Healthcare Heroes 2014

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Chamber honors medical professionals

By Pat Faherty

Citrus County’s health care heroes, who help people, heal people, comfort and save lives, were recognized Friday by the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.


“The largest business sector we have is the health care segment,” said Gerry Mulligan, publisher of the Citrus County Chronicle, which sponsored the second annual Healthcare Heroes event. Nominations came from the community, patients and co-workers. 

Chronicle readers were also asked for nominations and more than 5,000 responded. The nominations went to a panel of health care experts and winners were selected in 10 categories.

The Administrative Excellence Award went to Gailen Spinka of Comfort Keepers. “In health care, everybody has to work together,” he said. “It’s for the benefit of the patient.”

The award for Community Outreach was presented to Nature Coast EMS under the direction of its president and chief executive officer, Michael Hall.

For Innovations in Healthcare, the award was presented to the doctors at the Memory Enhancement Center, which is focused on finding a way to take care of memory patients in a rural area.

Dr. Thomas Bendowski of Gulf to Lake Orthopedic won the Physician’s Excellence Award, the largest category of nominations.

The award for Dental Excellence went to Dr. Robert Brockett. His practice is Citrus Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.

Susan Brooks, LPN, with Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center, won the Nurses Excellence Award, the second largest category. 

“It’s a team effort, anything we do in health care,” Brooks said. “It comes because I have a team to work with.”

The Healthcare Professional Award went to Maryann Novak. She is a nurse practitioner with Inverness Family Care.

“It takes a community to support a child who is in pain,” said Nilda Sessler, bereavement counselor for children with HPH Hospice, who won the Healthcare Humanitarian Award. 

The Reader’s Choice Award went to Marlon Achthoven, a physical therapist with S.E.T. Home Health.

Longtime county physician Dr. John Gelin won the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve Citrus County and watch Citrus County grow,” Gelin said, who has been practicing in the county for more than four decades. “I hope I can continue to serve Citrus County for years to come.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or pfaherty@chronicleonline.com. 

Look for the 2014 Healthcare Heroes special section in the Special Sections menu.