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Click on a photo to read about the 2023 Extraordinary Nurse Award honoree.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Nurse Leader Of The Year

Stephen Kupiec, MSN, RN

Clinical Nursing Director, Adult Services, Oakland Medical Center

Stephen was a true leader even before he assumed his director position. He led the Intensive Care Unit through COVID-19 as a brand-new manager and offered emotional, clinical, and educational support to all staff when things in the world were unclear and ever-changing. He not only supported his staff but was a consistent resource to his co-managers. Stephen took the time to grow new leaders within his team and developed a shared governance model that is now widespread throughout the East Bay’s Magnet journey to nursing excellence.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Nurse Leader Of The Year

Barbara Vaughan, MSN, RN, RNC-OB, C-ONQS, CLNC

Clinical Nursing Leader, Maternal Child Health, San Jose Medical Center

Under Barbara’s leadership, the Maternal Child Health Department has achieved remarkable reductions in the number of surgical site infections after cesarean sections. With her guidance, San Jose Medical Center maternity care was recognized in Newsweek magazine as one of the best maternity hospitals in 2022. As a senior leader, Barbara is always willing to support learning needs. She is very patient, compassionate, and approachable. The Patient Care Services leadership team looks to her expertise for guidance. And the San Jose team is grateful to have her as an exceptional nurse leader.

The Permanente Medical Group Nurse Leader Of The Year

H. Christian Cheung, PhD, RN

Assistant Director, Nursing & Clinical Practice, Central Valley Area

Christian is a dedicated, reliable, and resourceful leader who is well respected for his clinical and institutional knowledge. He serves as a role model to others, builds strong relationships by hearing opposing viewpoints, serves as a patient advocate, and is a natural teacher. Christian researches new, available treatments with clinical protocols and creates training programs and workflows to ensure the staff is safe and knowledgeable. His attention to detail and his ability to execute on strategic objectives enabled the Central Valley to experience 2 successful surveys. Christian role models extraordinary nursing, every patient, every time.

The Permanente Medical Group Nurse Leader Of The Year

Christina (Tina) Vitale-McDowell, MSN, RN, CPEN, PECC

Director, Emergency Department, San Rafael Medical Center

Aside from her role as an emergency department director, Tina is at the forefront of innovation on how to address patient safety and systems improvements throughout the region. Her focuses include regional pediatric emergency care coordination, adult and pediatric sepsis work, and nurse education. Tina works locally and regionally to help understand and respond to safety incidents in a way that collects diverse perspectives and addresses the underlying systemic issues. “Tina has an indomitable spirit. She is super bright, discerning, funny, and a natural-born leader,” said one colleague. “She does the work because it’s inherently meaningful, not for personal promotion.”

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Continuum Nurse Leader Of The Year

Lisa Moshiri, DNP, RN, CNL, CCM

Continuing Care Service Director, Modesto Medical Center

Lisa is known for her professionalism and best-in-class teamwork. She recently completed her doctoral degree in nursing and has shared her learning experience widely, which has inspired at least 4 other nurses to obtain their next level degree with Lisa “spreading the joy of continuous learning,” as one said. In addition, Lisa is sought out by peers and senior leaders for her thinking on meeting targets, community relationship-building, and achieving quality results. Lisa took on a 6-month stretch assignment as an Interim CVA Continuum Administrator, indicating her promise as a future senior leader.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Continuum Nurse Leader Of The Year

Kelline (Kelli) Suto, BSN, RN

Continuum Administrator, San Jose Medical Center

Kelli has a wealth of experience and knowledge. She helps place patients in the best possible level of care back into the community, conducts in-person rounds in the skilled nursing facilities on home health patients and dialysis centers to ensure quality, and has won the respect of vendors for being approachable and educative. Kelli offers opportunities for her direct reports to learn and lead. She also participates in initiatives for process improvement and reducing readmissions. “Kelli is the best of Kaiser Permanente,” said one colleague. “She lives our mission at every touch point — with a patient, visitor, physician, and her staff.”

