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HCA’s 2018 Award Recipients

Caring Awards

The Caring Award recognizes a staff person of an agency who has exhibited the compassion, skills and service that sets his or her contribution apart and/or whose actions on a particular day or over a period of time exemplify caring in home care.

Vicky Gentile, Home Health Aide at New York City-based Selfhelp Community Services

“Vicky Gentile embodies the caring, dedicated spirit we wish to be associated with our name,” says Selfhelp Community Services, noting Ms. Gentile’s exceptional care to patients.

As an example, Ms. Gentile began working with a complex dementia care case. None of the client’s previous aides had lasted for any length of time. But Ms. Gentile was different. Her kindness, hard work ethic, and sense of cooperation enabled her to remain for many years with this client who, because of her condition, suffers from suspicion of others and is easily agitated.

Ms. Gentile also has had to frequently interact with the client’s daughter, who suffers from schizophrenia and other mental illness, causing the daughter to behave at times in a hostile manner, even making inappropriate demands.

Here again, Ms. Gentile remained calm and within the bounds of her role. In this case, as with so many others, Ms. Gentile responds with understanding, compassion, maturity, skillful patience and wise judgment.

Amy Marshall-Uber, Home Health Aide at Eddy Licensed Home Care Agency, which is part of St. Peter’s Health Partners and serves New York’s Capital Region

Ms. Marshall-Uber has been a dedicated home health aide with the Eddy VNA for 25 years. “I can remember when Amy started … and I knew then she was going to be outstanding at providing exceptional patient care,” said Ann Marie Moran, an RN case manager who nominated Ms. Uber for the award and tells a very personal story about Ms. Uber’s work.

Ms. Marshall-Uber had recently lost her father just a few months ago to cancer, all the while remaining committed to providing care to Eddy VNA patients, many of them in end-of-life care. When Ms. Moran’s own father became ill, “I knew that Amy would be a wonderful match with my father” to work with him as his own aide. They quickly forged a near-familial bond. “Knowing how hard it was for my Dad – who was fiercely independent and wanted to maintain his dignity — this was not easy, but Amy was able to make him feel comfortable and special at each and every visit.” This included the kindness and caring she provided on his dying day — and extended to the entire family.

“Thank you and your family for allowing me to be a small part of making him comfortable in the time he had left,” Ms. Uber later wrote to Ms. Moran and her family in yet another gesture of kindness and compassion following the patient’s death. “My dad had such respect and gratitude for Amy and the work she did,” Ms. Moran says.

Julio Vega, Doctor of Physical Therapy at HCR Home Care, based in Rochester, New York

Julio Vega, a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) at HCR Home Care, consistently looks for opportunities to best impact patient care at each and every visit with patients. He gives undivided attention and focus on the task at hand, and he empowers patients to believe in themselves and that they can do more.

As one woman explained of the care provided to her husband, Julio “did more with him in one visit then they did in all the time he was in rehab.” She was so impressed with his care that she requested Julio Vega to be his full time therapist. On another occasion, a physician noted that the doctor’s practice was very impressed with the results that its patient was making under Julio Vega’s care. Another patient wrote to HCR: “I met Julio Vega who totally put me and my husband at ease the minute we met him. He explained everything up-front that would be happening over the next two weeks. Julio is extremely knowledgeable in his job and very passionate about what he does and it shows in everything he does and says.  Julio shows kindness, understanding and empathy towards what may be going on in the client’s life.”

The patient added: “I feel extremely blessed that Julio and I met. I believe he helped me tremendously in my first two weeks of recovery out of the hospital.”

Josh Klein, CEO of New York City-based Royal Care

Josh Klein, CEO of Royal Care, believes in a philosophy of caring that he communicates to staff about their work with patients: “You Care For Them” – the patients – and “We Care For You.”

In this vein, Mr. Klein has taken a unique approach to caring for his staff, building a multi-million-dollar center called “Royal U,” focusing on employment services, such as employment appreciation and satisfaction, along with education focused on value-based care and quality patient outcomes.

His company’s Royal U initiative includes a facility specifically for home care workers to get spa treatments and other amenities. “Josh is one of the most caring people I’ve ever met and an even better boss,” said one nominee at Royal Care. “His love and devotion for every employee within his company is inspiring and refreshing to see.”

Triple-Aim Quality and Innovation Awards

The “Triple Aim” Quality and Innovation Award demands that home care and hospice agencies, payors, and other providers work to: improve patients’ experiences of care (including satisfaction); address the health of populations; and reduce per-capita costs in the health care system. This new HCA award recognizes a home care or hospice provider agency, Managed Long Term Care plan or team that has implemented a concrete, innovative clinical model, workforce supports, patient or staff education program, or other initiative with demonstrated outcomes in terms of client satisfaction, population health improvement, and cost reduction or avoidance.

