June 2, 2006
Vol. 36, Issue 10
Back Issues
Finals 2006
Finance OKs $1.97B budget
Caplins give $4M
McIntire No. 2 in nation
Inventor of the Year
Headlines @ U.Va.
Simply Outstanding
Scenes from a graduation
First job fair info session ‘overwhelming success’
22nd annual telethon set for June 3 and 4
Sign up now for Day of Caring

Peer Support


Simply Outstanding

While Mr. Jefferson’s magnificent architecture is recognized around the world, the true and enduring character of the University is defined by the people who work within it,” wrote politics professor Larry J. Sabato, in support of one of this year’s 10 Outstanding Contribution Award-winners. After reading the nominations for this year’s recipients, Sabato’s statement holds true for each of them. They all play a role in improving the quality of U.Va. And for their contributions, each will receive $1,000 and be recognized on June 14 at a dinner at the Omni Hotel, along with those who have worked for U.Va. 25 years or more.

University employees, on the 10th year of their employment at U.Va.and every five years thereafter, are honored for their years of service.This year,U.Va. recognized employees celebrating 10-, 15-and 20-year anniversaries at a ceremony on May 23 in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium.The University will hold a dinner on June 14 to honor employees with 25 or more years of service. Among the employees recognized will be five employees who have attained 45 years here and 10 staffers who have reached 40 years of service. In all, this year’s honorees have given the University 18,445 years of service. Service Awards


Katherine Morris“I notice staff members looking out of a back window of the clinic. There is an old man walking slowly on the railroad tracks. He is disoriented and heading toward the JPA overpass. When he gets there he will not be able to escape if a train comes. Out of the corner of my eye someone climbs through a hole in the fence, escorts the man out of harms way, then to the hospital for assistance. I am impressed but not surprised. Kathy Morris does it again!” That’s what associate professor and chairman of the Department of Dentistry Thomas E. Leinbach wrote about dental assistant Katherine D. Morris in nominating her for a 2006 Outstanding Contribution Award. She assists faculty and residents in delivery of dental services to more than 50 patients a week. “Many of her exemplary works appear nowhere in her job description,” Leinbach noted. “She regularly calls patients to prepare them for the appointments and to check on them after procedures. She transports special needs patients and performs wheelchair-to-dental chair transfers on patients much larger than herself. She visits our nursing home patients to cheer them up. … To do all these good works, she has driven 54 miles round trip for 25 years with seldom a sick day,” he added. “No wonder patients ask for her.”


Darlene WebbDarlene Webb, office manager for the Facilities Management Heat Plants Division, is often referred to as“ radar,” because she is “in tune with the unique heat plant environment and anticipates operational and administrative requirements before they are needed or requested,” wrote Heat Plants Manager Anthony W. Motto in nominating her for an Outstanding Contribution Award. In addition to the expected duties of an office manager — scheduling meetings, arranging travel, answering correspondence, etc. — Webb’s work in the Heat Plants is unique. For instance, she has the“ all-important task of reviewing all fuel laboratory analyses for compliance,” Motto noted. “If a fuel shipment is not within specifications, she must refuse it to avoid contamination of the existing inventory,” he said. Motto also wrote that Webb, the only woman on staff, was “instrumental in establishing the Heat Plants’ air permitting filing system,” which has received high marks from the DEQ. “Darlene singlehandedly takes care of so many things at the plant …
for more than 34 people working in that division,” wrote Cheryl Gomez, director of the Energy & Utilities department. She’s earned the trust of her colleagues, who say she “is as honest as the day is long.”


Maggie ShortIn her 29 years with the University, Maggie Short has held many posts — nurse, manager, director and administrator.“ Maggie loves patient care and in every interaction with a patient or family … it is obvious that deep in her core she is a bedside nurse,” wrote Mary Miller, nurse liaison with Continuum Home Health, in nominating Short for an Outstanding Contribution Award.“ I have worked with and for Maggie for close to 10 years, and her dedication, creativity and productivity are astonishing to me. … She recognizes that health care at U.Va. is a complex web of bureaucracy that can be hard to change, but she absolutely is not afraid to take it on. Sometimes we joke that when something is important to Maggie to change, she is like a dog with a bone — she will not let go until she gets it done, no matter what!” Miller said.

For the past 10 years, Short has provided “outstanding leadership and management of Continuum Home Health Care, among other duties,” wrote Pamela F. Cipriano, chief clinical officer for the Health System. “This past fall, Continuum achieved a perfect evaluation by both the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

This achievement is practically unheard of in today’s regulatory environment,” Cipriano noted.

