Mission Moments: Inspired by a 6 year old to first assume good intentions

Family of four standing in front of a bay

The call was enough to make a parent’s heart drop: Come to the school now. Your daughter may have to go to the Emergency Department.

Sanjay Timbadia, Tucson Medical Center’s Laboratory manager, rushed to school to find his first-grade daughter’s head bandaged with blood in her hair and on her dress.

A child had been throwing rocks on the playground and one of them had struck his daughter in the head while she played on the monkey bars. There wasn’t any malice: It was just an accident.

It was later, after she had been treated at the TMC Pediatric Emergency Department, that the little girl said something that was a poignant reminder for her father.

“That boy that threw the rock: I think he was just trying to get it out of the playground so that no one would trip on it,” she said.

It was a moment for pride and reflection, Timbadia said, and he shared the story with his team as they entered the holiday season.

“She has reminded us of an amazing lesson: to always assume positive intent first,” Timbadia said.

The lesson can be applied in the lab, which is a busy place that processes more than 2 million tests every year. It can also just as importantly be applied in everyday life as a balm against the divisions that can cause cultural and political divides – and it’s even stronger when peppered with gratitude, he noted.

“If I’m delayed because I’m in traffic or if I get a flat tire, I just try to remember that at least I have a car to take me places because there are many others who are waiting for a bus in the summer heat,” Timbadia said. “And if someone gets in front of me and drives slowly, you never know: Maybe that person just prevented me from getting into an accident.

“I think like anything else, assuming positive intent and being grateful is something we learn, and it’s also something that gets stronger with practice. At TMC, we are committed to being here to make things better for our patients and our community when they need us – and we approach that work with positive intent.”

Tucson Medical Center earlier this year adopted a new mission statement. To celebrate, we will share an ongoing series of “mission moments.”

What are mission moments? They aren’t necessarily dramatic stories of heroism, although our medical staff saves lives every day. These are moments that breathe life into words – moments that are profound or powerful or touching and that remind us why we do the work we do. Hundreds of these reminders happen every day. Thank you for letting us share some with you.

Do you have a TMC mission moment you’d like to share? Send it to Communications@tmcaz.com.

TMC employee turns hardship into inspiration

Donatian Mahanga TMC 2At the age of 10, Donatian Mahanga became a refugee in the Congo, introduced to the overwhelming challenges of intense poverty, starvation, disease and political strife.

There was a constant shortage of food and medicine. “We buried people every day because of starvation,” he said. Of his 32 aunts, only three survived.

That incredible story of survival fueled a positive mindset and a deep passion to help others.

“People ask me why I am always smiling,” said Mahanga, who works in environmental services at Tucson Medical Center. “It is one of the ways I heal my heart.”

United Way Champions 2017 Donatian MahangaMahanga, who recently served as a champion in TMC’s United Way campaign, also finds healing in giving to others after being affected by more than 20 years of moving between refugee camps in the Congo and Uganda.

War and deprived living conditions claimed six of his 12 siblings. The harrowing experiences were made worse when he was abandoned by his parents at age 13, leaving he and his remaining siblings to fend for food and clothes.

Mahanga was surrounded by a terrible situation that he felt was consuming a generation of young Africans. He wanted to improve living conditions – but not just for him, for his community.

“So many people were suffering at zero. There was no hope at all – I wanted to create a change,” he said. Mahanga took part in organizing a group of young men called COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA). What is COBURWAS? The founders took letters from the names of the countries that refugees traveled from: Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan.

Donatian Mahanga CIYOTA 3Their first step was to raise funds and learn craftsmanship. Mahanga, himself, helped build a school in the refugee camp. “Without education, nothing will do!”

He brought the diverse group of refugees together, and taught himself eight languages in the process. “If you want to help someone, speaking in their language will put them at ease.” He helped many express their grief through performance and song, a method he still uses to engage refugee communities in Tucson.

