During the UF Health Shands 60th Anniversary celebration, we asked our employees to send us testimonials, favorite memories and professional milestones. Their stories were poignant and made for sharing, so that’s what we’re doing. See what your co-workers had to say. You’ll understand why UF Health Shands is an amazing place to work … it’s the people.
Scott Dykes, R.R.T., respiratory therapist, UF Health Shands Respiratory Care
After a motorcycle wreck in 2008, I was comatose for months with severe injuries. I was told that I probably would never walk again and that my brain injury meant that I wouldn’t have a normal job as I lacked the higher functions. My life was shattered.
After 37 surgeries and a year in physical rehab, I went home in a wheelchair. When I had recovered enough, I made a trip back to the UF Health Shands Hospital ICU to thank the health care staff for taking care of me. I was greeted with many smiles and hugs. I told the staff that one day I would work here and help people as I had been helped. I wanted to pay it forward. I had no idea how or what I would do, but I would make it happen.
I was hired in July and now I’m finishing my orientation as a registered respiratory therapist. It has been a dream since my accident to be a part of this wonderful, top-notch facility. I see from working here, and as a former patient, why we are the No. 1 hospital in the Southeast. It is an honor to be able to help people as I have been helped.
Linda Breeden, assistant manager, UF Health Physicians Billing and Accounts Receivable
On Dec. 23, 1999, my granddaughter was born at UF Health Shands Hospital. She was a preemie and weighed 2 pounds, 4 ounces. She barely fit in the palm of my son’s hand because she was so small. I can’t say enough about the children’s hospital Neonatal ICU nurses and doctors who cared for her. The care that was given to make her thrive makes me proud to work at Shands. My granddaughter is now taking classes to be a nurse and she has a goal to eventually work at UF Health Shands because of the care that she received.
I’ve just celebrated my 34th year here and I tell everyone that Shands is the best place to work as they not only take care of patients, but their staff as well. Thank you.
Bethany Pierce, lead financial counselor, UF Health Springhill – ENT and Allergy
My husband had a stroke on Dec. 18, 2008, while working in another city. He was transported to the area hospital where they told him he had a viral infection. He was told to take Benadryl and ibuprofen and that he would be fine. My husband could not walk, had double vision and was vomiting, but he was sent home. I took him to UF Health Shands and within 15 minutes they determined he’d had a stroke. The E.R. and neurology staff saved my husband’s life. We recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary.
From that point on, I wanted to be a part of this organization, and my dream became a reality in March 2012. Since I have been with UF Health, I’ve graduated with my bachelor’s degree in business leadership (summa cum laude), both of my children have graduated and started their lives and my husband and I just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. This would not have happened if it was not for the employees of UF Health 10 years ago. Thank you for being there for our family.
Stephanie Short, R.N., registered nurse, UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital Medical/Surgical Unit 56
The best part of my day is listening to my patient’s stories. I really enjoy walking into one of their rooms and hearing the laughter and feeling the love that surrounds the patients. I most enjoy being a part of their recovery. Watching their transformation while I build a relationship with them leaves me with a feeling of pride and accomplishment.
Keisha Cohens, admissions specialist, UF Health Shands E.R.
I started working here a few months back, but I am very familiar with UF Health Shands. Before becoming an employee, I spent time here with my daughter, Harmony, who was born with congenital heart disease in December 2010. Throughout our journey, I can honestly say that the doctors, nurses and staff were amazing to us. I can’t begin to express my gratitude. They made living in a hospital manageable.
My daughter was placed on the transplant list in late 2012, and in July 2013, she received her heart. This was the most amazing moment in our lives. Harmony lived for an entire year with her new heart before passing away because of complications due to rejection. After her passing, her entire care team was very involved with her funeral arrangements. The care providers were concerned about my well-being and they kept in contact with me for several months. The support was amazing to me.
I vowed that because of the experiences that I endured while at UF Health Shands, that I would do whatever it took to give back. I am currently getting my degree in allied health with hopes of being a registered nurse one day. I am also enjoying being here as an admissions specialist so I can continue to give back. Thank you!
