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Nurse Honored for Being at Heart of Volunteerism

Maggie Holmes, RN, is honored by Operation Access for being on the ground floor of its free surgeries at the Fremont Medical Center.

A visitor recently asked Maggie Holmes, RN, who organizes the 4-time a year Operation Access free surgical clinic at the Kaiser Permanente Fremont Medical Center.

Sitting in her office, Holmes, service unit manager for Ambulatory Surgery in Fremont, pointed to a colleague, Mark Wadley, a surgical tech—who was pointing at her.

For Operation Access (OA), a Bay Area nonprofit that brings together medical volunteers to provide donated outpatient surgery and specialty care to the poor and uninsured, there is no confusion about Holmes’ role.

Last month, Operation Access recognized Holmes with a “Champion Award” for 8 years of dedicated, unsung volunteer work.

Holmes joins Jungon Ahn, RN, Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco, and Myrna Reroma, RN, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, in being honored by the organization.

Operation Access organizers and hospital volunteers all say that Holmes has been the indisputable heart of the operation since OA and the Fremont Medical Center began partnering there in 2006.

She has assembled the volunteer Kaiser Permanente physicians and nurses from Fremont and Hayward, secured operating rooms and beds, gathered supplies, and checked in and out patients.  And sometimes quickly found clothing and temporary housing for a homeless patient after hernia surgery.

“Without her we wouldn’t be able to do these surgery sessions,” said Antoine de Fridman, program manager for Operation Access in Alameda County. “Every person we interviewed who has worked with Maggie said she is the first one to arrive and the last to leave. She is very humble and she doesn’t want the spotlight.”

No, she doesn’t.

“Well, that is not my personality,” said Holmes, who has been a nurse for 39 years, the past 10 at Kaiser Permanente Fremont. “Personally, I want to fly under the radar.”

‘If We Can Help, Let’s Do It’

Holmes didn’t know much about Operation Access when she was first asked by retired vascular surgeon Srinivas Ramachandra, MD, to helm the project.  “But I had certainly seen the need for their program to help the uninsured. And I thought, here’s a formal program. If we can help, let’s do it.”

Holmes recalled a patient, a legally blind mother, opening her eyes after a successful cataract surgery and seeing her daughter for the first time in years.

“Of course it makes you happy when you help someone,” Holmes said of witnessing the mother’s reaction. “It’s also humbling. We get to do what we do every day, as a volunteer. It’s really a blessing to us.”

Holmes studied ballet in her youth and even visited Russia to see the Bolshoi Theater, but the stage where Holmes said she is most at home is on the hospital floor—being a nurse, volunteer, and giving back.

“Maggie motivates everyone around her to be their best.  She has carried that sense of duty and dedication to her volunteer work with Operation Access,” said Calvin Wheeler, MD, physician in chief at Fremont Medical Center. “I am delighted that Maggie is being recognized in this way, as she represents the best of Kaiser Permanente.  Our nurses are such an integral part of much of the care we provide.’’