Thrive by IU Health

May 30, 2024

Team members honored by grateful donors

Team members honored by grateful donors

Six team members statewide were honored by IU Health Foundation donors who created awards to recognize excellent work.

Xiomara Amaya—better known as “Xio”—has been awarded the 2024 John R. Melin Appreciation Award, given annually to one IU Health Methodist Hospital employee in the Facilities or EVS departments who goes above and beyond their job description.

Amaya joined IU Health in 2011, and now serves as a leader on the IU Health Methodist Emergency Department EVS team. While she is roundly praised for the quality of her work and her attention to detail, it is Amaya’s personal spirit and demeanor that earn her the most acclaim. She greets everyone with a smile and many people with a hug, said Dallas Peak, MD. Even in the most challenging times—including the COVID pandemic—Amaya displays an “unflappable positivity,” he said. “She is a role model for physicians, nurses and the EVS staff,” Peak wrote in his letter of nomination.

Melin Award 2024
Xiomara Amaya with leader Melvin Mays

Made possible by a gift to IU Health Foundation from the late Dr. John R. Melin and his wife, Virginia, the John R. Melin Appreciation Award is given annually to recognize behind-the scenes work, support of colleagues and general professional excellence.

Nominated by fellow team members, winners receive a cash award. To be eligible for the award, a team member must have worked for IU Health Methodist Hospital for at least three years.

Five other IU Health team members around the state are being honored with the 2024 Lynda A. Merriman Award for Compassionate Care.

Supported by the generosity of IU Health Foundation donor Chuck Merriman, the annual award honors IU Health team members who deliver the kind of care that eased his wife Lynda’s seven-month battle with cancer at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center and IU Health University Hospital. Nominated by their peers at IU Health hospitals statewide, winners of the “The Lynda,” as the award is nicknamed, receive a cash award. The 2024 winners follow.

Rachel Handt, PT, makes her role as a physical therapist at IU Health Neuroscience Center Rehab about much more than just helping patients through physical recovery, according to grateful patient and IU Health colleague Ellen Coates. Diagnosed with Guilliam-Barre syndrome (GBS), Coates found herself in Handt’s care for her second physical therapy appointment, a moment she considers to be pivotal in her overall recovery. “Rachel proved to be my biggest ally, cheerleader and researcher throughout the one year I spent intensively recovering from GBS,” Coates said. Handt not only coached Coates through the sometimes painful process of strengthening and regaining control of her body, but she also advocated for her with neurologists, researched challenges along the way, offered creative interventions (including preparing Coates for the challenge of walking on the beach on vacation), and more. Handt even visited Coates when she was hospitalized for an unrelated illness months later, and helped her prepare questions to ask her medical team. The impact of this good work went well beyond Coates. She credits Handt’s care with helping her return to her job as a registered nurse in the Riley Children’s Health cauterization lab.

AAHC Merriman Winner
Rachel Handt, PT and team

Amanda York, RN, serves with a masterful blend of empathy and compassion in her work at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital’s Oncology Progressive Care Unit, according to her colleague Alicia Shanks. She delicately balances the challenges of helping some patients fight for their lives while ensuring others die with dignity, “Advocating for patients in their dying days is where Amanda excels,” Shanks says. This has meant everything from buying pajamas that don’t itch to providing special snacks and comforting grieving families. Two specific stories exemplify York’s compassionate ways. When one patient approached the end of life during the Christmas holidays, York learned from the family that it was the patient’s favorite time of year. York showed up the next day with a Christmas tree and decorations for the patient’s room. When another patient said she wanted to get married before she died, York needed just six hours to arrange the ceremony, complete with food, decorations and pampering for the bride. “The empathy and compassion she displays every day makes being on her team a special place to be,” Shanks said.

ECR Merriman Winner
Amanda York, RN with her supervisor

Abigail Collins joined the IU Health West Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center as a peer recovery coach in 2023 and wasted no time making an impact. Readily sharing her own experiences with substance use disorder, Collins engages with patients enthusiastically, offering not simply education and guidance but real human connection, according to team leader Trivia Palencer. While her work could typically be confined to her team’s outpatient unit, Collins makes a point of providing care and support to patients throughout the hospital who have substance use challenges. “Abbey visited me while I was in the hospital again for withdrawal,” one patient reported. “Seeing someone like her working for a hospital and helping people makes me want to do that, too. I came to the clinic because of her.” Added Palencer, “Abbey’s vulnerability has been a lighthouse for patients seeking treatment and recovery.” It also has won her the respect and admiration of her team members, collaborators and community. “This award was created to celebrate exceptional compassionate care,” Palencer said, “and that is Abbey Collins.”

ISR Merriman Winner
Abigail Collins and team

Julia Kelly, Physical Therapy Assistant, shows up every day at IU Health Morgan Rehabilitation Services to do her best for patients, says her supervisor, Stacey Wilson. A physical therapy assistant, Kelly has worked at IU Health Morgan for 14 years, always delivering not just compassionate care but human comfort to both patients and colleagues, often outside of working hours. Her co-workers know she will help and pray for them when they’re going through tough times, and patients often discover that she’s willing to assist in unexpected ways. She helped one patient fabricate a built-up shoe—with materials she brought from home—to help with a leg-length discrepancy. She showed up at one patient’s home to help move furniture, and she stopped by another patient’s home to help clear a safe walking path. While stories like these reveal much about Kelly’s approach to her work, smaller moments might reveal even more. Wilson said it’s not uncommon to see Kelly sitting on the floor with patients, tissues in hand, as patients talk about their struggles. Kelly is quick with a hug and words of encouragement, and she often makes it clear to colleagues and patients that she thinks about them even when she’s not with them. “She is one of a kind,” Wilson says.

SCR Merriman Winner
Julia Kelley and team

Megan Newkirk, PharmD, RPh, joined the team at IU Health Arnett Hospital Pharmacy because she wanted a more patient-focused approach to pharmacy. Coming from a chain drugstore setting, Newkirk has made the most of her hospital-based role, focusing on providing patients with medications while also working hard to make sure they can afford them, can access them easily, and have an advocate in their corner. Again and again, the praise for her work mentions the time she spends caring for patients. Colleague Christina Bisciglia notes that Newkirk isn’t deterred by the prospect of being on hold with an insurance company for 30 minutes, searching online for medication discounts, calling doctors for refills, or even redirecting a prescription to another pharmacy if it's less expensive or more convenient for the patient. Then, once a prescription is filled, Newkirk takes “as much time as necessary talking to patients to make sure they understand their medications,” Bisciglia said. “She is someone everyone in the pharmacy looks up to and respects very much,” Bisciglia added. “We all learn from her every day.”

WCR Merriman Winner
Megan Newkirk and colleagues

Team members are encouraged to nominate their colleagues for the Melin and Merriman awards. Watch the Daily for info and deadlines, usually in early spring.