How does Short respond when congratulated on this accomplishment? “‘It’s not me, it’s the staff. I’m so proud of them,’” recounted patient epresentative Sally Booker, adding, “In my book, [that] is what a real leader says.”

For her work, Short also received a 2006 Governor’s Award for Public Service by State Employees. Gov. Tim Kaine presented the award to her on May 4 at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond.


Godfrey BranchSystems Operations Technician Godfrey Branche has been “involved with U.Va. for more than 15 years and has also been an amazing asset in dealing with Pyxis (a drug cabinet that’s a cross between a vending machine and an automatic teller machine) as well as other IT issues,” wrote Inpatient Pharmacy Supervisor Virginia W. Barton in nominating him for an Outstanding Contribution Award. “Not only does he assist the pharmacy personnel with everything from e-mail to troubleshooting the inner workings of the robot, he takes the time to patiently guide and instruct nursing units with Pyxis issues,” she wrote. A few months ago, “several floors were having difficulty charting patient medications … Mr. Branche took immediate action by questioning the nursing staff, going through narcotic sheets to see if the medication was documented, looking through Pyxis records to see what was given to the patient and then notifying Pyxis support of the exact problem… The nurses and I were amazed by his thoroughness … and skills to pinpoint the exact problems,” wrote clinical staff pharmacist Jean Conner. “I never fail to see a smile on Godfrey’s face and a can-do attitude in his heart,” wrote Kelly Robins, patient care services manager. “I have absolute confidence that whatever challenge or concern I lay at his feet, there will be immediate action taken,” she said.


Tamara RobinsonTamara Robinson, an administrative and office specialist III at the University’s College at Wise, is “the glue that holds our many, diverse activities together in a strong, cohesive and consistent manner,” Dean of Students Jeff Howard wrote in his letter nominating Robinson for the award.

“Tamara has raised the bar and set a standard of achievement for those who will follow her,” he said. “From her positive attitude, to her self-motivation, to her high degree of professionalism, Tamara is a true leader. She does an excellent job at balancing her duties, all while being actively involved in the campus community. Tamara has demonstrated a true commitment to U.Va.-Wise and is well respected by our students, faculty and staff alike. She gives 110 percent to everything she does.”

Robinson began her U.Va.-Wise career as a student worker in financial aid, from 1989 until 1993 when she earned her degree in business and public administration. Immediately after graduation, she accepted a part-time job in the housing office. She has been a full-time member of student affairs since 1995. “My favorite part of the job is the interaction with students and the team of people I work with,” Robinson said. “For me, a good day at work is when I know that I made a difference in a student’s life.”


Linda BirckheadFor 38 years, Lynda Birckhead has “honorably and brilliantly served” the administrations of four University presidents: Edgar Shannon, Frank Hereford, Robert O’Neil and John Casteen, wrote politics professor Larry J. Sabato in nominating her for an Outstanding Contribution Award. Sabato first met Birckhead when he was an undergrad and she was working for his mentor, President Shannon. “Then as now, her belief in, and loyalty to, the principles that define the University is inspiring,” he said.

“I have watched her … support this institution and its people with a passion that is reserved only for those places and things which one truly loves.” She does what’s needed, Sabato said, regardless of her job title, which is currently manager for finance and administration in the Office of the President. In fall 2003, for example, Hurricane Isabel reaked havoc on the Lawn. During the storm, the basement of Pavilion IV was flooded. “I was still in the process of moving in,” wrote Sabato, “and many of my personal
belongings, as well as the University’s priceless antiques were in the basement. Although I had not asked Lynda for help… I learned that she had spent nearly eight hours the previous evening bailing out water from the basement… saving many of my personal effects and University artifacts.”

It wouldn’t be the last time Birckhead battled the elements. On a Sunday this March, she arrived at her office in Madison Hall to catch up on some work. When she opened the door, a flood of water was rushing through the building; frozen pipes in the ceilings had burst. She single-handedly covered files and desks, moved furniture and mopped up gallons of water.

“In the course of a day, I have seen her effectively advise vice presidents, field questions from distinguished alumni, respond to a concerned parent and listen to employees in need of advice,” chief of staff Nancy Rivers wrote.

“She is unselfish and truly understands that her priorities are those of the University.”