Kim Gendron, Family Nurse Practitioner at St. Peter’s Health Partners Medical Associates/Eddy VNA Home Based Primary Care, which serves New York’s Capital Region

Kim Gendron started her career as a nurse’s aide, eventually becoming an LPN, then an RN, working as a home care nurse, and later pursuing her nurse practitioner (NP) degree. Today she is very much the driving force behind St. Peter’s Health Partners’ Home Visiting Primary Care Provider Program.

Primary care in the home consists of chronic disease management that improves the patient’s quality of life and reduces the risk of unnecessary emergency department visits or hospitalizations.

Ms. Gendron recruited other NPs to join the team and has worked hard to develop the office-based staff in the St. Peter’s program. She also brought on per-diem NPs that assist with covering on-call during weekends so patients have access to a provider 24/7.

Establishing contracts for Mobile Imaging in the home (x-ray and ultrasound), she has also worked with local laboratories to provide blood draws and introduce home infusion therapy. Her commitment to her patients and to this program is evidenced in the quality outcomes she delivers and the impact she and her team have on improving the patient’s quality of life.

Her vision is to expand this program so more patients can benefit. Without Kim Gendron, this program would not be the success it is today.

Shannon Whittington, Interdisciplinary Care Team Manager and Director of the Gender Affirmation Program at New York City-based Visiting Nurse Service of New York

Shannon Whittington, MSN BSN, is an Interdisciplinary Care Team Manager at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) and the Director of VNSNY’s Gender Affirmation Program (GAP).

GAP specially trains and assigns selected home care nurses to provide post-operative skilled nursing care in the home to patients who have undergone vaginoplasty, a type of Gender Affirmation Surgery for transgender individuals transitioning from male to female. This work supports an underserved population dealing with complex physical and emotional after-care needs.

Ms. Whittington has always been a model of a caring and dedicated visiting nurse. As a field nurse, prior to her managerial work, she consistently provided the most caring and thoughtful level of care. Now, as Director of the GAP program for the past two years, she is part of a team dedicated to helping a very vulnerable population at possibly the most important time in their lives to realize a safe and healthy gender transition. This also has meant forging a cultural shift within nurses, managers, and senior leaders regarding transgender care.

Since the start of the program in 2016, GAP has provided care to 110 patients who have undergone vaginoplasty. And the program has expanded to include competency training of all VNSNY and related entities in LGBT cultural sensitivity.

Her work as director of this program offers an outstanding example of leadership in providing compassionate, culturally sensitive care to a population that frequently faces stigma and barriers to essential health services in the community.

Physician Home Care Champion Award

This new HCA award recognizes a physician in New York State who has demonstrated a strong and model commitment to home care patients and agency partners. The awardee will have engaged in an exemplary fashion with home care providers on: care management at home (through effective care-transitions, primary care house-calls, home care-directed telehealth, and other means); specific community health interventions that directly involve collaboration with a home care agency; and/or other home care-supportive leadership roles.

Kevin Costello, MD, Albany Medical Center Internal Medicine, Albany, New York

The HCA Physician Home Care Champion Award is an excellent way to recognize a Capital Region physician who has served home care patients in their own homes, through different programs, for over fifteen years. Kevin Costello, MD is a gerontologist who began to work with VNA Home Health patients during his tenure at Albany Medical Center’s Internal Medicine Group. His responsiveness to home care community professionals, in caring for their patients, has earned him incredible respect as a physician and as an individual.

In 2007, Dr. Costello founded a new collaborative program with the Albany Medical Center hospitalist program, case management, the department of medicine and VNA Home Health (formerly the Visiting Nurse Association of Albany). The Early Facilitated Hospital Discharge Program was a visionary initiative created to improve patient transition from hospital to home. Its goal was to reduce complications of hospital-acquired illnesses, assure timely physician follow-up to prevent unnecessary re-hospitalization, and bridge the gap between hospital discharge and when the patient is able to see his or her physician to establish post-acute care.

In this work, he would visit the patient the day after discharge and collaborate with the home care nurse to assure medications, treatments and services ordered met the patient’s needs. He would provide interim orders for home care services until the patient returned to see his or her primary MD, which only occurred after he had reported the patient off to the primary care physician. He often visited several times until this transition occurred and he was available for calls from the patient – or the VNA – 24 hours a day.

Currently his “Home Based” physician practice services many patients that would otherwise not receive the regular physician follow up care needed due to their inability to get to a physician’s office. His practice maintains and improves the health of his patients and allows him to see what daily challenges patients face in their homes, from needing assistance with medication management to the need for home care services. He truly exemplifies a “Physician Home Care Champion.”

