LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Joshua Fleck, 18, was an unabashed fan on Thursday morning.
He wasn't at a concert or a sports event. Instead, he was part of a crowd of 323 at an awards ceremony for Manatee County health care professionals. He soaked in the atmosphere at Manatee Chamber of Commerce's Second Annual Champions of Healthcare Awards Breakfast at the Fete Ballroom in Lakewood Ranch on Thursday.
Fleck, a Manatee High School senior who is heading to Vanderbilt University with dreams of one day being a biomedical engineer who makes prosthetics, received the Youth Volunteer Award for his hundreds of volunteer hours at Blake Medical Center.
When he got up to receive his award, Fleck forgot to talk about himself and revealed his excitement at being in the same room with Manatee County Champions of Healthcare.
He talked about Innovation/Research of the Year Award winner Dr. John Sylvester of Lakewood Ranch Oncology Center, Adult Volunteer of the Year winner Wendy Nebrija of the Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition, Allied Health Professional of the Year Kimberly Brand of Manatee Technical Institute and Program of the Year winners Adell Erozer, Michele Garden and Dr. James Little of Turning Points Medical & Dental Clinic.
Fleck was also talking about Physician of the Year Andre Renard and how the renowned Manatee County plastic surgeon and accomplished artist, now 74, has a "servant's heart."
Fleck knew about Nurse of the Year Patty Madsen from Blake Medical Center and how she is described
by her patients as "an angel in disguise."
Fleck also heard about the Individual of Merit Award Winner Dr. Harris Silverman and how he has had a 30-year mission to create and nurture the partnership between guide dogs and patients at Southeastern Guide Dogs Schools in Palmetto.
"Hi everyone!" Fleck blurted out in the refreshingly enthusiastic, bright and confident voice. Darlene Monroe, Blake's director of volunteer services, said Fleck makes elderly people who meet him at Blake have hope for the future of America.
"I never knew the Chamber of Commerce did this kind of thing," Fleck added, his innocent candor drawing laughs from the crowd.
Fleck then summed up what the event meant to him.
"What I am going to take away from today is that we do a fantastic job when it comes to medicine and health care in Manatee County and it makes me want to be a part of it," Fleck said. "One day I want to stand up here and give out an award."
Dr. Cornelius Turalba had to follow Fleck's standing ovation to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.
"The first people I have to thank are those patients who trusted their lives to me," said Turalba, a much revered radiation oncologist who moved to Bradenton in 1986 and joined Bradenton Radiology, which is now 21st Century Oncology. He retired in January after roughly 35 years.
"Cornelius is wonderful with his patients, very caring and very thorough," said Evelyn Turalba, the physician's wife. "He always spent a lot of time and was very up front with them."
Turalba thanked his father, a physician in rural Philippines, who taught him, "Always put the patient's welfare over financial gain."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941745-7072 or contact him at Twitter @ RichardDymond.