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Emerging Nurse Leader Of The Year

Kendal Bailey, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, NE-BC

Director, Nursing Professional Development, South Sacramento Medical Center

Kendal emits positive energy to anyone she meets, and her happiness and positivity are infectious. When one of her team members recently needed support following a long patient care orientation day, Kendal immediately returned to the hospital to help. She is a selfless and supportive leader as well as the biggest advocate for her team. Her group of clinical nurse specialists and educators recently achieved the highest nursing engagement scores out of all the nursing departments, which is a testament to who Kendal is as a nurse and a leader.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Emerging Nurse Leader Of The Year

Vanessa Strieff, MSN, RN, CNL

Nurse Manager, Post Anesthesia Care Unit, Ambulatory Surgery, San Leandro Medical Center

Vanessa is caring and compassionate and always takes extra time with her patients and staff, according to colleagues. As a certified clinical nurse leader, she explains the “why” to her team and her team leaders. Outside of her compassionate character, she is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her operational knowledge and her ability to lead and create high-functioning teams. She can see the strength in low performers and can nurture their talents and redirect them in a positive way so that the entire team benefits.

The Permanente Medical Group Emerging Leader Of The Year

Darlene Heaton, BSN, RN, CEN

Director, Eye Services Department, Sacramento Medical Center

Darlene is a remarkable leader who consistently demonstrates her ability to address challenges head-on and delivers successful outcomes. She is part of a team that has driven region-leading performance in the areas of quality and exceptional care experience. In 2022, she helped the North Valley Service Area achieve and sustain the Crossing the Quality Chasm Diabetes Eye Screening target, preventing blindness in over 100 patients. “Darlene’s creativity and drive are contagious, elevating those around her,” said one colleague. “She is an invaluable asset to our teams, patients, and community.”

The Permanente Medical Group Emerging Leader Of The Year

Tia Newell, MSN, RN, CCRN

Director, Emergency Department, Richmond Medical Center

Tia has been at the heart of nearly a dozen patient care improvement system projects, from throughput and quality to patient care experience. In 2019, she helped improve turnaround time for X-rays. Tia was at the helm from the moment the COVID-19 pandemic started, working on site for dozens of hours to construct mass casualty tents and an entire outdoor treatment area. “Tia has built a superb team, is an effective communicator, and, most importantly, is present for whatever challenge the Emergency Department is experiencing,” said one colleague.

The Permanente Medical Group Extraordinary Nurse – Aacc

Caitlin (Cat) Dennis, RN

Staff Charge Nurse III, Quality Liaison, Appointment and Advice Call Center, Vallejo

Cat is described as a huge asset to Vallejo’s Appointment and Advice Call Center charge nurse team. “She has a stellar work ethic and is always reliable and available to assist with a positive attitude,” said one colleague. She is described as “a shining example” to others. Additionally, Cat takes pride in her work, which shows up in her genuine caring attitude. Cat also has exceptional computer skills and is a helpful troubleshooter with technical issues. She always shares new information. “She is a patient, kind teacher, and trainer,” said another colleague.

The Permanente Medical Group Extraordinary Nurse – Aacc

Marissa L. Mathias, MS, BA, RN

Staff Nurse III, Appointment and Advice Call Center, Sacramento

Marissa exemplifies what it means to be professional. In addition to being a highly skilled telehealth nurse performing telephone triage for the Sacramento Appointment and Advice Call Center, she provides colleagues with education on good ergonomics and keyboarding skills via the Safety Committee. Marissa serves on the Facility Selection Committee by mentoring other nurses who aspire to obtain or renew their Staff Nurse III or IV status. One colleague said, “Marissa always has an upbeat, positive attitude and can be counted upon to help in any situation.”

The Permanente Medical Group Extraordinary Nurse – Advanced Practice

Suzanne Yee Fong, NP

Nurse Practioner III, Women’s Health, South Sacramento Medical Center

Suzanne is described by colleagues as an exceptional nurse practitioner. A 30-year Kaiser Permanente employee, Suzanne is noted for her compassion, professionalism, and integrity with members and colleagues alike. Whether she is effortlessly providing patient care or pitching in to help colleagues with prescription refills or messages, Suzanne stands out for going above and beyond. In addition, she is a respected mentor who has trained many students, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. As one colleague said, “Our patients love her. I’m so proud that she is a Kaiser Permanente employee.”