Steven KellHe started as a temporary employee, “hired to provide technical support to our research projects,” wrote Robin A. Felder, director of the Medical Automation Research Center, in nominating Steven W. Kell, MARC’s robotics laboratory manager in the Department of Pathology, for an Outstanding Contribution Award. That was July 2000. Felder now considers Kell the center’s “key employee” and often asks him to “oversee operations in my absence.”

Kell “stepped forward to manage projects that were in jeopardy of being abandoned when two of our PIs advanced to other positions. Five years later, these projects form the cornerstone for our nationally and internationally recognized Eldercare Technologies program,” Felder wrote. Kell has also“ helped invent creative solutions” that have secured additional grants and patents — five in all, Felder said.

“Steve is dedicated to all the [center’s] projects, but I know he has a passion for the eldercare work … [where] he has excelled at taking the concept of a ‘smart home’ from the researchers’ bench side to pre-commercialization,” wrote MARC business manager Margaret Margin. This “suite of technologies, designed to allow elders to age in their preferred living setting … could help solve the medical and social crises we are about to encounter as the baby boomers reach retirement age. … Steve will be instrumental in turning the research prototypes… into a product that can truly benefit the aging population,” Margin said.


Mary HimesIn the short time she’s been manager of community relations, outreach and service, Mary Ann Himes Fields has advanced the profile of the Health System “within our community and beyond,” wrote her supervisor, Shannon Janney, administrator of Health System Marketing. Since Feb. 2005, Fields’ office has touched more than 26,000 individuals through its activities.

“This could not have been accomplished without Mary Ann’s leadership and perseverance, commitment and effort that far exceeds the normal expectations of her position,” Janney wrote. One of the first tasks she undertook was to “establish tracking mechanisms to determine the impact her department and employees of the Health System as a whole, have on our community, the region and the state,” Janney said.

Fields also developed the Health Line Program, a toll-free telephone
resource for area children, parents and sports programs and camps from June through October, and launched an education/outreach program, the Defeat the Heat campaign.

Fields also coordinates the Health System’s annual participation in the remote Area Medical Clinic, helping bring care to more than 2,500 patients in Southwest, Virginia. “She does not go to bed until every volunteer has been fed and all of their needs taken care of,” Janney wrote. Fields came up with a more efficient method for seeing patients that enabled the clinic to serve 25 percent more patients in 2005, Janney noted.


George PayneFrom avant-garde to mainstream, computer systems engineer George Payne has been a key leader in creating and implementing the Law School’s computing needs.

Throughout the school’s 10-year, three-phase wireless connectivity project, he took the lead in all areas. His work has been on the forefront of wireless access at the school and at U.Va. “Throughout the project, Payne had to solve many problems not yet solved in the industry,” said Gay Francis Banks, Law School chief technology officer. “His service makes the Law School the envy of other top law schools in career services, alumni services, student services, wireless networking services and in other areas.”

Cary Bennett, assistant dean for academic services and registrar, praised Payne’s contributions to the development of an in-house course enrollment system that included management measurement tools. “George’s patience, insight, programming/systems knowledge, ability to predict problems and sensitivity to the end-user were invaluable,” Bennett said.

When Laura Monroe, director of alumni relations, approached Payne about developing needed software in lieu of purchasing it, he created a “finished project that was above our expectations and it was much more tailored to our specific needs,” Monroe said. “Instead of saying we can’t, George is known around here for saying ‘I will figure it out.’”


Wren OlivierAs a clinical social worker for the general medicine floors at U.Va. Hospital, where more than 1,000 patients are admitted each year, Wren Olivier orchestrates a safe plan of care for discharge from in-patient to out-of-hospital care. The big picture is always in focus as she concentrates on the details and coordinates the needs and concerns of all involved. For her, the
patient’s care is always paramount.

Described by her colleagues as an advocate, broker, mediator, counselor, facilitator and educator, she is praised and trusted by colleagues, patients and their families. “Wren often serves as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the general medicine service for our recently discharged patients. Patients and families alike recognize her abilities and trust her as their primary contact with U.Va.,” wrote Dr. Zachary M. Bush of internal medicine.

For 25 years, Olivier has thrived in an area where job stress is common and turnover and burnout are the norm, approaching her job with tireless diligence and uncommon passion, noted Dr. Andrew E. Darby, also of internal medicine.

Olivier is an advocate not only for patients but for others in need. Earlier in life, she was a Peace Corps volunteer and most recently returned to her home state of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina to lend her knowledge and expertise to assisting in the rebuilding and reopening of several schools in the New Orleans area.


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