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Gallery of Health Heroes

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LoisBernstein Health Hero

Lois Bernstein

Health Hero

LoisBernstein Health Hero
Lois Bernstein

Health Hero

While Lois is employed by a healthcare system, the impactful work she has done in the community has been in a number of areas. One of Lois’ great skills is in coalition building to serve the needs of our community. Lois is a respected leader, who others trust to have the best interest of the community at heart.

Fifteen years ago, Lois was instrumental in starting the first Nurse Camp (a free summer camp) in the state as a way for high school students to explore their interest in nursing and other health professions. The MultiCare Nurse Camp was honored by the Washington State Hospital Association. Other healthcare systems followed MultiCare’s lead and developed similar programs.

Lois also had the idea to start the first health care careers curriculum for high school students in Tacoma. In honor of Lois’ work, the Healthcare Careers Collaborative named a fund after her, The Lois Bernstein Fund for the Healthcare Careers Academy that supports the school. She was also instrumental in implementing the first school based health clinic in the Tacoma Public Schools District. The clinic opened in April 2018, and has been welcome by students, families and leadership.

Shirley Carstens WP

Shirley Carstens

Health Hero

Shirley Carstens WP
Shirley Carstens

Health Hero

Ms. Carstens, RN, MSN is the Planning Section Chief of Pierce County Medical Reserve Corps (PC MRC). She is responsible for the planning of all activities requiring the activation of PC MRC volunteers. This includes such diverse engagements as organizing public flu clinics starting with the H1N1 epidemic of 2009, quarterly Pierce County Project Homeless Connect health clinics since October 2012, and mobilizing the PC MRC to assist in the measles outbreak in Clark County in early 2019.

When she retired as a school nurse, she still had the passion to exercise her chosen profession, and signed up with the PC MRC. She volunteered in a leadership capacity, placing herself front and center of a new organization with all the demands of growing a professional affiliation. Ever the nurse and teacher, she has mentored several students as they fulfilled internships at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. As the caring nurse, she has filled in last minute requests for help at a local free clinic when other nurses became indisposed. She is equally at ease with a single client experiencing homelessness at the Tacoma Stability Site as she is giving a presentation to a group of professionals at Jackson Hall at Tacoma General.

Cheri Denis Coleman

Cheri Denise Coleman

Health Hero

Cheri Denis Coleman
Cheri Denise Coleman

Health Hero

Cheri is the founder of PartnerCafe-Bridging the Gap across Sectors. A consortium of City, State, and Federal agency decision-makers joining nonprofit organizations and Community Leaders & Activists- working interdependently to collectively impact social issues.

Cheri currently works as a Community Engagement and Resource and Service Provider, contracted by DSHS. She sits on the Board of Directors for a number of service organizations, volunteers for endless councils, committees and boards, going above and beyond to make sure that everyone is heard. She always says “You are the most important person in the room,” and even in a crowd of one hundred she means it. She doesn’t just advocate for her clients but for everyone, save herself. She makes sure that she is the last one in line so as not to take from anyone that may be suffering. She doesn’t cry for her clients but with them as she helps them navigate this chaotic healthcare system.

She helps people connect with resources and facilitates healing by walking with her clients rather than behind them.

Kathleen Fidgetakis 2

Kathleen Figetakis

Health Hero

Kathleen Fidgetakis 2
Kathleen Figetakis

Health Hero

Kathleen is a non-stop worker as a volunteer to support young people in schools who have not had a chance to develop their literacy skills. She created a contest for the local Ocean Fest providing middle and high school youth mentors and trainers to learn how to write a poem, make a graph or prepare a film on a theme within the issues of the world’s oceans. She is the literacy chair of the Tacoma Sunrise Rotary. We didn’t have a literacy chair until Kathleen joined the Club. She took over immediately and has scored high marks each year throughout the Rotary District.

Kathleen has touched the hearts of Tacoma City Council members, tribal members, teachers and
parents. She contacts every person or group that has a stake in this important skill for our kids to
succeed in the future.

Andie Gernon

Andie Gernon

Health Hero

Andie Gernon
Andie Gernon

Health Hero

Andie Gernon has lived and worked in and for Lakewood since moving there when her husband was stationed at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis.

An integral part of the committee that worked to incorporate the City of Lakewood, she has been laughingly referred to as “The Mother of Lakewood,” a title she bears with good humor. She has spent countless hours over the years volunteering at local schools, tutoring children in reading as well as serving as a basketball coach. She was the first female chair of the Lakewood Community Council and participates in many community coalitions and boards to support health care, education and community building. Andie served on the St. Francis Cabrini Parish Council, the Bellarmine Prep Board of Directors, and co-founded Communities in Schools.