Marti Penfold, support tech, UF Health Shands Hospital Burn Center
This hospital has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom was one of the early cancer research patients in 1962. I have many memories of playing around the fountain in front of the hospital, taking the elevator down to the ground floor and waiting outside the radiation therapy area while my mom went back for her treatments. (The waiting area was literally a handful of chairs lined up against the wall.) Sadly, my mom passed away in December 1962, when I was 7 years old.
However, the desire/dream of working here one day never went away. That dream came true June 1, 1975, when I was offered a clerk position in the Surgical ICU — 12 beds on the sixth floor of UF Health Shands Hospital. I can still envision the old SICU with its “general side” and “heart side,” that was eventually split into SICU and Cardiac ICU. I vividly remember the day the Patient Services Building opened and we began moving patients into the “new hospital.” New equipment, new beds, the excitement! Seems like yesterday.
This job gave me the opportunity to give back to the patients/hospital for giving my mom the “gift of a little more time.” With hard work, dedication and people who believed in me, I was able to enjoy a long career. I’m proud to say both of my sons have gone on to become nurses. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work here and am extremely proud to have been able to even have a small part in this amazing/exciting journey now called UF Health Shands.
Kiah Coleman-Spradley, coordinator, UF Health Shands Volunteer Services
Although I have had many fond memories working here over the past two years, some of my fondest memories come from growing up as a “Shands kid.” My mom worked at Patient Financial Services (even when it was on 13th Street) and my aunt was the CEO’s executive assistant [Joyce Smith]. As an 8-year-old, I remember visiting my Aunt Joyce when her office was on the 10th floor and thinking to myself, “I want to be here. I want to work here someday!” I was always excited when I got an opportunity to speak with Mr. Metts (former CEO Paul Metts) and I remember visiting his home for a holiday party.
I also recall the UF Health Shands picnics held at the Alachua County Fairgrounds and then later at the O’Connell Center at UF. Carnival games, food, talent shows and contests. There was always a sense of community and family at those events, which brought us all together.
Although my professional journey here has only begun, I hope that one day, my 8-year-old daughter will grow up being in constant amazement of how impactful UF Health Shands is within the community, state and across the globe.
Debra Barker, polysomnographic technologist, UF Health Shands Sleep Center
The UF Health Shands Mother/Baby Unit and the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital Neonatal ICU and Pediatric ICU saved my granddaughter’s life! I absolutely know we have to have the best care in the world after what I’ve seen them doing. In October 2015, my daughter was 21 weeks pregnant when her water broke. She had PROMM, which is basically premature rupture of the membranes. She was admitted to UF Health Shands so they could try to help her carry my granddaughter as long as possible since the chances of her survival were so very slim at that point. After almost 20 visits to Labor and Delivery over a nine-week period, they finally could not prevent the birth any longer. Because of the immediate response by the nurses and physicians, they were able to bring our granddaughter, Charlye, back.
Those first weeks were very touch and go. After several weeks, we began seeing regular improvement and growth. She was only 2 pounds at birth and 12.75 inches long. They said the umbilical cord had been partially severed and she had not been getting the nourishment she needed. By the time she was 3 months old, she had finally reached 4 pounds. They were talking about discharging her, but she contracted RSV literally days before she was supposed to come home. She ended up in the PICU, back on a ventilator for two weeks. We watched them give her compressions many times a day for close to a week. My family has never been through anything this traumatic. They pulled her through it.
She turned 3 at the end of November. She is perfect — just tiny — with no developmental delays or medical problems. She also went through physical therapy her first year of life to give her every medical opportunity possible.
I will forever be grateful to every single person that contributed to her survival. Since then, my daughter and I have started a charity for the NICU called Charlye’s Bags of Cheer. During the holidays, we donate 72 bags through the March of Dimes Family Support Program (one for each NICU bed) for parents and preemies. The bags include anything and everything, from hand-quilted blankets to snacks for parents to baby seat signs that say “Don’t touch. I’m a Preemie.” This is just one small way we can give back. This makes me so very proud to be an employee of UF Health Shands. I know we all care about our patients and their families.
