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Upstate presents Presidential Employee Recognition awards

Dozens of employees, representing numerous hospital and campus departments, have been honored with Presidential Employee Recognition awards. The awards were was presented during a virtual event, held Oct. 14, and featured remarks from Upstate President Mantosh Dewan, MD, hospital CEO Robert Corona, DO, MBA, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras and local elected officials Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon.

Winners of Presidential Employee Awards are:

Campus-Employee of the Year: Mary Phelan

Mary Phelan is a “powerhouse of quality improvement and innovation” as the program administrator in Neurology. She works tirelessly to improve their residency program and collaborates with other program administrators at Upstate and around the country. During the pandemic she brought new ideas, particularly in technology. She helped create a strong online presence for recruitment and virtual interviews which ran “as smooth as silk” due to her initiative and organization. Mary found opportunity amid the uncertainty.

Campus Team of the Year: Research Administration

Research Administration quickly adapted “the show must go on” attitude at the onset of the pandemic as they transitioned to a remote workspace. No grant deadlines were missed, IRB meetings continued without delays, clinical trials and basic science projects for pandemic related research were executed at warp speed. They developed a new Research Strategic Plan which convened 11 working groups—or more than 100 faculty and staff—on Zoom calls. In addition, faculty used this time to write a record number of new grant proposals.

Campus Team of the Year—Covid Response: Professional Development and Training

The clinical team ensured that COVID-19 education was up-to-date and delivered quickly. In addition to rolling out virtual platforms, they rounded on units to support nursing staff. The clinical educators created fast-track orientation programs to bring nurses to the bedside more quickly. They created a virtual new employee orientation for non-nursing staff and an online education for new nurses. They deftly navigated the 2020 Leadership Academy to a virtual platform.

Research Team of the Year: Institute of Global Health and Translational Science

The “small but mighty” Clinical Research Team for the Institute for Global Health and Translational Science rose to the challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic. They worked tirelessly to treat and prevent COVID-19. They were part of the clinical trial for the Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine. They worked quickly and diligently to enroll more than 400 participants, along with their participation in many other related projects.

Clinical Employee of the Year—Community: Cathy Narcavage Bradley

Narcavage-Bradley is the educator for clinical outpatient and family birth centers.She helped Upstate obtain a Baby Friendly designation which recognizes hospitals for outstanding maternity care. She promotes the World Health Organization’s goal of “breastfeeding is best.” She has spent countless hours improving overall education for maternal and newborn care. She has helped overhaul the Epic education navigator, significantly improving the nurses’ ability to document education. She has obtained educational grants, assembled prenatal education packets and created patient education videos to view while waiting for appointments.

Clinical Employee of the Year for Covid Response—Community: Pam Farrabee

Farabee’s “behind the scenes” work during the COVID-19 pandemic has been vital to our hospital’s operation. Almost overnight, Upstate shut down major portions of our healthcare system. Pam stepped to the plate to begin preparing for a major influx of patients. She was the critical engine behind New York State’s Health Electronic Response Data Systems (HERDS) daily data. HERDS is a Department of Health reporting system that tracks state-wide information through surveys. Throughout the pandemic, NYS, and the SUNY Chancellor watched this data closely.

Clinical Employee of the Year—Downtown: Violeta Stankovska

For more than 11 years, Stankovska has worked at Upstate University Hospital as a social worker, actively managing our patients’ holistic health needs. Currently, she works as a “floating” social worker wherever there is a need—whether providing emotional support, connecting patients to community resources, or completing advance directives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Stankovska’s demanding role increased. She connected families via Zoom or Webex to provide much needed emotional support.

Non-Clinical Employee of the Year: Andrea J. Hancock

Hancock was recognized for her potential after joining the Department of Medicine Pulmonary Division and was promoted to fellowship practice manager. Hancock provides seamless support for the division chief, physicians and fellows. She has implemented new processes that have increased the department’s efficiency. She creates, manages and oversees physician outpatient, inpatient and academic schedules. She arranges travel, and oversees conferences, evaluations and billing. She manages the documents for faculty promotions and patient evaluations. She handles the on- and off-boarding of faculty and supervises the physician payroll.

Non-Clinical Leader of the Year—Downtown: Mary Ann Gross

An exemplary leader, Gross oversees Upstate’s core clinical information systems. During the pandemic, she was always on call, responding to every challenge. COVID-19 ushered in skyrocketing responsibilities.  She became the clinical operations’ key point of contact for all things related to EPIC. She created a variable telemedicine platform in a few days for Upstate’s ambulatory patients.

Co-Clinical Leaders of the Year: Nancy Page, Sarah Fries

Nancy Page, former CNO, and Sara Fries, deputy director of nursing, are responsible for driving and achieving Upstate University Hospital’s designation as a Magnet nursing facility. Nancy created a clear vision and Sara took the reins to make it a reality. Many played a role, but these two leaders blazed the path that made it possible. It was during a global pandemic that Upstate received the Magnet hospital designation, a prestigious honor shared by only nine percent of United States.

Clinical Team of the Year—COVID Response: Emergency Department, Downtown Nursing ED—Adult and Pediatric—and Community Campus Emergency Department.

The Emergency Department took on the pandemic challenge when it was never done before and demonstrated critical thinking and innovative methods to keep staff and patients safe while receiving the utmost excellence in care. The Emergency Department staff continued to meet and improvise, making necessary changes daily to continually improve efforts to maintain excellence patient service to meet the need of our community. In the process, the ED team made a positive impact on the lives of patients, students, residents and the community.

