Times names Northwest Indiana’s best nurses - May 8, 2019

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana

Written by Giles Bruce

HOBART — Nurses take care of the sickest among us, working long hours. They are, in some cases, literally, lifesavers. But there are no Oscars or Grammys for nurses.

On Tuesday, they got their due.

To celebrate National Nurses Week, The Times Media Co. crowned the Region’s 10 best nurses at the inaugural Nurses: The Heart of Health Care ceremony at Avalon Manor.

“Nurses comfort, care, educate, console, relate, endear, provide direction and assistance. They’re at the forefront when we are sick. Their work responsibilities are immense, their efforts are tireless, and their commitments are endless,” said Times Media Co. General Manager Joe Battistoni.

“They are the heart and soul of medical facilities.”

The winners included:

  • Rebecca Brown, of Kindred Hospital in Hammond
  • Carol Burns, of St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart
  • Debra DeBoer, of Franciscan Health hospital in Dyer
  • Cindy Fultz, of Porter Regional Hospital in Valparaiso
  • Ana Bran-Guzman, of St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart
  • Amanda Repay, of University of Chicago Medicine
  • Alexander Serrano, of Franciscan Health hospital in Hammond
  • Geri Smith, of Franciscan Health
  • Rodney Vezmar, of Community Hospital in Munster
  • Ashleigh Warburton, of Methodist Hospitals

“I can’t think of a more deserving group of professionals to honor,” said Times Local News Editor Marc Chase. “We have numerous heroes in the room today.”

The nurses were nominated by the public, who submitted a total of 288 entries. Nine of the the winners were selected by a panel of judges, including this reporter, Maria Chicchelly, of Methodist Hospitals, Marie Forszt, of Community Healthcare System, Marsha King, of University of St. Francis, and Jennifer Philbin, of Ivy Tech Community College. The 10th finalist was the winner of the popular vote by Times readers.

One of the awards was given posthumously, to Repay, who died in February of breast cancer. She was 33.

“She would be very appreciative,” said her widower, Mike Repay, a Lake County commissioner, as he held the couple’s 15-month-old daughter, Vivian. “She would be proud of her profession.”

Guzman, who said she was “very humbled” to receive the award, works in the women’s diagnostic unit at St. Mary hospital.

“I’m lucky to be in this field because I love helping females,” she said. “One in eight females is affected with breast cancer. If there is anything I can tell the community, it’s mammograms save lives.”

Brown, a nurse for Kindred Hospital, an acute rehabilitation facility in Hammond, said when she found out she won the award she “almost cried, because I’m a little crybaby. … I teared up.”

“Seeing people get healed — it’s a ministry for me,” she said. “I love people. I want to see them do well in life: physically, mentally and spiritually.”

Vezmar, who does IV therapy at Community Hospital, was this year’s winner of the Times reader vote.

“There not a place I go in Northwest Indiana, where people don’t say, ‘You took care of my mom.’ ‘You took care of my baby,'” said Vezmar, a nurse for the past two decades.

Serrano has only been a nurse for four years now, but has already made his mark. He said he felt “honored” to be recognized as among the best in his craft.

He said he relishes, “the contact we have with patients, how we can inspire people to improve their health and help them in their times of need.”

“A lot of people feel lost, and we can be that bridge to health for them,” he said. “They trust us, so it’s an amazing thing to be involved with people we don’t even know.”

Carol Burns, conversely, has been a nurse for more than 40 years. She’s employed in the surgical department of St. Mary Medical Center.

She’s seen all the changes in health care, to where surgery is now being performed with robots. She said she has wanted to be a nurse since she was a kid, when her mom encouraged her to pursue the profession, and she worked as a nurse’s aide during high school.

“I fell in love with it,” she said.

A special pullout section with profiles of each of the award-winners will be in Sunday’s Times.