As health care providers take a moment to breathe, after a harrowing two years in a pandemic, Mercy Clinic took time to recognize the tremendous work and flexibility of its doctors and advanced practitioners. Mercy Clinic leaders asked caregivers to nominate those they feel deserve extra acknowledgement for its inaugural awards program.
“Our providers, nearly 1,800 in the East Communities, come to work day and night to share their superior clinical knowledge and compassion toward patients and families as they deliver personalized health care,” said Andy Runge, Mercy Clinic chief operating officer in Mercy’s eastern Missouri region.
Mercy Clinic in the eastern Missouri region is broken down into three divisions – Four Rivers, which includes Washington and the surround areas; South, which includes southern St. Louis County, Jefferson County and surrounding areas; and St. Louis, which includes St. Louis and St. Charles counties.
Dr. David Chalk, president of Mercy Clinic Four Rivers, announced the finalists and winners in the Four Rivers area.
Mercy Clinic Four Rivers Advanced Practice Clinician of the Year finalists included family nurse practitioners Melissa Manhart, Denise Blackburn and Patricia Parks.
Melissa Manhart was the winner. Her nomination read, “Melissa has been a long-term dedicated provider within the Mercy system. Previously she worked on labor and delivery floor, where she was known as an exemplary caregiver to each and every one of the moms and babies over the years. She was skillful and thoughtful and extremely giving in her interactions with the medical staff. Melissa then obtained her advanced practice degree and became part of the Family Health Care family at least 30 years ago. She is a uniquely caring person who can create a comfortable, safe relationship with all of her patients. She is exceptionally meticulous in the detail of her clinical work and an eager learner and willing teacher to those she works with and mentors.”
Mercy Clinic Four Rivers Physician of the Year finalists included critical care physicians Drs. Ashok Palagiri and Bill Galli and emergency medicine physician Dr. Bryan Menges.
Dr. Ashok Palagiri was the winner. His nomination read, in part, “I’m pretty certain he hasn’t taken a day off since the pandemic began.” His constant attention to the needs of the ministry’s inpatient service lines - ICU, Hospitalist, and even the ED - helped alleviate serious staffing issues and shortages. The flexibility he was able to create with vICU and vHospitalist has helped a lot of patients… Dr. Palagiri’s dedication to our ICU in Washington is commendable as he is always at the ready to help out. He has stayed in the community when the weather was threatening, rather than be home with his family, to ensure no gaps in ICU coverage. He has worked extra shifts to provide assistance when the census and acuity level was too much for one intensivist. He has worked extra - arriving early and staying late nearly every shift to ensure our ICU patients get the complete care they deserve. He is always a strong voice in many, if not all, of the quality and patient safety initiatives for inpatient medicine.”
Dr. Ray Weick, president of Mercy Clinic’s South and St. Louis division, presented the awards for the South region.
Mercy Clinic South Advanced Practitioner of the Year finalists included Jefferson Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Susan Moser, South Family Nurse Practitioner Katie Casey and Jefferson Family Nurse Practitioner Kelly Beaver.
The winner was Susan Moser. Her nomination read, “Susan is an excellent clinician who works hard to help her team provide the highest quality care. She is knowledgeable, compassionate and highly motivated. As the Jefferson lead advanced practice provider (APP), she perhaps shines the brightest in the work she has done to support her APP colleagues and promote the APP profession within Mercy. Susan works tirelessly in her endeavors to improve APP experience at Mercy and has been instrumental in the larger body of work we are doing to empower all APPs. Almost all of this work is done outside of her full-time clinical hours, which further proves her dedication to her profession and Mercy's mission. Susan always shows the utmost professionalism and jumps at any opportunity to uplift those around her.”
Susan Moser was also named Regional Advanced Practitioner of the Year.
The finalists for Mercy Clinic South Physician of the Year include critical care physician at Mercy Jefferson Dr. Karthik Iyer, gastroenterologist at Mercy South Dr. Yazan Abdalla and cardiologist at Mercy South Dr. Charles Carey.
Dr. Charles Carey was named the winner. His nomination read, in part, “Dr. Charles Carey was nominated for being an ardent and unwavering advocate and proponent for evidenced based, cutting edge, delivery of cardiology care, with a passion for heart failure. He currently chairs the HVI (heart and vascular institute), a multidisciplinary mercy south council bringing together leaders in all cardiovascular disciplines, focused on reviewing local performance and outcomes data, with the aim of drilling down on processes that ultimately effect patient outcomes and patient quality of life...Long a champion of heart failure, he established and runs one of the first, best and most accomplished heart failure clinics/programs in St. Louis… While all the above is true of Dr. Carey, what those close to him know is what really drives him is providing faith based, patient centered, evidenced based care with an aim to improve the quality of life of heart failure patients in South County. He continually looks for teaching moments with his colleagues, coworkers, and patients, to help them understand the latest in heart failure medicine treatments.”