Clinical Team of the Year—Downtown—COVID Response: Transfer and Triage (UTTC).

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nurses at Upstate Triage and Transfer Center (UTTC) rallied to create the Employee Resource Line, a communication that offered current, correct information and guidance. This critical service included the innovative “4-Then” phone line as well as the creation of a regional COVID-19 hotline. The 4-Then line has answered 10,579 calls at last recording.

Clinical Team of the Year—Downtown: 6A and 7U

The 6A & 7U is a medicine-pulmonary unit that also collaborates with Auburn Correctional Facility to care for inmates in a secured unit. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the nurses quickly adapted to changes and procedures since 6A & 7U became a designated unit for stable COVID-19 patients. Their collaborations resulted in a new policy for administering convalescent plasma for any COVID-19-positive patient. This new policy and consent form has become the standard reference for nurses.

Non-Clinical Downtown Team of the Year: 340B Contract Pharmacy

Since its inception in 2014, Upstate’s 340B Contract Pharmacy team has built a robust revenue generator with more than $200-million in revenue for University Hospital while leading the industry in unmatched compliance. The pharmacy began with the intent to generate revenue under a federal hospital program. Staff consisted of two employees, a purchase associate for contracting and a 340B coordinator for compliance and operational needs.  The staff has now expanded to three employees that has acquired more than 110 pharmacies on contract and has generated more than $57-million in revenue in 2020.

Non-Clinical Team of the Year—Downtown: Department of Spiritual Care.

The Department of Spiritual Care has been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are a small team of chaplain interns and spiritual care volunteers, but during the pandemic, they lost their volunteers and interns. Yet they continued to provide spiritual care to our patients, families, staff, faculty and community members. Rev. Terry Culbertson and her staff were classified as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. They creatively met the demands of the pandemic all the while remaining optimistic, positive and kind. They used iPads to connect grieving families with critically ill and dying COVID patients. They assisted staff on daily rounds and ministered at the bedside, going well beyond their responsibilities. They also sat with COVID patients during their final hours.

Provider of the Year—Downtown: Brian Changlai, MD.

Changlai’s passion is to provide patients with an excellent hospital experience as associate medical director of Quality and Patient Experience. His skill, caring nature and generosity has guided his team during the pandemic’s unprecedented times.  His innovative thinking led to the idea of using iPads and telemedicine to enhance communications between providers, patients and their families. He coordinated with IMT for patients to FaceTime with loved ones. He worked long hours to ensure the project’s success. He frequently volunteered on COVID units, caring for the sickest of patients. “He has been an anchor on our Hospitalist Team with his willingness to take on the load when others may have been hesitant,” said a nominator.

Provider Leader of the Year: Stephen Thomas, MD

Thomas has put Upstate on the local and national map with his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. He stands front and center in the Pfizer vaccine clinical trial with his groundbreaking research and patient care initiatives. He is lead principal investigator for the world-wide Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial, which has shown a more than 90 percent efficacy in preventing COVID-19. As one of the global phase three vaccine trial sites, Upstate has enrolled more than 300 adult volunteers in the trial. Under Thomas’ leadership, Upstate was also selected as one of the few sites to study the vaccine in younger volunteers.

Provider Team of the Year—Downtown, Community: Department of Medicine.

The department identified ways to staff more medicine patients, particularly, ICU patients. They pulled in resources from all areas, realigned residents, altered rotations and upskilled providers to assist in the ICU. They worked through difficult circumstances, heavy patient loads, high acuity, and difficult geographic placement challenges. They endured countless hours in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), long shifts, emotional, physical and mental stress. Physicians from Internal Medicine cared for patients on COVID units, both med/surg and ICU. Internal Medicine specialists were recruited to assist hospitalists and intensivists. Members of Infectious Diseases spent countless hours treating COVID-19 patients, educating staff, guiding our infection prevention response and answering calls from outside facilities.

Community Service Employer of the Year: Brian Rieger, PhD

For more than 25 years, Rieger has been known as the consummate and compassionate professional who’s knowledgeable in concussion management is unsurpassed. He is the founder and clinical director of the Upstate Concussion Center, one of our fastest growing outpatient programs. In this role, he collaborates with medical providers, researchers, consumers, families, and patients to bring better concussion awareness across the state. The Center has offered educational information about concussion for school-aged students and adults who have sustained mild traumatic brain injuries. He fully understands how conditions affecting the brain can alter our thinking, emotions and behavior. Rieger is the voice of concussion management and has a long-standing history of educational community outreach. He is involved with the Baldwinsville, Jamesville-Dewitt, and Fayetteville-Manlius school districts. He is also the go-to contact for Le Moyne College, Colgate University, Onondaga Community College and other area collegiate sports programs as well as the healthcare provider for the Syracuse Crunch Hockey team.

Community Service Team of the Year: Nursing 10E Hematology and Adult Oncology

Every year 10-E “adopts” struggling families to “shower with gifts” for the holidays. They select patients an families who have shown great strength and could also benefit from additional support. The 10-E team includes nursing technicians, registered nurses, doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, case managers, and others. This past year, they received approximately $1,800 in cash donations and an abundant amount of clothing items, toys, games, personal care items, books, educational and household items, gift cards, puzzles, games, art supplies, toiletries, and more.

Caption: The Adult Emergency Department shared Clinical Team of the Year honors with the Community Campus Emergency Department and and Adult and Pediatric ED Nursing.