Mahanga and his friends even reached out to sources in the United States to provide medicine and mosquito nets to treat and stop Malaria, which claims so many lives in the refugee area.

CIYOTA also advocated for women’s rights and encouraged young women to obtain an education, a rare pursuit for women in refugee settlements.

Donatian Mahanga CIYOTA 2After 12 years in operation, CIYOTA has grown into an international, volunteer-based non-profit, that is now organized in the U.S.

Mahanga is glad to see the school he built become a large and prosperous education center. “My number one goal is always to help people,” he said.

In August of 2016, Mahanga came to America with his wife and five children. A temporary staffing agency helped him get a job with TMC and his position soon became permanent.

“TMC is the right place for me –the workers treat each other and the patients with such compassion,” Mahanga explained. “They really show humanity – always working to help others.”

A friend from Uganda reached out to Mahanga to say good bye because he could not afford a life-saving surgery. He was touched when his coworkers raised the needed funds.

TMC monument signHe has already begun helping others, donating his time to help other refugees find work and acclimate to life in the United States. “Change is a part of life, but everyone should feel proud of who they are.”

“Donatian’s love for humanity is visible from the moment you meet him,” said Beth Dorsey, the director of food, nutrition and environmental services at TMC. “His compassion for others truly shows in all he does at TMC and for the community.”

Mahanga is proud to work at TMC and proud of the difference he’s making in the community. Most of all, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children, ages 2 through 10. “The secret to happiness is being content with what you have.”



World View Chief Pilot and TMC launch campaign to send kids’ messages to the world from space

ron2If children had a platform to say anything to everyone on Earth, what would they say? That’s what astronaut Ron Garan, the chief pilot for World View, is trying to find out.

World View “launched” the campaign at TMC for Children on Friday, collecting hand-written letters from children to send to the edge of space on a December test flight. During his visit, curious children wanted to know why he was weightless in space, what the moon looked like closer up, if he ever saw a black hole and what he ate in space.

“Children have the capacity to see what we as adults sometimes miss,” said Garan, who flew on both the U.S. Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. “I think it’s important for us to hear from them about their hopes for the world and for the future.”

ron1Children throughout the community will have an opportunity to share their messages of unity, kindness, wisdom, and even humor.

All letters received by Tuesday, Nov. 29 will be sent to space on a World View Stratollite test flight in early December. World View’s remotely controlled Stratollites deliver commercial payloads to the edge of space from Arizona and are opening up a new era of scientific discovery and economic opportunity. In the future, World View will also offer a human spaceflight experience to private citizens via high altitude balloon.

Letters from children in the community can be sent to:

ATTN: World View Marketing Team

1840 E. Valencia Rd., Building 8, STE 123

Tucson, AZ 85706

new-picture-7A couple of tips for young letter writers:

  • Please address your letter to “Dear World”
  • Your letter must fit on one side of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, preferably in your own handwriting
  • If you include a self-addressed stamped envelope, World View will send your letter back, signed by Ron Garan – so you’ll have something of your own that’s made it to space and back!
  • World View will select and publish some of the letters to share with the world, so please do not include last names on the letter.

Brooke Casebolt, director of women’s and children’s, said TMC was pleased to participate in the effort. “Working with children every day, I’m no longer surprised by how profound their comments are. I am excited to hear their vision for what our world can be.”

For more information, please see this brochure.

TMC Athletes: Mountain Climbing A Physical and Mental Challenge

Frank Marini, Chief Information Officer


Frank has made it to the summits of three of the seven summits, the highest peaks on each continent – Mount Kilimanjaro in east Africa, Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount McKinley. Mount Elbrus in Russia is tentatively on the calendar for 2013.

What do you like best about it?

You travel to interesting places and you see interesting things, but what I most appreciate is that it’s both a physical and mental challenge.

What’s the hardest part?