John “Jack” McIntyre, MD, Medical Director, HCR Home Care, based in Rochester, New York

Dr. Jack McIntyre has worked as HCR Home Care’s Medical Director since 2015. In that short time, he has made significant contributions to HCR and the home care industry widely. Dr. McIntyre has advanced the understanding of home care among the physician population through his work with the Medical Society. He even took it a step further and made a presentation to the Council on Medical Services which resulted in the adoption of new policies by the American Medical Society (AMA) supporting the training of home health aides and regulatory oversight of home health agencies (Resolution of 703-A-14).

Dr. McIntyre has been instrumental to HCR in achieving best-practice standards and regulatory requirements by developing and delivering education to staff, patients and his physicians. He has accompanied HCR staff on home visits. He provides an orientation class to all new staff members on how to effectively communicate with patients and peers. He has met, alongside HCR’s Leadership Team, with patient care partners to develop relationships and increase HCR’s visibility in the community. He has worked tirelessly with physicians who are signing home care orders to increase compliance, by educating them on the value of home care and how the industry is regulated. His insight into how behavioral health affects patients has brought a whole new perspective on HCR case-conferencing work. Dr. McIntyre has even completed record reviews to provide HCR with ways to improve orders and documentation. His contributions to the work at HCR and in home care broadly are truly exceptional.

The Advocacy Award

The Advocacy Award recognizes a provider agency or person (including both elected and appointed officials) who took risks to improve the home care industry, clients and workers through advocacy efforts.

William Dombi, President and CEO of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), based in Washington, DC

Year after year, budget after budget, in the face of countless, administrative rules, legislation, legal cases and emergencies, Bill Dombi has been the go-to person and leader of positive advocacy action for home care and hospice.

For over 30 years, Mr. Dombi has taken on the most substantive and consequential challenges to home care. He’s detangled technically thorny issues, and has formulated and fought for the best possible outcomes for the field. He provides the most expert analysis, sets the advocacy direction for these major issues, and develops proactive comprehensive annual blueprints advancing home care and hospice priorities, all the while spotting signs of trouble or opportunity within the fine print of federal language or industry developments or trends.

While this field is blessed with a relentless advocate in Bill Dombi, this blessing is doubled in the form of a person who is respected by all sides and in all quarters with the highest degree of integrity, credibility, collegiality, and knowledge.

As aptly put by NAHC’s Board of Directors Chair, “Bill Dombi has been at the center of every fight for home care and hospice in the last 30 years.” Bill Dombi is truly the leading home care and hospice advocate for our state, for every state, and for the country.

Ruth F. Wilson Award

HCA’s highest honor, the Ruth F. Wilson Award, is presented to an individual whose work has had a dramatic effect on home care, reaching beyond a single agency. The recipient will have strengthened the practice of our profession, raised the standards of quality and care for patients, or advanced the level of understanding and mutual cooperation among the home care community, legislators, federal and state agencies, health care providers and the public.  

Rebecca Fuller Gray, Director of the Division of Home and Community Based Services, New York State Department of Health (DOH), based in Albany

Becky Fuller Gray has been the cornerstone of home care and hospice in the state Department of Health for nearly 15 years, following her work as a home health nurse. Her knowledge and commitment to the principles of home care, its capabilities and contributions have stood above any other state official over this same long period. Time and again she has been the prevailing voice of judgment in state policy actions.

Ms. Fuller Gray has proactively engaged providers and HCA to advance the home care field and formulate solutions to challenges. Specific examples include her leadership and artful program role in the Department’s implementation of New York’s model home telehealth statute in 2007-08 and her workgroup efforts on standards for home health aide training and home health/MLTC regulations.

She helped shepherd the recent overhaul of requirements and payment parameters for physicians to sign home care service orders, relieving a major obstacle that had absorbed RN clinical time, strained relationships with physicians, and placed undue procedural limits on reimbursement.

In 2017, when the Medicaid face-to-face requirement threatened to mirror an already massive burden that existed under Medicare, Ms. Fuller Gray supported a streamlined approach with input from HCA and the Medical Society. Today, as home care continues to face attempts by others sectors to step into Article 36 without appropriate licensure, she delivered on a directive promoting collaboration and reinforcing Article 36 standards.

In Hurricane Sandy and in related state emergencies, Becky Fuller Gray has represented home care in the state emergency bunkers, helped navigate provider needs, advocated for emergency waivers, and provided support and recognition of the role home care personnel play in these disasters.

Becky Fuller Gray and her team are always available to engage on problems and are always working to help provide answers or craft solutions that fit real-world provider and patient needs.

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