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Kathy Wilets

Office of Public Affairs,
Phone: 801-581-5717

Oct 11, 2012 3:09 PM

An unprecedented number of University of Utah Health Care physicians, providers and volunteers won awards this year from Utah Business Magazine’s Annual Healthcare Heroes event. The awards are designed to recognize the quiet accomplishments of those working to improve the lives of others through healing and hope. 

Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Devon HaleDr. DeVon C. Hale, 
Professor of Medicine and Pathology, University of Utah School of Medicine

Dr. DeVon Hale has devoted his life to studying and improving global health care through humanitarian initiatives.

As assistant dean of international medical education at the U of U School of Medicine and medical director of the University Hospital International Travel Clinic, Dr. Hale has visited more than 40 countries to evaluate health risks and medical care. He’s particularly interested in the African nations of Ghana and Kenya, and has visited Ghana so many times he’s lost count of how often he’s been there. He regards these trips as a tremendous opportunity to make an impact in improving the quality of care in Africa. Though he treats patients, his mission is to teach, so that health care infrastructure in undeveloped countries is improved and sustained for the long run.

Innovation Award

Roy BloebaumRoy D. Bloebaum, Ph.D, 
Director, Bone and Joint Research Lab, VA Medical Center; Professor of Orthopaedics, Biology, Bioengineering, University of Utah Department of Orthopaedics

Roy D. Bloebaum, has greatly enhanced the lives of thousands of people who have lost limbs. His work focuses on attaching prosthesis directly to bones. “The innovation we are working on today is to help develop implants that can go inside the bone, protrude from the skin and allow the prosthesis to attach directly to the implant so the bone can be loaded, not the exterior skin and muscle.” This remarkable innovation has helped numerous individuals, many of them soldiers and veterans who lost limbs in the Iraq and Afghan wars. Now those who once thought that they would spend their lives in a wheelchair are able to stand and walk again. 

John RoseCharlie CasperT. Charles Casper, Ph.D, 
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Biostatistics
 and Dr. John Rose, 
Professor of Neurology, University of Utah;
Chief of Neurology, VA Medical Center

A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis typically occurs in one’s midlife, yet more and more children are being diagnosed with this disabling disease. While an official MS diagnosis is difficult (especially in children), early detection is vital. Charles Casper and Dr. John Rose have dedicated their work to improving the diagnosis process, making it easier and better for all impacted.

The research that Casper and Rose are conducting will provide important clues as to how genes and environment play a role in MS. They are also working to recognize potential triggers that may lead to MS vaccines in the future.

They believe pediatric MS might hold the keys to unlocking the great mystery of the origins, triggers and development of the disease—and could further the quest to end this disease once and for all. 

Physician Award

Blake HamiltonDr. Blake D. Hamilton, 
Associate Professor of Surgery, Division of Urology, University of Utah

Dr. Blake D. Hamilton treats some of the most complex urological problems, including kidney cancer and obstructions, yet it’s often hard to tell he was even there. Hamilton is one of the Intermountain West’s pioneering surgeons in the use of minimally invasive surgery. Through the use of robotic, endoscopic and laparoscopic techniques, Hamilton’s incisions are about one centimeter—the same length of a grain of rice.

Outside of the operating room, Hamilton is a respected professor who provides his students with the unique opportunity to see complicated cases they wouldn’t find elsewhere. He has worked with hundreds of young medical students and says it makes him proud to see students transform into leading physicians in the community.

Kirtly JonesDr. Kirtly Parker Jones
, Professor and Vice Chair for Educational Affairs,
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Utah

Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones has devoted her career to the advocacy for women’s health, focusing on reproductive medicine. Responsible reproduction is one of Parker Jones’ passions. She has helped thousands of couples have children through in-vitro fertilization. “A wanted and planned child is a gift to the planet,” she says. “For those who can’t do it on their own, having the ability to make that happen through technology is huge. It’s so rewarding to see a family conceive who truly wants a child.”