Andy Runge, chief operating officer for Mercy Clinic in the eastern Missouri region, took the honor of announcing winners for Mercy Clinic St. Louis division.
Finalists for Advanced Practitioner of the Year for Mercy Clinic St. Louis division included Acute Care Nurse Practitioners Chris Carrigan and Nicole Duncan and Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Admir Brkic.
The winner for the St. Louis division was Chris Carrigan. His nomination read, “Chris is an excellent critical care medicine advanced practitioner who is always the consummate professional when going on rapid response team calls. He supports nursing staff with kindness and patience. Chris is an integral part of training new practitioners and critical care fellows. He comes to work with an upbeat attitude week after week and is the first one to volunteer when another critical care medicine practitioner has a personal emergency. Chris makes meaningful and well thought out recommendations to address any problems and deficiencies. He also serves on the St. Louis Board of Directors.”
Finalists for Physician of the Year for Mercy Clinic St. Louis divisions included emergency medicine physician Dr. Charles Caffrey, critical care physician Dr. Vinaya Sermadevi, infectious disease physician Dr. Jad Khoury and urologist Dr. Gregory McLennan.
The St. Louis division winner was Dr. Jad Khoury. His nomination read, “Jad Khoury has been a rock for our ministry to lean on during the pandemic. Frequently the highlight of all-provider meetings, his regular guidance was a voice of reassurance and knowledge during our most challenging hours. Jad is always well-prepared and well-versed in the latest infectious disease challenges. Dr. Khoury’s insight has been sought by so many and despite his long work hours, he continues to say “yes” to helping his colleagues and patients. Our ministry and community are blessed by the service, dedication and friendship of Jad Khoury.”
Dr. Jad Khoury was named Regional Physician of the Year.
A Lifetime Achievement Award was the last honor given. With seven physicians and advanced practice providers nominated, the category ended in a tie with two winners.
Nominees included Mercy Washington’s Drs. Jim Cassat, Tim Long, and Thomas Riechers; Mercy Jefferson’s Family Nurse Practitioner Julie Epple; Mercy Jefferson and Mercy Lincoln’s Dr. John Hunt; Mercy Clinic Pediatrics in St. Louis Dr. Thomas Kasper; and Mercy Clinic Neurology in O’Fallon Dr. William Logan.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Drs. Jim Cassat and Tim Long, both of Mercy Washington.
Dr. Chalk said, “Both gentlemen embrace the values of the Mercy community – not only in their patient care but who they are as people. The gifts of both physicians to their communities have not just been within the walls of the hospital. Both Dr. Cassat and Dr. Long have a larger world view and a greater sense of responsibility to be of service to those in need. They have heard ‘the cries of a world that is suffering’ and have seen people oppressed by poverty. Their work with the Washington Overseas Mission has served thousands of people in Ghana, Honduras and Haiti for decades.”
Both physicians have been members of the community for 38+ years. Dr. Long and his original partners, Kim Colter, MD, and Jim Turner, MD, started Family Health Care (affectionately known as TLC) in 1981. He ran their clinic location in Marthasville for 36 years before “retiring” in 2017. Upon occasion he still sees patients in the office, filling in when needed.
Dr. Long is also one of the co-founders of the Washington Overseas Mission. The first trip of the group was the day after Christmas in 1992 to Honduras to serve the indigent in Urraco and surrounding areas. The mission’s volunteers have served more than 100,000 people in various areas of the country.
“As a family physician, I can think of no better way to share my time and talents with those much less fortunate,” Dr. Long said. “The people of Honduras have changed my life and the lives of my family.”
Dr. Cassat joined the medical staff in Washington in 1984, providing surgical care for thousands of patients over the years. For a year, he shouldered the entire surgical responsibility for the Washington area by himself.
Dr. Cassat was also chief of surgery at Mercy Hospital Washington for decades. He and others spearheaded the use of laparoscopic surgery in Washington even as it was just being adopted in larger medical centers. He embraced and helped others enhance their learning of new surgical skills and his openness and willingness to change has kept the Mercy surgical department on the leading edge of care in our area. He would also be the first to say that these accomplishments were not his doing but were the work of so many others within the Mercy family of the medical, nursing, administrative and support staff.
In addition to making trips with the Washington Overseas Mission group, Dr. Cassat also offers his time and talents to MISSION: 318. This group of health care providers offers medical care to the people of Yendi, Ghana. In addition, they also serve the CHIDA Medical Clinic in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti.
“It is true medicine working in these underdeveloped countries,” said Dr. Cassat. “It is the basics. It’s exhausting, exhilarating, fulfilling and an opportunity to give back to people who otherwise wouldn’t be cared for -- surgically speaking,” said Dr. Cassat. “My work with all these groups has made me a much stronger person. God gives us all special gifts and they are wasted if we keep them to ourselves.”