Frist Humanitarian Award Recipients Highlight What It Is To Give
As a company, HCA is devoted to providing outstanding patient care. Employees also give generously of their time to local civic and philanthropic organizations, further integrating the company’s mission into the communities it serves. And every year, the Frist Humanitarian Awards recognize those who do all that, and more, to enrich the world around them.
This year’s honorees are no different. The three national award recipients were first honored by their facilities, then further endorsed by nomination committees at the division level and finally selected from an amazing group of finalists by a review team at HCA’s corporate offices in Nashville. Every Frist Humanitarian Award nominee, at every level, is someone who is doing amazing things; the final three represent the pinnacle of a talented, giving group of people.
And what a trio they are. From taking personal tragedy and turning it into life-saving legislation to bettering lives in impoverished countries to being the smiling face that calms fears and helps visitors in the hospital, this year’s national recipients embody all that is good about HCA, and about caregivers in general.
From the moment they are born, children are front and center in their parents’ lives. There’s always that little fear that something might happen to them, an injury or worse. That fear came true for Kelli Jantz, and what she was able to accomplish from her personal tragedy will save thousands of young lives in Colorado and beyond.
In 2004, Jantz’s son, Jake, died from a concussion sustained during a football game. He’d taken a blow to the head before, and it’s likely he died from Second Impact Syndrome (SIS), which occurs when a second head injury closely follows a first, which may or may not have been diagnosed.
As a transplant coordinator at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, Jantz was used to counseling grief-stricken families about the importance of organ donation. She and her family made the same brave choice, allowing Jake’s death to give life to others. She then embarked on a multiyear campaign to raise awareness of SIS, speaking to thousands of parents, coaches, medical professionals and legislators. In January 2012, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 11-040, the Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act, which requires coaches of organized youth athletic activities to complete an annual concussion-education program. It also provides guidelines for taking players out of a game after a blow to the head or body, and requires medical clearance before they take the field again.
“Kelli turned her personal tragedy into legislative triumph, and her personal sorrow into public service,” said Mimi Roberson, CEO of Presbyterian/St. Luke’s. “She put a face on what it means to be selfless and loving.”
Jantz also serves as an advocate for REAP (Reduce/Educate/Accommodate/Pace), a community-based concussion management protocol utilized in schools, emergency departments and pediatric practices across the state. She also inspired the Jake Snakenberg Fund at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.
The groups across Colorado that wrote testimonials in support of her Frist Award nomination were unanimous in their praise.
“Kelli spoke to a group of over 500 of our coaches and parents recently, and gave a moving account of her very personal story,” said Jeff Glenn, president of the Jeffco Midget Football Association. “Her message resonated with our members and was something they will never forget. We are forever grateful to her for her tireless dedication to this important issue we face every year.”
For her part, Jantz said that she has not been alone on her journey, and with support from her family and friends, to coworkers and hospital leadership, she has been able to rely on the support of those around her as she fought to share Jake’s story and “be his voice.”
“A lot of people know now what needs to be done, and how to take care of themselves,” she said. “That is a beautiful tribute to Jake.”
Dr. Frank Cirisano
When he was in medical school, Dr. Frank Cirisano took part in a medical outreach program in Madras, India. When he returned home, he brought the plight of impoverished women with him, and has made medical care for them a significant portion of his life’s work ever since.
Now practicing at Aventura Hospital & Medical Center in Aventura, Fla., Dr. Cirisano leads teams to Cambodia, the Philippines, Nepal — and other countries — to bring gynecological care to women in the farthest-flung communities across the globe. He founded the Women’s Cancer Care Fund, a nonprofit entity that helps provide women with knowledge about the risks, prevention, early detection and treatment of gynecologic cancer. It also empowers them to become advocates for their own health.
Dr. Cirisano’s own research efforts have been significant, working with cancer specialists at Columbia University Medical Center, Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center, UCLA, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center. And still, he said it is necessary not to just look at the causes and ways to prevent ovarian and other gynecological cancers, but to get out into the world and put that research into practice.
He characteristically minimizes his achievements, preferring to give the credit to all the people that help make mission trips, surgeries, education and more happen every year.
“I am a member of three teams,” Dr. Cirisano said. “On the direct patient care team, the glue is really the nurses who provide the patient care. At home, I have the support of my wife, Daria, and children, Natasha and Tatiana. And then, there are all the volunteers, sponsors and vendors who support the foundation.”
He also thanked the hospital’s management and administration for their ongoing efforts to ensure that he is able to continue growing the WCCF’s work overseas while also taking care of patients stateside.
“He embodies all the characters this tribute stands for,” said Heather Rohan, CEO of Aventura Hospital & Medical Center. “He’s the surgeon, but he rolls the patient down the hall himself. Through the Women’s Cancer Care Fund, he has performed hundreds of outpatient procedures and surgeries, and provided education not only to women, but also to doctors.”
WCCF recipients also are unstinting in their praise.
“For the two years he joined us, Dr. Cirisano performed 25 surgeries on the most complex and desperate of the Filipino poor,” said Dr. Mitchell A. Schuster of the Bico Clinic Foundation, where the WCCF held two-week clinics in 2009 and 2010. “These were women who otherwise surely would not have survived. He worked under extremely adverse conditions in the operating room. He was diligent, conscientious and able to reach the local staff as well as American medical students in attendance. He is a fine teacher, an excellent surgeon and a great humanitarian.”
Richard R. “Dick” Adams Jr. (1936-2012)
Although he was not physically present to receive his Frist Humanitarian Award, Dick Adams’ smile loomed as large over the gathering as it did with everyone he met during a life that touched thousands of hearts.
Adams, who was a volunteer at Rose Medical Center for more than 13 years, as well as at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center and Cherry Creek Eye Clinic, for more than a decade, lost his battle with cancer earlier this year. But he left behind a rich legacy of laughter and service, and his impact was such that he was chosen to be the Frist Awards’ first ever posthumous recipient.
“Dick was the perfect volunteer: Kind, willing to help, truly concerned about the welfare of others,” said Kenneth Feiler, CEO of Rose Medical Center. “And he tried to bring fun wherever he could, even in a serious environment. One hundred percent of the patients who met him had their spirits lifted. We greatly miss his contributions and personality, but his legacy will continue.”
Over 12 years as a volunteer at the patient information desk, Adams logged more than 8,000 hours of service. He also donated his time to community organizations working to raise awareness of and provide research funding for heart disease and leukemia, as well as the Volunteers of America food drives.
And if a tutu needed to be worn at the Cardiac Rehab class, he was the man to do it. He also ensured that the elf costume was not without an occupant during Christmas festivities.
Adams used his love of classic cars to carry the message of the importance of prostate screenings and colon cancer awareness to men in his community. He also led a Heart Walk team for all HealthONE hospitals in the Denver area, raising more than $4,000 last year.
“He believed in participating,” said his widow, Susan. “If he was here, he might be speechless for the first time.”
“Dad left the world a better place,” added his son, Craig. “I never asked why he did all that volunteer work, but I suspect it was a love of people and making them laugh.”
The tales told by Dick’s fellow volunteers and friends gave life to his story:
“There was a contest during the Heart Walk to clap your hands as many times as possible in 30 seconds. He won.”
“He was the man who did everything.”
“Dick took pride in his manhood, even while wearing a ballerina outfit in public.”
“He was fearless in everything he did.”
Dick’s legacy lives on in a very personal way. Hospital staffers now wear “Stay Silly” bracelets to remember his message of love and laughter, a request made by his grandchildren. And his daughter Jean now volunteers at Rose’s information desk, the third generation in her family to do so. When she is behind the desk, she wears her father’s nametag.