The Permanente Medical Group Extraordinary Nurse – Advanced Practice

Jeannie Labat-Butler, DNP, NP

Nurse Practitioner III, Emergency Department, Central Valley Service Area

Jeannie is an exemplary Emergency Department nurse practitioner who recently volunteered to help with cleft lip and palate repair surgeries in orphanages in Southeast Asia. She has exceptional clinical judgment, great bedside manners, and is an amazing instructor to other clinicians. She worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic treating patients and is a mentor for her fellow nurse practitioners. She also recently participated in Project Vietnam, where she spent most of her vacation days helping perform surgeries on pediatric patients. Jeannie is an inspiring person to work with, according to colleagues.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Extraordinary Nurse – Care Coordination

Michael Jess Paul Fronda, MSN, BSN, RN

Patient Care Coordinator Case Manager, Oakland Medical Center

A nurse for 15 years, Michael is referred to as “a true professional,” known for his positive attitude as he walks the hospital floors, handling everything from discharge patients to service recovery with a smile. “Michael is always professional, approachable, and there to lend a hand,” said one colleague. He is prompt with his replies and verbally acknowledges others in a human, genuine way. Michael shows how he cares about the discharge planning of patients by always ensuring they have a safe and proper plan after leaving the hospital.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Extraordinary Nurse – Care Coordination

Jason Garcia, RN

Patient Care Coordinator Case Manager, Utilization Management, Modesto Medical Center

Jason is described as helpful, kind, courteous, knowledgeable, and professional. “When it comes to patients, he lives the true mission and values of Kaiser Permanente, putting patients first,” said one colleague, who added that members and their families respond well to Jason’s smiles and positivity. Another praised Jason for his calm presence. Colleagues in his past and in his new department say that Jason’s talents include being proactive in learning, assuming the role of educator, helping with service recovery, and being sought out to help with complicated cases and questions.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Extraordinary Nurse – Continuum

Karen Franchetti, BSN, RN

Quality Utilization Coordinator, Home Health, Santa Clara Medical Center

Karen is an extraordinary nurse who has been instrumental in helping Kaiser Permanente in the South Bay to embrace patient-centered caring and nurse/clinician self-care. Her work in Caring Science, Heart Math, and Caritas before and during the pandemic has not been matched by any other nurse in the continuum. Karen champions role models, and teaches others how to be authentically present during patient visits. “Karen’s compassion in helping others is truly inspiring,” said one colleague. “She inspires me to be a better leader, clinician, and person every day.”

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Extraordinary Nurse – Continuum

Nerissa Carbonell Kamiya, BSN, RN

Nurse II, Home Health, Sacramento Medical Center

Nerissa is a 33-year employee described as “the backbone of our intake department” and “a leader among her peers.” Staff, nurses, clerks, leadership, and patients have complimented her professionalism and kindness. As the point of contact for 3 Home Health branches, she is known for her attention to detail and work ethic. One colleague said, “As a leader, Nerissa has been someone I can depend on to solve some of the most difficult problems to help ensure our patients receive outstanding care that is timely.”

The Permanente Medical Group Extraordinary Nurse – Emergency Department

Jonathan Alteza, BSN, RN

Staff Nurse IV, Emergency Department, Roseville Medical Center

Jonathan always goes above and beyond with patients, co-workers, and volunteers in our Emergency Department with his positive attitude and a kind smile, no matter how busy he is. Jonathan is a valuable nurse who shows respect to all of his patients and colleagues. “There are great nurses that I work with; however, Jonathan is absolutely an extraordinary nurse,” said one colleague. Jonathan is described as kind, respectful, intelligent, “wicked smart,” calm, and a good listener. He leads committees and motivates in the most positive way to improve the culture daily.

