Focus on Manatee: Healthcare champions feted

April 21, 2014 

I had the honor of seeing hundreds of hours of work come to fruition Thursday morning at the second annual Champions of Healthcare Awards. This event, which is a program of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, delivered "exactly what the doctor ordered." It was a celebration of the people, organizations and programs that are making a huge difference in health care delivery and access in Manatee County.

The cliche "we laughed, we cried" was in full effect that morning. In their acceptance speeches, several of the award winners shared stories about how helping others has been a blessing to them. Many talked about the generosity of our community in responding to gaps in the system and the daily struggles faced by people with illness or injury. In a comments that received a standing ovation, our Youth Volunteer Award winner, Joshua Fleck, shared his amazement at the accomplishments of his fellow winners and pledged that their example would be carried out in his future work.

Dr. Cornelius Turalba was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award and shared his spotlight by giving thanks to his wife, late father, former business partner and the many physicians and healthcare professionals who have helped him serve his patients and their families over his long, fruitful career. Similar sentiments were shared by Dr. Andre Renard, Physician Award winner, who had just recently retired after several decades of service and tremendous volunteerism.

The accomplishments of Patty Madsen (nurse), Dr. John Sylvester (innovation/research), Dr. Harris Silverman (individual of merit), Kimberly Bland (Al

lied Health) and Wendy Nebrija (Adult Volunteer) all touched on ways these individuals are creating a better quality of life for all of us through their professional efforts and personal service. And, Turning Points' Medical and Dental Clinic (Institution/Program) shone as an example of many local leaders and volunteers coming together to address the needs of those in our community who need help.

It truly was a phenomenal morning, and everyone I talked to left the event inspired to do even more to support the health of our neighbors and community. And, there are so many efforts already underway that it's easy to jump in and help. Some of these are visible, well-known opportunities for volunteerism and philanthropy.

Others are less visible or less automatic. Case in point, Joshua exclaimed, "I didn't know that the chamber did this!" after hearing about our efforts and surveying the room full of business leaders and healthcare stakeholders coming together through the Champions of Healthcare Awards program.

Over the past several years, many of the leaders in our health care community have recognized that an important goal for Manatee County is to become one of the healthiest counties in the state. It will take the efforts of everyone to accomplish this, but I am confident that our community has what it takes. We will work together to ensure that one of the most important components to our quality of life -- personally, our health; community-wide, our healthcare access and delivery system -- will continue to be a priority. If we are successful, we will all be Champions of Healthcare.

Jacki Dezelski, executive vice president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at or 941-748-3411. i

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