by Scott Raynor

CORRIDOR – For some in the Corridor, having a job in health care is just that – a job. In fact, according to, 11 percent of males and 21 percent of females work in the health-care industry in Iowa City alone.  

But for many, health care is a dream job and an opportunity to help those who are suffering. This year, four individuals and one institution are being honored for their work in the Corridor with Health Care Hero awards from the Corridor Business Journal. Awards will be given to the following:

— Kris Westphal, the Volunteer award for her work with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC).

— George Estle, the Community Achievement in Health Care award for his work with Tanager Place.

— Patrick Brophy, the Physician award for his work as a physician with UIHC.

— Stewart Peterson, the Non-physician award for his work as a pharmacotherapist with CarePro.

— The Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at the UI Heart and Vascular Center, the Advancement in Health Care award.

The awards will be presented at the CBJ’s 2011 Corridor HealthCare Summit, Feb. 11 from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Cedar Rapids Marriott. Nico Pronk, vice president for health management and health science officer for JourneyWell at HealthPartners in Minneapolis, will give the keynote address.

Patrick Brophy

Patrick Brophy saw something missing during medical school when he witnessed a young girl with kidney complications treated by an adult specialist.

It was clear to him she needed extra attention. Though her treatments for kidney complications were adequate, she spent many days in the hospital, missing school and lacking anyone her age to talk to. Mr. Brophy, now the director of the division of pediatric nephrology, dialysis & transplantation at UIHC, sought to correct this flaw in the way children and teenagers were treated for kidney diseases, often tended to without consideration to their social development.

“Although teenagers are physically bigger, mentally and emotionally they are still developing,” Mr. Brophy said.

The lack of resources to effectively treat children with kidney complications was not limited to Mr. Brophy’s medical school in Canada, but extended approximately 1,000 miles away to Iowa.

Mr. Brophy specialized and devoted his career to pediatric nephrology. After his residency in Manitoba and a fellowship in the University of Michigan, he was hired by the UI specifically to develop the pediatric nephrology program.

“We had kids that were requiring care that were just not able to get it (at UIHC), in the state of Iowa or just not getting it at all,” said Thomas Scholz, professor and interim head of the UI Department of Pediatrics.

Now, the program is one of the best in the nation.

Aside from his success in developing a nationally renowned pediatric care program, those that work around Mr. Brophy say he is a natural at developing relationships with patients and their families.

George Estle
Community Achievement
in Health Care

George Estle has seen mental health care for children in Iowa stagnate, and sometimes reverse, for decades.

“Things never move as fast as I want them to. I’ve been doing this 30 years and I’m impatient,“ said Mr. Estle, CEO of  Tanager Place, a Cedar Rapids nonprofit devoted to the treatment of children and families with mental health issues.

Despite the challenges of finding funding to create new programs requested by those in the community, Mr. Estle has helped start many new programs that radically expanded services that Tanager Place offers. This includes an outpatient clinic that treats around 1,200 patients every year, an expressive arts program and a psychiatric medical institute for children.

“He is truly one of the unsung heroes of our community,” said Jim Thebeau, who serves on Tanager Place’s board of directors.

Mr. Estle sees Tanager Place not only as a helper of children with mental health problems, but as an advocate for those who may often be forgotten or misunderstood.

“Kids are incredibly resilient,” Mr. Estle said. “Given half of an opportunity and a little support, they can recover from phenomenal trouble and trauma and be successful.”

Before the outpatient clinic was offered, Tanager Place often had no place to send children after treatment at the agency’s older, in-patient clinic. Mr. Estle said he imagines many Iowa communities are in the same place Tanager Place was years ago.

“The problem in Iowa is that a lot of kids don’t get that half a chance,” he said.

He does not necessarily see these problems becoming less challenging anytime soon. With uncertain funding and the unknown implications of the health-care reform law, he isn’t thinking of cutting programs, but said he likely won’t have the ability to start new ones.

Stewart Peterson

Stewart Peterson’s father was a pharmacist, but he said that had nothing to do with why he obtained his pharmacy degree.

He diverted from business school due to his side job in a hospital pharmacy. Seeing patients and their health react to medication compelled him to ditch his international businessman dream.