Experience on boards and community building has led Andie to fund development. She helped to raise funds for Bellarmine Prep, YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, and has co-chaired The Development and Advisory Council of Community Health Care since 2003, raising funds to renovate three major health centers.

City Of Lakewood

City of Lakewood

Health Hero

City Of Lakewood
City of Lakewood

Health Hero

The record of the City in improving the community’s physical infrastructure makes for a positive impact on community health and wellbeing. It uniquely dedicates 1% of General Fund revenues to providing funding to partner agencies which deliver human services to its 60,000 residents, particularly those who live in low-income neighborhoods.

The City also has a Youth Council to advise the City Council. Beginning with a single youth advisor twenty years ago, it now has in excess of 20 members representing all four high schools to present the voice of youth in City affairs.

To enhance neighborhood and individual safety and well-being, Lakewood implemented a ResidentialSafety Inspection Program for Rental Properties as well as a Behavioral Health Contact Team in partnership with Greater Lakes Mental Health to assist those in crisis. Lakewood has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to house low-income people in Lakewood.

Lakewood has developed numerous new parks and refurbished many others, to include the new Springbrook Park, and has created many free or low cost activities to residents to enhance their quality of life and enjoyment of the city.

Florence Reeves

Florence Reeves

Health Hero

Florence Reeves
Florence Reeves

Health Hero

As a nurse and military wife, Florence cared for patients in four states before coming to Tacoma. In 1980, the three Community Health Care Delivery System clinics were brought under the auspices of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. The primary administrator job was posted and Florence, a public health nurse/team manager with the Health Department, applied, knowing there would be a huge learning curve, along with more than 100 other applicants. Florence was hired and would begin the tough job of managing this complex organization for nearly 15 years. She was responsible for hiring the first paid medical staff and overseeing a tremendous amount of change and growth.

Through Florence’s hard work and diligence, Community Health Care had the only HIV care program in Pierce County. She started the first comprehensive maternity care unit for mothers-to-be who could not otherwise afford care. Florence learned to write and administer grants, enabling her to increase Community Health Care’s grant income by 3000% in 3 years.

After leaving Community Health Care, Florence worked for the state in several capacities, including Manager of DSHS - Women’s Treatment Services, Chemical Dependency and the Mental Health Administrator for McNeil Island. She also won the Nathan Davis Award for outstanding government service.

Todd Silver

Todd Silver

Health Hero

Todd Silver
Todd Silver

Health Hero

Todd, along with his brother Scott, owns the JL Darling LLC, that produces Rite in the Rain, waterproof writing tools used by loggers, firefighters, and anyone else who needs to write while it’s raining. He is a local, graduating from Puget sound University in 1975. After college, he worked in Australia running the Darwin branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators, helping to translate the Bible into aboriginal languages. After returning to the states. he and his brother joined their father in the running of JL Darling.

In addition to his busy life running his company, Todd serves the Tacoma/Pierce County YMCA on their Board, serves on the Forest Foundation board, and has been leading the efforts to establish Waterway Park on the Foss for over 20 years. He also has led volunteers for the Young Life food stand at the Fair for many years. He even staffs a checkpoint for the Iditarod Sled Dog race.

Doug Swanberg

Doug Swanberg

Health Hero

Doug Swanberg
Doug Swanberg

Health Hero

Doug worked with high risk, high need populations between 1985 –2014, 30 years. His work includes time at the Metropolitan Development Council, a community-based agency located in Tacoma. The council provides overall management and supervision of support and outreach services for homeless and at-risk youth, counseling and case management services for the elderly, energy and emergency assistance, and educational opportunity and resource services. Family and children services are provided as well as food projects, chemical dependency treatment programs, and home weatherization services.

Doug has also worked at a Comprehensive Mental Health Center and for the Juvenile Court. He has provided key stewardship and stability as a Board Member at Community Health Care for the last 25 years. This has included multiple terms as an officer and chairing various committees.

Rick Talbert

Rick Talbert

Health Hero

Rick Talbert
Rick Talbert

Health Hero

Rick served for 16 years as member of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Board, and 3-5 years as its chair. During his tenure he took the lead in authorizing the Health Director to initiate a county-wide policy to create and mandate smoke free workplaces. Rick was a consistent supporter of the Point Defiance needle exchange program seeing it as one of the premier accomplishments in the public health arena. He also led in the creation and implementation of the prescription drug buyback program now in effect throughout Pierce County.

While on the City Council, he took the lead and secured the funds for the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center. The center deals with the issue of domestic abuse in a comprehensive and inclusive manner. It is a leader in the nation. Rick also took a keen interest and supported providing preventive dental care for low income people--particularly children.

While serving as chair of the board, Rick led the effort to recruit Dr. Anthony Chen as Health Director. He also secured major City of Tacoma funding for the successful capital campaign in support of the Eastside-Tanbara Family Medical Center. Rick has simply been the leader in public health policies as a Tacoma and Pierce County Council Member.

