10 questions with Donna Poduska

Poudre Valley Hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer knows a thing or two about caring for the northern Colorado community. Hired by PVH in 1969, Donna has seen firsthand the rapid advances in healthcare over the past 47 years. (Patients could smoke in their rooms when she started!) Donna sat down with us to discuss some of those changes and to help us commemorate the PVH and MCR Foundation’s 40th Anniversary year.

  1. When did you start working for PVH? I started working for Poudre Valley Hospital in 1971.
  1. Why did you decide to become a nurse? I became a nurse to help people and make a difference within the community of Fort Collins.
  1. What were some of the most difficult parts of being a nurse in the 1970’s? The most difficult part of being a nurse in the 1970’s was adapting to the changes facing the community and the organization. The amount of information being generated on a daily basis was difficult to grasp and analyze at an efficient rate. Another challenge faced in the 1970’s was nurse to patient ratio, at times this ratio was 40:2!
  1. How are those challenges different now? Some of the challenges the clinical staff faces now are patient satisfaction, the safety of the patients and employees within the facilities of UCHealth, and the amount of information being created every single day in the form of Electronic Health Records.
  1. What is the most difficult part of being a Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)? The constant changes facing the organization and the analysis of the data gathered by clinical practices.
  1. What kind of impact has UCHealth had on the northern region of Colorado? The employees of UCHealth are dedicated to meeting community needs such as; behavioral health, community case management and geriatric specialists.
  1. What changes do you see coming to UCHealth in northern Colorado? Being involved with the local community is a huge goal for this organization and providing the highest quality of care possible at a consistent basis sits very high on a list of long term goals for UCHealth. Outpatient services are becoming much more popular within Fort Collins and more medical work is being done in facilities other than the hospitals.
  1. What kind of influence did the foundation have on Poudre Valley Hospital in the 1970’s? The foundation had a much smaller influence in the 1970’s but did an exceptional job adapting to the dynamic changes the organization faced throughout history.
  1. What kind of impact does the PVH and MCR Foundation have in the lives of the patients and staff you see on a daily basis? The PVH and MCR Foundation does an excellent job facilitating scholarships that open the doors for employees to earn advanced education. The foundation also identifies the needs of UCHealth’s employees and provides multiple forms of support such as the employee hardship relief fund and holiday giving.
  1. What does philanthropy mean to you? Helping others by volunteering, financial assistance, fundraising and establishing a well balanced thoughtful culture that supports the process of providing excellent care for the patients of UCHealth.
Donna helping to hand out awards at our 2015 employee scholarship reception.


Eagle Scout project provides comfort and healing

Eagle Scout_thumbnailEarning your Eagle Scout is a tremendous achievement. It takes years of dedication, focus, and commitment as well as a willingness to learn new things and help others in your community. Even under the best circumstances it is no small feat. Earning your Eagle Scout in the face of devastating loss, and turning that loss into a source of inspiration, is truly incredible.

Clinton Sexton began formulating his Eagle Scout project late last year, with hopes of finishing it prior to his 18th birthday in April. As part of Boy Scout Troop 12 in Fort Collins, Clinton had an idea for his project that was very close to his heart. He wanted to create care kits for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, to help ease their suffering. Clinton knew firsthand the devastating effects of cancer on the patient and their family. Recently, his father had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and passed away shortly after his diagnosis. From the depths of his own grief Clinton decided to help others going through what he had watched his own father battle.

He reached out in January to the PVH and MCR Foundation to partner with him in creating personalized care kits for patients at the UCHealth Cancer Center in Fort Collins. He had already discussed the idea with oncology counselor Ann-Marie Bowman, who worked with Clinton and his family during and after his father’s diagnosis and passing. Together they came up with the contents of the care kits – water bottles to track hydration (a serious concern for cancer patients), chapstick, Biotene, games, cards, hand sanitizer, and cozy handmade fleece blankets.

Clinton secured donations and raised money to purchase items through a GoFundMe account. And on March 25th, eleven days before his 18th birthday, he delivered 65 completed care kit bags to the UCHealth Cancer Center. On hand for the ceremony were members of the oncology care team and staff who were deeply moved by Clinton’s thoughtful and generous project. “It is an honor to see young people give back in such a generous way” said Kathleen Michie, Oncology Services Program Manager.

Joining Clinton at the presentation ceremony were his mother and members of his troop. Clinton lit up the room with his energy and humor, taking time to greet and shake hands with all the staff who attended. The group worked together to move all the bags into a storage area from where they will be distributed to patients by the radiation oncology staff. A gift of comfort to people Clinton will likely never meet, easing the suffering he watched his father undergo and wanted to make lighter for those who would follow.