The Permanente Medical Group Extraordinary Nurse – Emergency Department

Jane McDonald, RN

Staff Nurse II, Emergency Department, San Rafael Medical Center

Jane McDonald is an extraordinary nurse who goes above and beyond for her patients and department. With 50 years as an RN, and the majority in emergency care, Jane is an amazing resource to her team. Due to her critical thinking, prioritizing, and clear communication skills, Jane mostly works in the front of the Emergency Department triaging walk-in patients. During downtime, she is checking supply expiration dates throughout the department and seeks ways to improve workflow. Jane even spent her 70th birthday working in the Emergency Department.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Extraordinary Nurse – Clinical Adult Services

Michael Cabrera, BSN, RN

Staff Nurse II, Float Pool, Manteca Medical Center

Michael commits himself to the highest standard of care possible, providing holistic care for his patients and their family members, according to a colleague who nominated him for this award. He is also passionate about raising the bar for the overall performance of the medical center. He is part of several committees, including the mobility committee. In 2022, he was responsible for the staff engagement that increased mobility scores for the medical/surgical/telemetry unit, making the Manteca Medical Center number one in the region in this area.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Extraordinary Nurse – Clinical Adult Services

Reid Hirsch, BSN, RN, CCRN

Staff Nurse II, Intensive Care and Cardiovascular Intensive Care Units, South Sacramento Medical Center

Reid has been instrumental in the success of the medical center’s shared governance model as the co-chair of the Coordinating Council. He is also the co-chair of the ICU Education Council as well as a graduate of the inaugural Evidence-Based Workshop offered by the Nurse Scholars Academy. Reid’s commitment to nursing excellence extends beyond the medical center, demonstrated by his involvement in the Regional Nurse Excellence Governance and the Regional Critical Care Domain committees. “Reid’s passion for the nursing profession is contagious,” said one colleague.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Extraordinary Nurse – Maternal Child Health

Mariel (Mario) Biol, BSN, RN, P-BC

Staff Nurse IV, Pediatrics Intensive Care Unit/Pediatrics, Santa Clara Medical Center

Mario maintains an unwaveringly joyful demeanor and makes a dedicated effort to connect with each of his patients and their families. He is often requested for difficult, painful procedures because his gentle and calm nature helps patients feel more comfortable. Returning patients also frequently request Mario visit them to say hello. “He is unfailingly pleasant, helpful, and always willing to go the extra mile to help a patient feel more comfortable,” said one colleague who nominated Mario for the award.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Extraordinary Nurse – Maternal Child Health

Michelle Papasan, BSN, RN

Staff Nurse II, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Antioch Medical Center

Michelle embraces continuous learning and encourages her colleagues to foster a growth mindset for themselves, according to a colleague who nominated her for this award. Michelle, who has been a neonatal intensive care nurse for 23 years, identifies gaps in knowledge and training within her department as well as in the Emergency Department. She co-created the Mini Neonatal Resuscitation Program, which keeps neonatal nurses competent and confident in their skills. The program was recognized at the 2022 Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses national conference.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Extraordinary Nurse – Perioperative Services

Matthew Beggs, BSN, RN, CNOR

Staff Nurse III, Operating Room, Oakland Medical Center

Matt is described as one of the most knowledgeable and hardworking nurses, who advocates for his patients and supports his team. Matt is a resource for the entire Operating Room staff, specializing in Pediatric Surgery and Pediatric Neurosurgery services. He mentors new staff and new perioperative services students. “I am truly honored to work beside Matt as an OR nurse and would trust him with my care or any of my family members’ care as well. He is truly an extraordinary nurse,” said one colleague.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Extraordinary Nurse – Perioperative Services

Michelle Kostick, BSN, RN, CNOR

Staff Nurse III, Operating Room, San Francisco Medical Center

The operating room is the heart of the hospital, and Michelle is an angel who keeps it beating. She’s a circulator, scrub nurse, service lead, and a part of the call team and holiday planning committee. She provides education to the operating room, ambulatory surgery unit, and sterile processing department. She is proficient with highly specialized surgeries: cystectomies with ileal conduits, robotics, whipples, breast reconstruction with microvascular flaps, phalloplasties, and joints. If Michelle is in the room, everything is going to run smoothly.

