Desai gets lifetime achievement award at Healthcare Heroes

Dr. Paresh Desai walks to the podium to accept a lifetime achievement award Friday at the annual Healthcare Heroes ceremony at the Citrus Hills Golf & Country Club.

Patients facing frightening medical problems turn to health care professionals to give relief or, often, to save their lives.

Those health care professionals mostly go unheralded, except by a few colleagues and their appreciative patients.

But on Friday, about 200 people at the Citrus Hills Golf and Country Club honored those medical workers who stood out as some of the best in Citrus County.

The annual event, Healthcare Heroes, was created by the Citrus County Chronicle, and the chamber devotes one of its monthly luncheons to honoring health-care professionals, volunteers and businesses that have made extraordinary and lasting contributions to the field and community.

Here are the winners:

Dr. Paresh Desai, Advanced Urology Institute, received the lifetime achievement award.

Desai came to Citrus County with his wife and two daughters from New York more than 30 years ago and with only $2,000 in his pocket. He asked a local bank for a loan to set up a practice, he told the Chronicle, and three days later was approved for the money. The medical practice he founded with other local urologists, the Advanced Urology Institute, now has 75 specialists in offices around Florida.

“The community has given me a lot. It is my moral duty to give something back to it,” he said.

He told the Chronicle that both his father and grandfather were businessmen and were expecting him to become the same, and were disappointed when he went into medicine.

“I always thought I could be a doctor and businessman,” he said. “I like helping people.”

“And this is the real American dream. If you are motivated and want to do something, you can achieve,” he said.

Accepting the award Friday, he thanked his office staff, saying his success would not have been possible without them.

Dr. Andrew Petrella, Citrus Orthopaedic & Joint Institute, received the physician’s excellence award.

Petrella chose Citrus County to open his practice while doing his residency program at UF Health Shands Hospital.

“We had a lot of patients from Citrus County coming to Gainesville for their care, so I knew there was a need here for an orthopedist,” he told the Chronicle. “I don’t like cities and I love the outdoors, so this seemed just right for us.”

He also thanked his office team.

Robin Holloway, APRN, West Florida Medical Associates, received the advanced care provider award.

Holloway became a registered nurse in 2004 at Citrus Memorial Hospital and then worked at hospitals and home health agencies in Tampa and Ocala. Ten years later, she earned her master’s degree in adult and gerontology nursing and soon began working for West Florida Medical Associates.

Dr. Edward Dodge was also honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dodge earned his medical degree in 1962 and a Master of Public Health degree at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in 1967. He worked as an assistant professor at the Public Health College in Ethiopia and volunteered in a clinic there treating patients with leprosy, typhus, smallpox and tuberculosis.

He moved to Citrus County with his family in 1969 to head the local health department. After a few years, he joined a local family primary care practice. He sat on several boards and advocated healthy eating. He was the first physician in Citrus County to write a regular column for the Citrus County Chronicle. After his retirement, he made several mission trips to Zimbabwe and taught public health at a university there.

Dodge could not be at the ceremony, but watched it via the internet.

His daughter Amy Alford attended and read a prepared letter of thanks from her father.

Chad Bradt, emergency management manager at Bayfront Health Seven Rivers hospital, won the innovation in healthcare award.  

The former firefighter and emergency medical technician developed new initiatives that streamlined communications and organized hospital staff during emergencies. He also implemented an advanced automated communications system that sends texts, emails and phone calls to hospital staff to alert them of emergencies.

Starla Whaley, Bayfront Health Seven Rivers Emergency Department Director, won the administrative excellence award.

Whaley started her career as a phlebotomist at Seven Rivers Hospital. In 2000, she finished nursing school and worked for 17 years at what was them Munroe Regional Hospital in Ocala. She later became Bayfront Health’s emergency department director. Whaley also helped to create a nurse practice council with participants meeting every other week to discuss issues that affect nursing and how to improve services.

Citrus Hearing Impaired Program Services won the community outreach award.

The nonprofit was created in 1988 and enhances the quality of life for deaf, hearing and speech impaired people. It provides services to hearing and speech impaired.

Jennifer Russel, Bayfront Health Seven Rivers Emergency Department clinical coordinator, won the reader’s choice award.

Two months ago, Russel saw a nurse and EMT rush by her office with an infant. Soon after, the infant lost its pulse and Russel, with a broken index finger, started infant CPR. She and the charge nurse kept CPR compressions going for 35 minutes until the baby started breathing again and could be transported to Shands Children’s Hospital.

Stephen Dodge, physical therapy assistant at Bayfront Health Seven Rivers, won the health care professional award.

The seven-year hospital employee saved the lives of three people who were not his patients.

Bob Scuderi, Bayfront Health Seven Rivers, was honored as a health care volunteer.

Scuderi, 87, worked as a part-time patient transporter at the hospital, but after his wife of 69 years died, he came back to volunteer.

He volunteers in the hospital’s emergency room working from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. four or five days a week.

Nature Coast Ministries Dental Clinic was given the dental excellence award.

Nature Coast is a faith-based, nonprofit organization that was founded in 2008 by the Rev. David Throckmorton, then the pastor of First Baptist Church of Crystal River. The clinic provides free dental care to those who cannot afford to pay and works with local hospitals to accept ER patient needing dental care.  

Dr. Samual Miller was given the health care humanitarian award.

In 1955, Miller opened his practice in Crystal River, one of only two doctors in the area. Most babies were born at home then, but Miller renovated part of his office turning it into a delivery room. Miller died in 2006. His son Dan Miller was at the event to receive the award.

Emily Mintner, Wil-Power Foundation, was given the health care humanitarian award.

Mintner used the loss of her younger brother to start a foundation to help students. The foundation offers educational programs and athletic services to high school athletes who might be at risk.

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.

(1) comment

HelenSpivey

Congratulations to all. Wish I could have been there, but no car cuts off a lot. I'm still walking a mile a day and enjoying it unless it's really raining. I would like to add a big Congratulations to my former neighbor and friend, Dr. Parish Desai. No one deserves it more. He even dedicated himself to helping manatees. Thank you!

Helen Spivey

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