Medical Watchdog Group Awards Pandemic Heroes of the Year

Ken Terry

December 16, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Just days after Modern Healthcare named the frontline worker as its most influential healthcare person of the year, the Leapfrog Group announced new Pandemic Hero of the Year Awards and special recognition honors, which also focused on frontline clinical staff.

The Leapfrog Group, an independent national watchdog organization of employers and other purchasers that is focused on healthcare safety and quality, gave its first two Pandemic Hero of the Year awards to a hospital care team and an individual.

Sergio Alvarez, RN

The award winners were Englewood Health, in Englewood, New Jersey, in the category of teams of heroes, and Sergio Alvarez, RN, of Coral Gables Hospital, in Miami, Florida, in the category of individual heroes. Both were selected by an interdisciplinary committee of Leapfrog leaders.

According to a news release, the Englewood hospital "was very effective in communicating the importance of social distancing, partnering with first responders, making multiple daily calls to the families of patients, and supporting staff needs, including mental health support and financial assistance. Englewood's rigorous commitment to keeping the community fully in the loop served to educate and reduce fears."

Alvarez was honored for his selflessness. "Throughout the pandemic, Sergio demonstrated a steadfast willingness to put the best interests and welfare of others above his own," the release said. "During the midst of this crisis, he served as an educator for both patients and fellow staff members. He provided his cell phone to patients and families, carefully explained test results, and helped to minimize fear and uncertainty."

Nominations for the 22 special recognition awards were submitted by hospital staff and leadership across the United States. Winners were selected by a special committee of Leapfrog board members and other stakeholders.

The winners were as follows:

  • Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital ― Intensive Care Unit, Richmond, Virginia

  • Brooklyn Hospital Center ― Executive Leadership Team, New York City

  • Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Sarasota, Florida

  • Holzer Health System COVID Crisis Team, Gallipolis, Ohio

  • MemorialCare COVID-19 Command Center, Fountain Valley, California

  • Meritus Health COVID-19 Response Team, Hagerstown, Maryland

  • Natividad, Salinas, California

  • RWJ Barnabas Health Patient Experience Team, New Jersey

  • UnityPoint Health Marshalltown Hospital, Marshalltown, Iowa

  • West Jefferson Medical Center, Marrero, Louisiana

  • Amy Cartwright, infection control practitioner, Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, Elizabeth City, North Carolina

  • Angela Bonakoske, RN, infection control nurse, Englewood Community Hospital, Englewood, Florida

  • Barb Grabenbauer, RN, CIC, infection prevention, UnityPoint Health Marshalltown Hospital, Marshalltown, Iowa

  • Barbara Kalasunas, RN, employee health nurse, Florida Medical Center, Lauderdale Lakes, Florida

  • James Kravec, MD, chief clinical officer, Mercy Health–Youngstown, North Lima, Ohio

  • JP Valin, MD, system chief clinical officer, SCL Health System, Broomfield, Colorado

  • Gil Diesel, manager of infection prevention, Mercy Hospital St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

  • Mary Anne Usher, administrative director of emergency services and nursing administration, Florida Medical Center, Lauderdale Lakes, Florida

  • Nishant Anand, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer, BayCare Health System, Clearwater, Florida

  • Pablo Mora, market director of infection prevention, Florida Medical Center, Lauderdale Lakes, Florida

  • Stephen Feagins, MD, chief clinical officer, Mercy Health Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Vasantha Kondamundi, MD, chief medical officer, Brooklyn Hospital Center, New York City

"Protecting Their Communities"

"The health care workforce is the backbone of America's health care system, and as Americans, we owe them a great debt of gratitude. We depend on their caring, and we rely on their courage, at our most frightening moments," said Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, in the release. "We are so proud to honor some of the incredible people who have truly gone above and beyond to deliver excellent patient care during the pandemic."

In an interview with Medscape Medical News, Erica Mobley, vice president of administration at the Leapfrog Group, noted that the winners of the hero and special recognition awards were chosen from a larger group of nominees on the basis of subjective criteria.

"There isn't a data-driven way to recognize what all of the frontline health workers have done over the past several months," she said. "It was really important to acknowledge the role that all these people have played in protecting their communities and keeping patient safety top of mind.

"We looked for facilities and individuals that have sustained that commitment to excellence and patient safety and patient care in the midst of these tremendous circumstances they were faced with."

Why were so few doctors included in the individual awards? Mobley attributed that to the nominations, which tended to be for nurses and other nonphysicians. Nevertheless, she added, there were physicians on the recognized care teams as well.

Although the press release called these "one-time" awards, Mobley said it was possible that Leapfrog might reprise them next year, depending on the course of the pandemic.

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