Ann-Marie Bowman, who works with oncology patients and their families every day gushes whenever she speaks about him and his project. “I think Clinton has done a lot of healing through this project. I’m so proud of him. He worked so hard through such a difficult time. I just think he is amazing.”

We at the PVH and MCR Foundation agree with Ann-Marie, and feel privileged to have played a small part in facilitating this wonderful project. Please join us in congratulating Clinton on receiving his Eagle Scout. His generous heart has already supported the health of his community and we look forward to seeing where it takes him from here.

Eagle Scout_group
Clinton (middle, standing) with members of his troop and representatives from the UCHealth Cancer Center care team

One of a kind NICU Paintings Available!

Since 2004, original acrylic paintings of cuddly baby animals adorned the walls of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at PVH.  Originally commissioned from artist Sarah Ashford of Ashford Studios, the paintings hung above each individual baby’s space on the unit for more than a decade.  With the opening of the new NICU, and the renovation of the former space into family and staff work areas later this year, these sweet baby animals need new homes.

The original paintings are available for a $125 donation per painting to the PVH and MCR Foundation.

All proceeds will benefit the NICU Fund which supports parents and families experiencing the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at PVH, and provides for staff and program education and equipment needs.

If you’d like to provide a new home for the animal that warmed your experience in the NICU, please contact the PVH and MCR Foundation at 970.237.7400 or pvhs-foundation@uchealth.org to make your donation today.

Please Note:

*Paintings will be sold on a first come, first served basis – all currently available paintings are posted, they are removed as they are purchased

*Donations are not tax deductible.  Receipts cannot be issued for donations made when the item or service received is valued at more than the donation.

Black Panther
Black Panther

Donor Profile: Eve McCormack

Eve McCormackLocal realtor Eve McCormack has a very special way of supporting the PVH and MCR Foundation. At each closing, the RE/Max Alliance broker makes a donation from her commissions to the Oncology Patient and Family Support Fund. This fund helps cancer patients who demonstrate financial need to cover treatment expenses and/or additional resources to maintain their lives through treatment and return to normal life once treatment is finished.

Eve first learned about the Oncology Patient and Family Support Fund in 2013 when her longtime hairdresser was diagnosed with breast cancer. While receiving treatment through UCHealth she was identified as eligible for resources from the fund by one of our tremendous patient navigators. “It helped her so much having somebody holding her hand through such a traumatic experience. It helped her get through it.” A cancer diagnosis is enough to turn your world upside down, but unfortunately the day-to-day bills don’t stop piling up. The UCHealth Cancer Center supports patients in every aspect of their care, including helping them navigate the financial hurdles that accompany their diagnosis.

After seeing the difference that resources from this fund made in the life of her friend, Eve knew she wanted to learn more. By giving to this specific fund her dollars are able to have a tremendous impact on the patient experience for people right here in the community, a community she cares deeply about. In addition to being a full-time realtor Eve also hosts monthly business mixers for her clients and friends to facilitate communication across industries and build strong community connections. Having been in the northern Colorado community since 2001 she understands the unique factors that make our area such an amazing place to live, work, and raise a family. Before landing in Colorado Eve served in the United States Air Force and spent many years as a paralegal. She and her husband have been married for 33 years and have two sons. Every month or so, Eve stops into our foundation office with a check from her recent closings and we get a chance to hear the latest news from her busy world. Her recurring donations have built a community of their own. And of course, the dollars she donates from her closings are being recycled back into the broader community, touching dozens of lives and helping our UCHealth Cancer Center patients through some of their most difficult days. When asked why she started, and continues, to make these generous donations Eve says simply: “I could make a difference.”

We are so grateful to donors like Eve who choose to support the health of our community!

A heartfelt thank-you this National Doctors’ Day

Doctors Day bannerDoctors are many things – they are caretakers, they are leaders, they are healers, and they are lifesavers. Shelley McCarron is thankful every day for the lifesaving care she received from Dr. Susan Haney (formerly Kozak) at Poudre Valley Hopsital…

Shelley and her husband had been trying to conceive for over a year. They were an older couple on the conception timescale and had had a couple of disappointing false starts before finally getting pregnant. Following the recommendations of many people in the community Shelley went in to see Dr. Kozak at PVH to confirm the good news. Yes, Shelley was pregnant but there was an issue. She had what is called placenta previa – the placenta was attached to the lower area of the uterus and would need to be monitored. Dr. Kozak gave Shelley some special guidelines to follow while pregnant and advised that the condition could right itself naturally before birth but if it didn’t they would need to schedule a Cesarean section.

