governing body of the agency. He brought his philanthropic passion to the Board and has been a champion leading the Board in achieving 100 percent participation in fundraising and connecting Concord Regional VNA to other organizations for donations and volunteers. Charlie is Chair of the Development Committee and is relied on for his expertise and business acumen working directly with Concord Regional VNA's Development Director to execute their development plan.

Charlie and The Prescription Center have made a significant investment, beyond monetary donations, in Concord Regional VNA Hospice. Charlie believes in the need for strong collaboration to improve community health and feels strongly about making an impact by supporting local organizations that are aligned with The Prescription Center. A good example is Charlie had one of his pharmacists attend weekly interdisciplinary hospice clinical staff meetings to act as a consultant offering advice on medication-related policies and procedures, medication information and education for the VNA staff. The pharmacist also conducts medication reviews, and advises nurses on medication therapy. This collaboration has improved direct care to hospice patients and strengthened the skills of the hospice staff.

Besides his work with the agency, Charlie mentors students from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, serves as a member of the Concord Hospital Trust Board, and is Chair of the Trust's Philanthropy Committee and is involved in several other community groups. He is always willing to give of his time and energy freely b always stepping up to share his wisdom or to take on "one more task." He serves as a role model for both his employees as well as other business leaders in the region. His philanthropic role and involvement in the community, is just one of the many reasons Charles Fanaras has been named VNAA Agency Board Member Volunteer of the Year.

Individual Care Provider Volunteer of the Year:

The Volunteer of the Year - Individual Care Provider Award recognizes an outstanding volunteer and his/her efforts to care for the individual patient. Salute an individual who best demonstrates the ideals of volunteerism through providing direct services to or for patients (rather than the agency.) This category includes nominees from all volunteer programs including hospice, meals-on-wheels, flu prevention, senior companions, or any other volunteer programs that your agency provides.

Vince Iturbe
Community Nursing Services, Murray, UT

View: Award Video | Photos

Vince has been a volunteer at Community Nursing Services (CNS) in Murray, UT, for over twenty-seven years and has provided more than 2,500 hours of volunteer time. He has demonstrated a strong commitment and dedication to CNS, the patients and families served by the agency and the staff. As a soldier in Vietnam, Vince witnessed the pain and suffering of many. He learned firsthand that death and dying creates an opportunity to offer kindness and sympathy to those experiencing acute suffering. Vince developed the emotional capacity to bring some relief to the dying in the form of compassion, support and listening.

At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in Utah, Vince began helping and focusing his efforts on a patient population which was frightening and shunned by most. As a CNS hospice volunteer, he made a difference in the lives of many dying from HIV by providing compassionate care and sympathy. Vince has directly and positively impacted the quality of life for many patients as well as the well-being of their families and friends. He becomes a trusted friend and companion, making them feel valued and accepted, and enabling them to experience a more peaceful end of life. Vince also shares what he has learned from his volunteer experiences educating the public and helping the community understand the needs of those stricken with this life-limiting illness. His inspirational talks have helped many overcome their fear of this devastating disease. His focus on HIV patients has enabled him to develop a very unique skill set which has benefited not only the HIV patients and families, but also CNS' clinical teams.

Additionally, Vince worked with CNS staff to plan and present the first fundraising event for Community Services, Art & Soup. This three-day fundraiser has been happening every year for the past twenty-four years and Vince continues to tirelessly volunteer his time with planning and coordinating the event. Vince's long standing association with Art & Soup has earned him the respect of community leaders and he is now often addressed as "Mr. Art & Soup."

Vince was also instrumental in helping develop the CNS Ethics Committee (the first home care Ethics Committee in the state of Utah) to provide ethical oversight to the clinical and administrative decision making of the agency.

Vince's volunteerism and willingness to go above and beyond whenever the need arises is extraordinary. He is a wonderful example of compassion in action and for these reasons Vince Iturbe has been named this year's VNAA Individual Care Provider Volunteer of the Year.

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