There are all kinds of challenges. Part of it is just maintaining focus and maintaining positive momentum as you’re working your way up a mountain. You’re loaded down with a lot of gear and equipment and pushing up a steep hill and dealing with lots of adverse factors, including the altitude, the cold, wind, precipitation, challenging terrain. There’s avalanche risk and crevasse risks and fall risks, so you have to be constantly gauging the environment that you’re in.

What are people most intrigued by?

They want to know why I do it, but a question I get quite often is, “Did you summit?” It’s nice to land a summit, but mountains are fickle and you’re at the mercy of other factors you can’t control. I was on Mount Rainier last week and we didn’t summit because of weather and adverse conditions. We got to a point on the mountain that we determined the risks outweighed the benefits so we turned around. You can always go back. As they say, getting to the top is optional, but getting down is mandatory.

How do you train, given that you really can’t emulate the conditions in this environment?

It’s really not realistic to train for altitude, but what you can do is train for endurance and physical strength. I run, I lift weights. I’ll climb hills with packs. Last year for McKinley, I would hike for about 4 hours with 70 pounds on my back.

How do you keep your head in the right place when it gets hard?

Partly, you just have to get through it because you’re in a situation where there really is no option. I find myself literally in situations where I think something is going to break or give out at any moment. But I really believe human beings can do a lot more than they think they can. The mind is the biggest limiting factor. When my mind starts to work against me, I acknowledge it. I even call it my internal whining, but you learn to contain it and push through the physical strain and you get to the other side. And inevitably, after you get through the tough slogs, you’re in a beautiful wilderness environment, with good friends with you. You’ve accomplished something and functioned as a team, and those steps become milestones that you can really appreciate.

TMC Athletes: The Juice is Always Worth the Squeeze

Bryan Richter, lead behavioral health tech


I have been practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for almost six years and have attained the rank of purple belt. I compete three or more times yearly and won the state championship in 2009, placed second in 2010 and third in 2011. I am currently training for October’s Masters and Seniors World Championships in Long Beach, Calif.

How did you get started?

I started training jiu jitsu after developing an interest in the discipline through Ultimate Fighting Championship and at the suggestion of my wife. Thank goodness that I did because it has sparked a passion and a purpose in me that I would’ve never had otherwise.

What is jiu jitsu?

It is a grappling art – with roots in Judo – a system of take downs and ground fighting based on position and leverage, as well as submission techniques that enable smaller opponents to defeat much bigger ones without any strikes. Jiu jitsu employs a variety of chokes, and attacks to the joints: wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles to gain submissions from your opponents via a “tap out.”

What are the challenges?

Conditioning is an extremely important factor as well. I am in the best shape of my life at 41. It takes a long time to earn belts; most people quit before ever receiving their first promotion. It took me longer to get my purple belt in jiu jitsu than to earn two previous black belts. The ranking system is as follows; white belt, blue belt, purple belt, brown belt and black belt. It generally takes over a decade to earn a black belt, often longer.

Training sessions are grueling, and unlike other disciplines, you have to fight every day at the end of class. This is how you “prove” your skill set and earn your promotions. Jiu jitsu is the only martial arts discipline that affords its practitioners the ability to win fights off of their backs as well as from dominant positions and is therefore an extremely effective self-defense system, particularly for women. It is also the only discipline that allows you, according to your skill set, to determine the amount of suffering you impose on your opponent.

Bryan Richter, left, after jumping guard sets up a take down of his opponent during a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match.

Why do you do it?

My training has led me to a better understanding of myself and life in general. Jiu jitsu is not a hobby. It is a lifestyle, a way of being that encompasses diet, fitness and mindset. It shapes or reshapes your life and molds you into a better person. It transcends the mats and permeates everything in your life, always for the better.

It has changed my life immensely in almost every way. I do not think I would have been complete without it. It has simultaneously been the most difficult and most rewarding thing I have ever done, and it continues to inspire and amaze me with its vastness and potential.

