Heroes honored by community with tears, ovations

By Andy Owens
Published Nov. 19, 2010

With stories that brought hundreds to their feet and many to tears, individuals who rarely receive public praise were honored by the Charleston community during an event Thursday night.

IMG_9012 The 2010 Health Care Heroes awards were presented by the Charleston Regional Business Journal and its industry partners and sponsors at the Francis Marion Hotel. The annual event recognizes those in the health care and public safety sectors. Nominations are independently and separately judged, and then scores are tallied for finalists and a top hero revealed at the event.

Again this year, Dr. Ann Kulze introduced the nominees and presented 22 stories that kept the audience riveted, including a nurse who helped a mother breastfeed her baby by using a centrifuge to create skim breast milk, two off-duty health care workers who saved a man’s life in the middle of a football game and an Air Force doctor who spent six months saving lives at an aeromedical evacuation clinic in Kuwait.

The winners this year included:

Robin Smith, with W.J. Jordan from Spirit Telecom, a presenting sponsor.Volunteer

Robin Smith of MUSC’s Children’s Hospital Family Advisory Committee

“I love what I do, so it doesn’t seem like work to me,” Smith said. “I have a lot of pride in MUSC’s Children’s Hospital. It seems like my hospital.”






Debbie Locklear (from left), Angela Holten and Lt. Al MarschFirst Responder

Angela Holten of Trident Health System
Debbie Locklear of Trident Health System
Lt. Al Marsch of Charleston County EMS

Holten and Locklear were attending a football game when Gene Cribb started having a heart attack. The two realized what was happening and helped keep the man alive until Charleston County Emergency Medical Services could respond. Cribb was in attendance for Thursday’s event.

“I’m so happy you’re here. We love you,” Holten said to Cribb, who was in the audience.

“A lot of times in EMS, it’s a thankless job,” said Marsch, who noted that Charleston County EMS was recently recognized as the top system in the United States.

“I don’t feel like a hero,” Locklear said. “The blessing is all mine. I got to know their family, and I love them all so much.”

Whitney Ringler (right)  Marilyn Schaffner from MUSC, a presenting sponsorCommunity Outreach

Whitney Ringler of Chase After A Cure
“Clearly my passion is my son Chase,” Ringler said. After her son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, she helped form an organization and has raised $100,000 for research into the disease. “I couldn’t just sit back and watch him die.”




Gayenell Magwood (left) with Kristie Cumbee of Medical Careers Institute at ECPI College of Technology, a presenting sponsorHealth Care Researcher

Dr. Gayenell Magwood of MUSC College of Nursing 
“I work with a team of great people, and this really is a passion,” she said.

Magwood said her own hero is her husband, who just returned from serving in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. military presence there. She received applause, and he received a standing ovation later in the night.

Magwood said everyone is better off when the work of researchers is applied to people who need it most.

“It’s not always the big things we do,” Magwood said.


Kristy Hill (right) with Pedro Rivera, to whom Hill donated a kidney, and Jody Cohen of the Odle Group, a presenting sponsor Nurse

Kristy Hill of Roper St. Francis Cancer Center
Hill was joined on stage by Pedro Rivera, a co-worker to whom she donated one of her kidneys.

“I really hope our story brings awareness to living organ donation,” Hill said.




Mike Jernigan (right) with Keith Weaver of Force Protection, a presenting sponsorHealth Care Professional

Mike Jernigan, CEO of Select Health of South Carolina
Jernigan founded Select Health in 1995 to provide affordable health care by partnering with health care providers to give low-income families increased access to health care. Select Health has more than 200,000 clients in all 46 counties in South Carolina.

“I’d really like to accept this award on behalf of the 246 dedicated associates across the state,” Jernigan said.



Dr. Melissa Ellis-Yarian with Keith Weaver of Force Protection, a presenting sponsor Physician

Dr. Melissa Ellis-Yarian of the U.S. Air Force
Ellis-Yarian received the second ovation of the night for her work as a military doctor at an aeromedical evacuation clinic in Kuwait and at Joint Base Charleston.

“I’m so humbled and honored,” she said. “It’s been such a wonderful experience to be able to serve here and overseas. (I’m) just so proud to be serving our men and women in the military.”

Ellis-Yarian said she was going to take the award back to her team at Joint Base Charleston.

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Added: 19 Nov 2010

Pedro Rivera, who received a kidney from Kristy Hill is my son. How very proud we are of Kristy for her generous gift of life to my son. May God continually bless her and her family always. Live donation is very important and the word needs to get out regarding this.

Joyce Rivera