The pregnancy was smooth, idyllic even. No sickness, no heartburn. Shelley followed Dr. Kozak’s guidelines to a tee because after so many years of trying she wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize her chance at being a mother. However, the placenta didn’t adjust to the correct spot during the pregnancy so a C-section was scheduled for a beautiful Friday morning in October.

Ready to welcome their baby into the world Shelley arrived at PVH but the epidural needed to numb the lower half of the body for the C-section wasn’t taking, even after five or six tries. “Dr. Kozak was right there with me” says Shelley, as the frustration mounted. Finally it was decided that she needed to undergo general anesthesia. Dr. Kozak assured her she’d have the baby out in five minutes, before the anesthesia had time to enter the baby’s bloodstream. So under she went.

The doctor made good on her word, their healthy, perfect baby was out in five minutes – alert and aware. But Shelley was hemorrhaging badly, the placenta had attached too deeply to the uterine wall and she was losing a lot of blood. In the waiting room, her husband and mother looked on anxiously as the surgical team rushed past them to Shelley’s room. Dr. Kozak spoke clearly and calmly to Shelley’s husband. They needed to perform an emergency hysterectomy to save Shelley’s life. An hour later she returned with the good news, mom was going to make it.

Telling the story now, with a “perfect, smart, wonderful” six-year old son Shelley still gets choked up. “I won’t have any more children, but I get to be here to take care of him.” After years of trying and dreaming of becoming a parent she had received both exhilarating and devastating news when she awoke from the anesthesia that Friday in October. Because of the swift and expert care of Dr. Kozak, Shelley survived a situation that could have taken her life. “I am overwhelmed with how blessed I’ve been by the PVH care team. After reading the statistics I’m not sure I would have made it if I had been somewhere else.”

Every year on Mother’s Day, and just about all the days in between, Shelley reflects on her gratitude for Dr. Kozak. When the A Building at PVH was torn down last fall and the bricks were made available for inscription through a donation to the foundation Shelley didn’t hesitate, and her inscription was simple “John Patrick McCarron | Born October 2, 2009 | Delivered by Dr. Susan Kozak”

The McCarron family today — photo courtesy of Stephanie Stamos-Hoyle, Stamos Fine Art Photography

Please join us this Doctors’ Day in thanking our local caretakers, leaders, healers, and lifesavers. Northern Colorado is truly fortunate to have world-class healthcare in our own backyard. And we at the foundation are proud to support the amazing work being done in our community.

Thank you!

Foundation event showcases docs who were first in their professions at PVH

Beard_Kesler_Jones 2
Dr. Don Beard, Dr. Kelvin Kessler, Dr. William Jones

UCHealth Chief Executive Officer Liz Concordia recently talked to a group of retired physicians from Poudre Valley Hospital. The physicians in the room had decades of medical experience; and many of the doctors were among the first in Fort Collins in their respective professions.

“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for your leadership and knowledge in providing exceptional service to grow this system,” Concordia said to the group of more than 30 retired doctors.

Among them was Dr. Stanley Henson, who just turned 99 years old at the end of November. In 1956, Henson started the first general surgeons’ practice in Fort Collins. Dr. James Wise, also in the crowd, joined in 1961. Then in 1964, Dr. Merlin Otteman joined the practice.

Otteman, who become the first to perform bariatric surgery at Poudre Valley Hospital, also was in attendance.

“No one else was doing it here, and the hospital was very supportive, providing the special equipment and tools necessary,” he said. “It was an unusual thing to do — surgical treatment for morbid obesity.”

It was only about 15 years ago that bariatric surgery became an acceptable treatment, Otteman said, adding that it was a very rewarding profession.

“As far as a surgeon goes, they (bariatric patients) are the most gratifying patients to have,” he said, opening a retirement scrapbook filled with thank-you letters from patients over the years.

Other event attendees had different stories to tell. Event speakers included Dr. Don Beard, one of the first pediatricians in Fort Collins, and Dr. Lee Jeffrey, an OB/Gyn. Both discussed the area’s history regarding their specialties.

“We’ve come a long way from what you’ve started and from what you grew,” Concordia said to the room, and she concluded by commending the strength of the physicians who practiced in northern Colorado with Poudre Valley Health System, now UCHealth.

The annual Retired Physicians event was hosted by the PVH & MCR Foundation in partnership with Columbine Health Systems.

Retired Docs
Dr. Paul Snodderly, Dr. Dan Turner, Dr. Bill Repert, Dr. Bob Edwards

Story by Kati Blocker, UCHealth