Christine Martin, Ambulatory Care Unit manager, UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital
My fondest memories of UF Health started even before I was employed here. My mom, Christine Ross, has worked for UF Health Shands my entire life, so I had the pleasure of frequently visiting the 10th floor of the hospital when it was the executive suite. My mom was an executive assistant while I was growing up so I knew all of the “bigwigs,” as I used to call them. One day I called her at work after I got home from school and none other than former CEO Tim Goldbfarb answered. You can imagine my surprise … “Ummmm, hi, Mr. Goldfarb. Is my mom there?” This showed me at a very young age that as busy as he was, he didn’t mind pitching in and answering the main line to the executive suite.
I started at UF Health Shands in 2003 and in 2004, and I met my husband while working at Shands at AGH. I transitioned to the UF Health Medical Plaza and then moved on to open the Genitourinary Oncology Center in urology and worked under Ron Cordasco. We were a true family. We still keep in touch to this day, almost 10 years after we stopped working together. I then went on to open the UF Health Physicians Patient Access Center and was able to celebrate so many milestones there, including the millionth phone call. We would celebrate milestone calls by popping confetti on the phone agent after they took the call. It sounds silly, but is so memorable. Moving on to be the manager of adult psychiatry at the new UF Health Springhill building was also memorable, as it was my first ACU manager job. I was able to build my own team and start from the ground up.
A year ago, I was able to open the neuromedicine clinic in the new UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital, which is my biggest professional accomplishment to date. I have plans to stay here at least another 20 years, retire here, celebrate more milestones and create wonderful memories!
Christie Carr-Freidin, transplant assistant, UF Health Shands Transplant Center
I am Shands. I have worked here, been treated here, thrived here and survived here. It is quite the symbiotic relationship. I began working here in 2014 as a financial representative. One day, I began having excruciating head pain; it was debilitating. I went to the Springhill Emergency Center on 39th Avenue and was seen by the staff. They ordered a CT and it ended up being a brain tumor. I was terrified.
I was referred to Kelly Foote, M.D. He was confident this tumor could be removed and I could resume a normal life. It was removed and I didn’t even lose my hair. I was so thankful.
I then was seen by Alexander Ayzengart, M.D., who again changed my life. Bariatric surgery was the change I needed. Now I no longer take any medication. My blood pressure is excellent and have lost 140 pounds. Life is wide open.
I celebrate the milestone of life every day as I come to work. I am proud to be a part of such a diverse group of people with the same mission. I will be here to assist our post-heart transplant patients with joy and an appreciation for life. I am thankful to be a part of this amazing group of humans whose primary purpose is to help solve human problems.
Jaclyn Loewen, auditor, UF Health Shands Financial Services Revenue Integrity
When I was in elementary school, I thought for certain my father would die. Noone said it out loud, but there always seemed to be a cloud hanging overhead. He had had a good life, they said. He surpassed the expectations of doctors time and time again. He needed a heart valve replacement. His heart had never worked properly and we lived in constant fear that the slightest surprise would send him into atrial fibrillation.
I was wrong.
Thanks to the amazing doctors and staff, he made it through surgery with flying colors. Ten years later, when the valve failed and a replacement was necessary, I was barely concerned. I knew he would be fine. Our hospital would take care of him.
Shortly after my father recovered, I left Gainesville to attend college. While away, I married a lovely man who happened to have some significant health problems. It did not take long for us to return to my home, where his quality of life quickly and significantly improved, thanks to the care at UF Health Shands. At this same time, I began working in the hospital Admissions department while finishing school.
When my husband was hospitalized for a few weeks in early 2018, I was concerned, as any wife would be, until I saw the photo hanging in his room. In his room was a photograph taken by Mark Staples, M.D., the same surgeon who had saved my father multiple times. While this visit had nothing to do with cardiology, that photo served as a reminder that everything would turn out. Even though he was (and still is) recovering, my husband pushed me to apply for my current position in the Revenue Integrity department. While my gifts are far from clinical, it is a joy to give back in the ways that I am able.
All of us have an impact on our patients. All of us share a part in ensuring that every scared daughter has the best chance possible of being proven wrong, and that she would end up riding roller coasters with her father instead of worrying about his heart. And now, 20 years later, her father is just waiting for his grandson to meet the height requirement to join in the fun.