Health Care and Nonprofits

Health heroes cover the spectrum

Alliance recognizes six with awards

October 24, 2012
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Health heroes cover the spectrum
The Alliance for Health’s “Health Heroes” are selected for their service to others and ability to promote health care in compassionate and innovative ways. Photo via Facebook

Half a dozen professionals in various health care professions are being honored by the Alliance for Health as “heroes” within the West Michigan community.

AFH President Lody Zwarensteyn said the nonprofit invited the community over a three-month period to nominate people in six different categories who have contributed to the strength of the region’s health care work force. More than 50 nominations were received, and the winners were selected by a judging panel made up of health professionals, educators and private citizens, who met earlier this month to debate the merits of each essay submission.

The winners cover a broad spectrum of the health care industry, from education and nonprofits to journalism and patient-assistance advocates. Zwarensteyn said the individuals and organizations were selected based on their service to others and ability to promote health care in compassionate and innovative ways.

The category winners include:

  • Unsung Hero: Suzan Couzens, nursing professor at Calvin College. “Suzan knows that the more partners she has, the more care will be given to her Heartside friends who have so many barriers to care,” said Bonnie Mulder of Degage Ministries, who nominated Couzens. “Suzan is a gift to those she serves as well as to those who learn from her what serving can be.”
  • Everyday Hero: Betty Vreeman, co-chair, Region 8 MI Choice Waiver Program consumer quality control. “She exemplifies the phrase ‘Everyday Hero’ by her ability to encourage, motivate, energize and engage those individuals that she encounters,” said Lori Oatmen, of Region 8’s Consumer Quality Council. “She leads not just by words, but with actions.”
  • Organizational Hero: Access Health. “Access Health changed from being a bold experiment in Muskegon County to a national model,” said Robert Jacobs of Community Shores Bank in Muskegon. “Working with legislators in Washington, D.C., the Access Health program has been replicated many times across the United States.”
  • Regional Hero: Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for health at Grand Valley State University. “Jean is a nurse and health care leader who has made bold choices during her career as a change agent for health care reform in both practice and education,” said GVSU’s Brenda Pawl.
  • Rising Hero: Stevi Riel, pharmaceutical assistance program manager at Muskegon Community Health Project. “Stevi just forges forward with her ideas, like she has done so many times before,” said Julie Champayne of Mercy Health Shared Services of West Michigan. “It’s disruptive innovation, but after we hear her vision, put the program together as a team, and become comfortable with the process, we embrace the fact that it truly improves service and outcomes for our patients. Besides, she doesn’t hear the word ‘no!’”
  • Innovation Hero: Levi Rickert, editor in chief, Native News Network. “In the 18 months since the Native News Network has been publishing the Healthy Living information, Levi has penned or solicited health professionals to write 464 articles that have been viewed just over 1 million times,” said Michael Mohan, publisher of Native News Network. “Targeting the afflictions that most plague Indian people — diabetes, heart disease, nutritional choice in remote areas and dental hygiene — Levi first gathered information from West Michigan professionals.”

AFH, which is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality and value of health care in West Michigan by leading community collaborations and providing unbiased information, will salute the recipients Nov. 13. The event is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. at the Goei Center, 818 Butterworth Ave. SW, in Grand Rapids. Tickets are $30. More information is available at AFH’s online page for the event.

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