Non-Physician Award

Karen NyeKaren Nye, BSN, RN, CCRN, 
Resource Nurse Manager,
University of Utah Hospital and Clinics

Karen Nye was a healthcare provider long before it was her career. After her parents were diagnosed with terminal illnesses within eight months of each other, Nye became a physical and emotional caregiver while attending high school and nursing school. That experience made her decide early on to go into healthcare.

“I have been the ‘family’ as a recipient of the healthcare system for nine years and now I feel it is my role to give back to those individuals in their greatest time of need,” Nye says.

Although Nye’s current position is a managerial role, her focus has always been on patients. These days she is not typically involved in direct patient care, yet Nye makes it her top priority to provide mentorship, leadership and education to those who are providing direct patient care.

“I see it as our patients, our people. They have jobs, pets, hobbies, friends and family that have all stopped upon their admission to the hospital,” Nye says. “…Our patients often relinquish all control to us as healthcare providers. If I can bring one small piece of normalcy or inner peace back to the patient then I have done my job. I think it is important for every patient to have the opportunity to be remembered that as a patient they are still people while under my care.”

Volunteer Award

Pat BarkerPat Barker- 
Huntsman Cancer Institute

At age 45, Pat Barker became a victim of early-onset macular degeneration and lost her eyesight. She recalls thinking at the time, “At least it’s not cancer.” Shortly after, Barker was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but her spirit wasn’t shaken. Determined to beat the particularly deadly form of cancer, Barker took part in a clinical trial, which involved 18 months of chemo, and survived.

Today, Barker focuses on helping individuals who are fighting their own battle with cancer. For nearly 10 years, Barker has been volunteering at the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). Every Friday afternoon, Barker brings snacks and good cheer to HCI patients. “I know how overwhelming cancer can be, and I know what a difference an encounter with a pleasant, smiling and helpful person can be,” Barker says.

During her time as a volunteer, Barker has clocked approximately 900 hours of volunteer service and was recently named HCI’s volunteer of the year.

Community Outreach Award

Catherine DevriesDr. Catherine R. deVries, 
Professor of Surgery, University of Utah; Director, University of Utah Center for Global Surgery

While a student in high school, Dr. Catherine R. deVries planned to join the Peace Corps—she always wanted to give something back to the world. As she looked further into the organization, she realized that to truly make a long-term impact, she needed to find a career in which she could devote her life to helping others. Today, she serves as a professor of surgery and director of the University of Utah Center for Global Surgery, where she works with colleagues and students to enhance telehealth and surgical cost reduction projects in Utah and in remote regions around the world.

DeVries has many roles in which she remains dedicated to improving the health of individuals. In addition to her directorship of the Center for Global Surgery, deVries has a clinical and academic practice at Primary Children’s Medical Center in pediatric urology. She also she serves as the president of  IVUmed, a nonprofit organization in which she teaches urology in impoverished countries and low-resource areas across the Intermountain West.

Administrative Excellent Award

Ross VanvrankenRoss Van Vranken, LCSW, Executive Director, University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute

Ross Van Vranken’s advice for others in his field is: “I would suggest they embrace change, be flexible and focus on a culture that sustains growth.” It is by following his own advice that Van Vranken has found success.

Flexibility was key for Van Vranken as executive director of the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) when the organization underwent a major expansion and renovation in 2010 and 2011. Despite the project, Van Vranken says UNI attained and kept a 95th percentile ranking when measured against 220 like facilities. “UNI staff are dedicated to a culture of providing compassionate care and service to patients and families and diligently worked to maintain this culture even while our environment was under construction,” he says.

Without embracing change and staying flexible, healthcare providers will have a difficult time in the future. “Current healthcare delivery is extremely dynamic and will continue to be more so with healthcare reform,” he says. “The next year we will face historic changes in healthcare. Providing all populations with access to timely, compassionate, affordable care, if successfully done, will be a significant challenge.”