Mr. Peterson, the pharmacotherapist at CarePro Health Services of Eastern Iowa and an adjunct assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Iowa has since made a name for himself for developing infusions and connecting to patients.

In his work with the school of pharmacy, Mr. Peterson has been lauded for his patience with students and knowledgability, the same sort of patience he exhibits with his patients.

“He is an individual who is there for his patients, said Richard Schirmer, a registered nurse at CarePro. “They are not customers, they are his patients.”

In addition to his compassionate nature, Mr. Schirmer said Mr. Peterson is incredibly knowledgeable about medications and pharmaceuticals.  He said Mr. Peterson is always doing research and working late to better educate himself and help his patients.

“He is always there,” Mr. Schirmer said. “He just doesn’t stop.”

In pharmacotherapy, Mr. Peterson creates an infusion regimen – or injection regimen – for patients with often chronic illnesses who take regular injections at home instead of making costly visits to the hospital.

Last December, he lectured at a pharmacy in Japan on home infusion. He said home infusion in Japan has yet to approach its infancy, which makes things very costly for hospitals and patients.

“If you were going to need six weeks of antibiotics, you would need to be in a hospital for six weeks,” Mr. Peterson said.

He monitors his patients’ health and calls them at home on a weekly basis, sometimes for years, and frequently without ever seeing their faces.

“We don’t have a clue what they look like,” Mr. Peterson said. “But yet I could pick their voices out of Kinnick Stadium.”  

Kris Westphal

Kids at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics call Kris Westphal “Lifesaver lady” because of the candy she keeps in her camera bag.

Ms. Westphal has become a well-known volunteer at UIHC, logging more than 1,500 hours in a volunteer program she designed and runs, called Memories Videos.

She pitched the idea in 2000 to the then-director of volunteer services: families would bring in photos of their seriously infirmed loved one and she would set the photos to music and mix in interviews, after which the completed video would be given to family members as a memento.

“At that time this was new, something we had not seen before,” said Jean Reed, director of volunteer services at UIHC.

In the 11 years since, Ms. Westphal has moved from handing out VHS tapes to DVDs and has received the individual award from the Iowa Board of Regents, a Governor’s Volunteer Award from Gov. Chet Culver and additionally, her program won the extraordinary program award from the Association for Healthcare Volunteer Resource Professionals.

In that time, Ms. Westphal has produced hundreds of videos – making countless connections with family members and patients. Ms. Reed recalls talking to a family that used the video Ms. Westphal made of their now-diseased daughter to introduce their younger son to the sister he never met. Even after watching these videos multiple times, Ms. Reed said they carry a profound emotional impact.

But after all of her free service to the hospital and the money she personally invested in a home studio, Ms. Westphal insists she has gained the most from her work.

“It makes me a much better person,” Ms. Westphal said. “If I spill wine on a white carpet I don’t get all up in the air about it. “

Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at UI Heart and
Vascular Center
Advancements in Health Care

Frances Johnson said that given the population of Iowa, there will be approximately 20 heart donors in one year.

As there are 20 patients awaiting heart donors Iowa, there doesn’t seem to be any issue. However, Ms. Johnson said, many patients with life-threatening heart failure aren’t eligible for the list.

Typically, patients can be eligible for a transplant “if they can’t shower without feeling breathless. If they are not having sexual relations with their wife, if not able to pick up their kids and they know they might not be here next year,” said Ms. Johnson, director of the Cardiomyopathy Treatment Program at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Though Ms. Johnson said most waiting for a heart will get a transplant, this wasn’t always the case.

“People would die on the waiting list,” she said.

Now, the Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at the UI Heart and Vascular Center, where Ms. Johnson is a team member, can greatly expand the lifespan of patients on the waiting list by installing artificial heart valves, or VADs. Last July, the program was certified to implant these devices on patients who don’t meet the stringent requirements for a heart transplant.

UIHC is the only hospital in Iowa with the capability to implant these devices. Mark Iannettoni, team member and head of cardiothoracic surgery at the UIHC, said many Iowa hospitals often have no other choice than to withdraw life support on heart failure patients who could be saved with a VAD.

Without the advances in care of those with heart failure, and certifications, many with heart failure would be out of luck.

“Otherwise we would not be able to treat Iowans with this disease,” said Mr. Iannettoni.