Ellie Wilson

Ellie Wilson

Health Hero

Ellie Wilson
Ellie Wilson

Health Hero

For over 25 years Ellie has been a tireless champion for community, kids and families in Lakewood, chairing and serving on numerous committees, always volunteering for and leading community causes.

Early on she chaired successful bond and levy campaigns for Clover Park School District, worked on Lakewood Incorporation, helped found Communities in Schools of Lakewood and now chairs the Lakewood’s Promise Advisory Board to the City. Recently she hosted a Chinese student at Pierce College in her home for two years, giving life changing support to this young woman who has now graduated with honors and transferred to the University of Michigan to continue her studies. A former teacher, widow of a US Army officer, Ellie helps make the whole community a healthy place for all.

Norm Dicks

Norm Dicks

Health Hero

Norm Dicks
Norm Dicks

Health Hero

Norm Dicks is the former United States Representative for Washington’s 6th congressional district, serving between 1977 and 2013. He was born and raised in Bremerton. As a student at the University of Washington, he played linebacker on the football team, while earning his B.A. and Juris Doctor Degrees. After graduating, he worked as a legislative and administration assistant for former Washington Senator, Warren G. Magnuson.

Running for a seat on the House of Representatives for the first time in 1976, he won and was awarded a seat on the House Appropriations Committee during this first term. He also served 8 years on the House Intelligence Committee. He served his constituency in the House for 36 years before retiring from Congress in 2013.

Congressman Dicks has a long history supporting health care and Community Health Care in particular. In 1980, the Urban Health Initiative (UHI), a federal funding source, would spur new growth for the fledgling clinic network. Tom Hilyard, Program Development Specialist in Tacoma’s Human Development Department and a member of the Pierce County Health Council, was instrumental in writing the first UHI grant request. When the proposal became stalled in Washington, D.C., Norm Dicks ushered it through what was then called the Health, Education & Welfare Committee.

In 1990, a Health Care for the Homeless Program opened under sub-contract with Tacoma’s Metropolitan Development Council, and Community Health Care Delivery System, (CHCDS) received federal support for HIV/AIDS care through the Ryan White Title III HIV Early Intervention Program. A new Children’s Clinic was dedicated in the Hilltop neighborhood in August of 1991, with Representative Norm Dicks, continuing his faithful support for the clinics, in attendance.

We are honoring Congressman Dicks for being a Health Hero, due to recognition that health care is a right and not a privilege and his work towards affordable and accessible health care for all.

Dr. Tanbara

Dr. George Tanbara, MD

Health Hero

Dr. Tanbara
Dr. George Tanbara, MD

Health Hero

Dr. George Tanbara was a humble man who lived through much to become the person he was – founder of Community Health Care and Pediatrics Northwest, and an inspiration to those who want to use their time and talents to serve the community where they live.

George was a 2nd generation Japanese American born in Portland Oregon in 1922, member of the USC tennis team, and graduate of the Pharmacy program at the University of Idaho. His family was sent to an internment camp during WWII when resentment against the Japanese ran high. There he met his wife, Kimi, who had been relocated to the camp from Tacoma. Dr. Tanbara joined the army, serving as a combat medic. After his stint in the military, he completed medical school at the University of Minnesota. He and Kimi were married and moved to her hometown of Tacoma where he opened a solo pediatric practice.

In 1969, the Public Health Hospital was closed. George worried about what would become of those patients who had so few resources and relied on the Public Health Hospital for health care? He began talking with community leaders who were also concerned, they would incorporate as the Urban Coalition with Jim Walton (later Tacoma City Manager) as its Executive Director. Dr. Tanbara was the medical lead and together they opened two free clinics. One was on the Hilltop in the basement of the Nurses Quarters at St. Joseph’s Hospital, the other in Lister Elementary School in Salishan on the east side.

The two free clinics they established were the humble beginning of what is today, Community Health Care (CHC) serving 46,000 patients. CHC owns five Health Centers offering medical, dental, pharmacy, behavioral health, maternity support, and substance abuse, along with an Urgent Care at the Hilltop location and prompt care at the other four. From its inception, and until his passing in July 2017, Dr. Tanbara was not only on the Community Health Care Board of Directors and active in influencing the growth of the organization, but his singular mantra of, “Put the Patient First” has been this organization’s soul and focus. He believed that access to healthcare was a basic human need and right.

George’s impact on Pierce County Health is now responsible for the health and well-being of nearly 100,000 patients a year all around Puget Sound. It is an incredible feat, and one which we should honor, cherish and memorialize. Honoring Dr. Tanbara is especially apropos this year, our 50th anniversary of serving Pierce County patients.