There are infinite mysteries within what the Brazilians call arte suave, or the gentle way. I fear one lifetime isn’t enough to properly explore it. The grandmaster and developer of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Helio Gracie, when asked at age 90 what he had left to accomplish in life replied “I still need to perfect my Jiu Jitsu technique.” I think that says it all. Though I have often been injured (training with three broken toes right now) and have had to come back from three surgeries during my six years, the juice is always worth the squeeze. Everyone should do this.

TMC Athletes: Fitness is an investment in yourself

Brooklyn Sturgill, monitor technician and bodybuilder


I was trying to do a competition last year, but between going to school to be a nurse and working, I had to put it off. I’m trying not to get too far from my target, though, especially since someday I really want to go on the stage and see what that’s like.

How did this begin?

When I first met my husband eight years ago, I was doing a lot of cardio and he kept saying I should try weights. I didn’t want to at first, because I didn’t want to bulk up, which is what you hear a lot of women say. But you can see dramatic results if you just try it. Now it’s harder to get me to do cardio!

Bodybuilding is as much about diet as it is exercise. What are you meals like?

I try to eat five or six meals a day, even if they are small. When I am dieting for competition weight, my daily plan might include six egg whites with a quarter cup of steel oats for breakfast. Lunch might be six ounces of chicken with a cup of green veggies and a quarter cup of brown rice. Dinner will be up to six ounces of chicken or fish with a bag salad or a cup of green veggies. In between each meal, I usually have a shake with either a quarter cup of almonds or a shake with a quarter of an apple. I drink at least a gallon of water every day. You can go to the gym seven days a week but if you’re eating fast food all the time, you’re not going to see results.

What was the hardest part for you?

It was hard to eat more often. I was used to not eating breakfast. I laughed when I saw the diet because it seemed like so much food. Now, I can never imagine not eating breakfast. People ask what to change and the first thing I ask them is what they have for breakfast. If they say they don’t eat it, I tell them that’s their first mistake.

How do you maintain discipline?

On Sundays, I don’t train and our family treats ourselves to ice cream after dinner for dessert. I also know how I feel when I don’t eat healthy foods. Fitness is an investment in yourself. Start small and build up, and you’ll find you’ll begin to feel better and sleep better. Your clothes will fit better and you’ll have more energy to have fun with your kids.

What do you say to people who think they don’t have time to eat well or exercise?

The question they have to ask themselves is how bad do they want to be healthy? It has the potential to change their lives, but they have to want it for themselves.

TMC Athletes: Swimmer Says It’s Never Too Late to Start

Kurt Luedtke, case manager



I am currently finishing up the Tucson Aquathon Series and training for the La Jolla Rough Water Swim in September, as well as for several late season triathlons.

How did you get started?

I got involved in swimming when I was taking my daughter to swim practice when she was about 10. I got tired of sitting there watching her and trying to coach her, so I decided to learn how hard it was. I started swimming when she was at practice. I was in my early 40s at the time and now I’m 53, so I guess the message is: It’s never too late.

What is the Aquathon?

Every Wednesday night, you swim 800 yards, which is 32 lengths of the pool, and then run a 5k, which is 3.1 miles. I keep trying to encourage other TMC employees to do it, but it seems some people think they’ll sink. The best cure for that is to take a quick lesson and then get in the pool and test yourself.  I guarantee you won’t sink.

Why the Rough Water Swim?

It’s one mile in the open ocean. My daughter and I have done it the past five years and now it’s a family tradition. I really love the freedom of being out there.

What inspires you to persist when it gets hard?

My dad was a Marine and he always used to say that pain is weakness leaving your body. I think about what our patients go through and remind myself my pain is voluntary and it will stop at the end of the triathlon. You just learn to deal with it.