The Permanente Medical Group Extraordinary Nurse – Medical Offices Or Outpatient Services, Manteca Medical Center

Cora Eslao, LVN

Licensed Vocational Nurse, Urology Department, Manteca Medical Center

Cora goes the extra distance for the patients and colleagues. She has worked in the Urology Department for many years. She is always available to give a helping hand and is very knowledgeable about our urology patients’ needs. Cora is extremely caring, and patients request to have her be their nurse over and over again. As one colleague said, “Cora goes above and beyond for her patients, making an uncomfortable situation better. I am thankful to have her as a part of my team and to work with her daily.”

The Permanente Medical Group Extraordinary Nurse – Medical Offices Or Outpatient Services, Manteca Medical Center

Moreen Prasad, MHA, MSN, RN

Staff Charge Nurse II, Urology Department, Manteca Hospital

Moreen goes beyond the call of duty for the Urology Department and for its patients. “She has demonstrated a drive and dedication second to none and is the reason for efficiency,” said one colleague. Additionally, Moreen demonstrates personal ownership for commitments and performance as she strives to deliver on assigned actionable items for herself and the department. She stands out for her openness to feedback and ability to apply it in practice. Finally, one colleague summed up Moreen’s overall outstanding demeanor: “Moreen is a standout for always maintaining a positive attitude.”

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Friend Of Nursing – Direct Care Partner

Sherwin Ladores, PCT

Patient Care Technician, Intensive Care Unit, Redwood City Medical Center

Sherwin is a wonderful patient care technician, colleagues say. He always has a smile on his face, never complains, and on busy days in the intensive care unit, he is dependable. Patients feel better being taken care of by him, families feel better upon conversing with him and knowing their loved ones are cared for, and the unit functions best when he is working. Sherwin never stops moving, always answering patient call lights and interacting positively with patients and families. He truly seems to love his job and helping people.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Friend Of Nursing – Direct Care Partner

Arlene Means, LVN, PCT

Licensed Vocational Nurse, Patient Care Technician, Medical, Surgical, Telemetry, Roseville Medical Center

Arlene can perform any duty well and efficiently, her teammates say. Nurses know that whenever Arlene is on duty, their patients will be well taken care of. A person of few words, she is smart, efficient, organized, and methodical. She critically thinks about how to prevent falls or aspiration. She patiently feeds patients unable to feed themselves and never judges them for their behavior, confusion, or non-compliance. It is a pleasure to work with Arlene because the shifts run more smoothly when she is there and working for the best possible outcome.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Friend Of Nursing – Interprofessional Colleague

Yeseli Arias, MD

Chief of Inpatient Pediatrics, NICU Services, Modesto Medical Center; NCAL Regional Director of Inpatient Pediatrics

Yeseli is the epitome of what a nurse-physician partnership should be, according to colleagues. She has the ability to bring everyone together to improve care and access for all our members. As pediatric chief, she has formed bonds between service lines and unit teams and made them shine. In her regional role, she brings vision, compassion, and collaborative care to the table. She helps improve care for the tiniest of patients. Her smile can move mountains, and no other physician deserves more accolades for being a true nursing partner.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Friend Of Nursing – Interprofessional Colleague

Patricia (PK) Kaba, MS, RDN

Director, Food and Clinical Nutrition Services, San Jose Medical Center

PK is an exceptional partner to nursing, with contributions including nutritious food for members who are recuperating and focused education to enhance nurse understanding of nutrition’s role in healing. In the Postpartum Department, PK collaborates with staff on a meal program for new moms that focuses on organically grown, locally sourced foods. In the Emergency Department, she and her team provide patients newly diagnosed with chronic conditions with a basic understanding of dietary restrictions prior to discharge. To cap it off, PK sponsors staff relays with healthy rewards.

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