TMC Athletes:Soccer Reinforces Importance of Group Effort

Stephanie Chhorn, revenue cycle representative


I have played soccer for 26 years and still play to this day. I’m a halfback. You don’t have to be very fast in that position, but you have to be able to run for a long period of time. Our weekends often consist of playing on Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday. I don’t think I’ll ever give it up.

How did you get started:

I started when I was 6. Other kids at school were playing so I wanted to play. It wasn’t until I was 10 or 11 that I really wanted to be good at it and decided I wanted to be on the All-Star team. I played into high school and then stopped playing until I was about 21, when I was hired on at TMC and a woman who worked here said there was a need for girls for a coed team.

What life lessons has it taught you?

Soccer is a team sport, so it teaches you to share. It teaches you that sometimes, in order to succeed, it takes a group effort.  One person doesn’t score all the goals or save all the goals.

Why soccer?

Partly it’s because it’s become our social circle now, so while it’s good exercise, I don’t think of it as exercise. But I do appreciate the health benefits. You have to train hard to stay fit, since the people you play with are fast and you have to be able to stay at that speed. Plus, I don’t like diets.

Were there any obstacles you overcame?

In high school, I didn’t play my junior and senior year because the coach said you had to be the fastest and the strongest or you couldn’t play. My strength is that I have good ball control skills and I can analyze the field and anticipate what will happen next. So I guess I learned over time not to be inhibited by your weaknesses. We all have weaknesses and we all have strengths and that’s an important life lesson as well.

TMC Athletes: Employee Loses Nearly Half Her Body Weight: “This is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

For Barbara Philipp, obesity was nearly a lifelong struggle.

Various weight loss support programs didn’t work, and the weight piled on even faster during the grief-filled time after her mother died.

Topping out at 385 pounds on a 5’10” frame, the 54-year-old medical transcriptionist at Tucson Medical Center faced many painful moments: needing an extra seat belt when flying, having strangers evaluate what was in her shopping cart, dealing with stares.

The final straw, though, was when she realized she could barely walk from her car in the parking lot to the front door of her apartment without needing oxygen.

Philipp’s story, however, is one of victory, continuing a series that features TMC athletes in a nod to the Olympics season and demonstrates the multitude of ways to embrace an active lifestyle.

Two years ago, Philipp decided she’d had it. After consulting with her doctor, it was determined she would be a good candidate for bariatric surgery, which limits the amount people can eat and reduces the absorption of nutrients.

It wasn’t a simple decision. It also required a major diet overhaul. Carbonation is frowned upon, so soft drinks are a no-no for the woman who used to be able to drink a case of soda in a day. She can no longer tolerate greasy food, yeast bread, peanut butter and pizza, but instead focused on fruits, vegetables and proteins. She has to eat slowly and chew well to aid digestion. She surprised herself by learning to like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

But boy, did the weight come off. She was losing 18 pounds a month for the first 5 months. And she’s still losing about three pounds a month. Now at 199 pounds, she’s well on her way to her target goal of 175.

“Talk about a confidence boost,” she said. And the more confidence she gained, the more active she became.

To get in shape for her surgery, she had started walking with a friend around the block. “I got hooked. I could not get enough of it,” she said. “It was amazing how far I could go once I got some of the weight off me.” Every other day, she now walks 4.5 miles.

In March, she took a class to learn how to run. “I was sore and achy at first. Even my eyelashes would hurt,” she said. She started running for one minute and walking for three, working up to running 4 minutes and walking for one. “Pretty soon, you realize you’re running more than you’re walking. And when they talk about runners getting an endorphin rush, I can now say that’s a fact.”

She said she might be slow – running a 13-minute mile – but she’s doing it, and she’s up to 5 miles every other day. She even did the TMC Meet Me Downtown 5k in early June.

She’s off blood pressure medication. She’s no longer borderline diabetic. She’s become more outgoing with strangers.

“This is one of the best things I’ve ever done and I did it for me, and not for anybody else,” she said. “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines of life anymore. I needed to be a participant.”

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461