TMC honors 50-year employee at annual employee recognition event

BDP42971.jpgNancy Spiller left home at 17, just out of high school, armed with little more than her diploma and some experience working as a volunteer candy striper.

She landed her first job at Tucson Medical Center – and now, 50 years after she was hired into the business office that day, she’s still coming to work every morning to the same place.

“Fifty is a big year – it’s very special to me,” said Spiller, who has worked eight different jobs during her tenure, most recently serving as clerical support in pediatric therapies.

Spiller will be celebrated at TMC’s annual Service Pin ceremony, which honors employees at every five-year milestone of their careers.

There are 467 honorees this year, including 18 people with upwards of 40 years of service. Spiller is one of two employees with the longest running length of service.

Aside from the fact she needed a job, Spiller wanted to help people, which is why she served as a candy striper. When she was in the fourth grade, her mother died, which in retrospect, she said, might have fueled her interest in health care.

Spiller came to TMC two months after the arrival of Don Shropshire, a beloved and iconic leader who served 25 years as TMC’s CEO.

She remembers being so naïve that her colleagues teased her routinely. One afternoon, they told her Mr. Shropshire was holding on the phone for her. She chided them, saying she knew they were making up stories. After much back and forth, an exasperated Spiller went to the phone.

“Who was on the other end? Mr. Shropshire. He was going on a business trip out of town and I was the only person with the combination to get into the safe for business travel. I was never so embarrassed,” she recalled.

NancySpillerCelebrates50YearsTMC was a very different place then; small compared to today’s campus. A cart that wheeled from room to room served as the gift shop.  Vending machines, not a cafeteria, stocked food. Laboring mothers were just screened off from one another with privacy curtains. Calls came in on old operator switchboards.

Five of her closest friends came from TMC – one of whom she’s known since she started 50 years ago.

“We’ve been through marriages and divorces and births and sickness and death and baptisms – you name it,” she said. “We’ve been through it all.”

Spiller remembered the hospital rallying around her when she had her first child, Steven, who was born with a heart condition and required complex surgery. Mr. Shropshire sent a card. The staff raised money through a bake sale. “It wasn’t just coming to do work here – it was like a family rallying around to help,” she recalled. “If I had to do all of it on my own, I’m not sure I could have made it.”

Steven lived to the age of 24. His younger brother Matthew is now a newlywed.

Both were born at TMC.

Spiller initially meant to retire at her 45th milestone, but here she is, still, 5 years later.

In part, it’s because the work is rewarding. She mists up telling of one boy with autism who came in speaking very little, if at all, and who now tells her all about his day.

“I think it’s wonderful what TMC does in the community,” she said.

“I have gone home in tears because of these kids and what we’re able to do for them. If I can make a difference for just one person, that means a lot to me. I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t think I still had that ability.”

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Spotlight on Employee Service: Janie Cook

“They say I’ve been here for 40 years, which is hard to believe since I’m only 39,” jokes Janie Cook on the kudos she’s receiving from her coworkers for her remarkable tenure here at TMC.

“She’s trained in a lot of areas, and has done a lot of things over the decades,” laughs Gilbert Romero, Pharmacy Director since 1981.  He adds, “Janie is part of a pharmacy family that has been around for decades.  We look forward to seeing each other.  We’ve seen her babies grow up into beautiful kids.”

Janie’s sparkling personality, combined with her experience and valuable pharmacy knowledge makes her a huge asset to the team.

What’s changed since she started here as an intern in 1972?  Lots.  At the time, she says, most medications were in vials, offering a 3 to 5 day supply.  As things evolved, so did her ability to counsel patients, and speak with physicians about a patient’s therapy.  Fast-forward a few more years, and Janie says she and have team now has even more interaction with physicians and other healthcare professionals.  Her responsibilities include monitoring drugs and drug levels, antibiotic levels, and therapy.

In a field that is always changing, Janie is big on continuing education classes.  Outside of work, she’s active in her church, and loves going out to nice dinners.  Janie says she’s looking forward to spending the next 40 years at TMC, and hollers with a smile, “time flies when you’re having fun!”

Spotlight on Employee Service: Donna Brewer

Donna Brewer will be the first one to tell you that her job isn’t glamorous.  But she’s been doing it…day in, and day out…for the past 40 years.  And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Donna started at TMC in 1972.  She currently works as a wound, ostomy, and continence nurse.  In fact, she was the first nurse to be board certified in the triple field back in 1981.

“I chose ostomy as a specialty because I saw in the unit that people were afraid of working with ostomy patients.  I don’t have an ostomy.  No one in my family has an ostomy.  But I saw what it meant to people to have somebody work with these patients.  I chose to go into this field instead of one that was a little more glamorous.  This is challenging.”

Urodynamics and wound care manager Valerie Crain has worked with Donna for a number of years and says Donna has a real gift of working with this patient population.  “Caring for the patient is her primary focus.  There isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for the patient.  She has been creative in solutions to different problems that we’ve had with patients who have ostomies.”

Donna’s day-to-day operations have changed quite a bit since she started.  “My ostomy supplies primarily came through the pharmacy department at that time.  But if I needed something special, I had to walk across the street to the old Danny’s Pharmacy, get special permission, pick up a pink slip, bring it back to pharmacy, and make sure it was okayed.”

Donna has worked in all of the units at TMC – and treated everyone from NICU babies to the elderly.  She calls her experience at TMC “rewarding” and loves that TMC is one level.  Donna, we hope your thoughts don’t change when the tower is completed next Spring!

Her kind heart is shown not only in the compassionate care she gives her patients, but also in the volunteer work she does with those in need, including ostomy patients and women who have Ovarian cancer.  Crain says, “She’s really well-known around here.  She’s like a TMC icon.  Everyone knows Donna Brewer.  And they rely on her advice.  She has a tendency to go above and beyond to take care of whatever that problem is.”

Thank you, Donna, for your 40 years of service to TMC, and Southern Arizona.

Spotlight on Employee Service: Georgia Turner

If you hear someone in Unit 600 with an infectious laugh, or perhaps even singing, chances are it’s Georgia Turner.  She currently works as a patient care tech in outpatient surgery, but chuckled when she added that she’s been here so long, she has practically worked in the entire hospital.

“I started here when I had little babies.  Now they have babies and grandchildren.”  When Georgia is not at TMC taking care of her patients, she is caring for her 6-year-old great granddaughter.  “We’re best friends,” she says.

A true people-person, Georgia says it’s the patients who have made her time here so enjoyable.  Barbara Niles, Clinical Nurse Lead, uses the word “consistent” to describe Georgia.  “She is always kind to every patient.  She has a great sense of humor,” she says.  “Other employees look to her for knowledge, experience, and expertise with patient care.”

As Georgia celebrates this milestone, she admits it’s one she still finds hard to believe.  “It went by so fast…just like yesterday, practically.”  Although she doesn’t want to “hang it up” anytime soon, she knows that eventually that day will come….but not until she has the opportunity to work in the new tower.

From all of us here at TMC, thank you, Georgia, for your 40 years of service.

Spotlight on Employee Service: Rita Cadava

Dedicated.  Knowledgeable.  Problem-solver.  Perfectionist.  All words that have been used to describe Rita Cadava, TMC’s Service Pin honoree who is celebrating 40 years of service.

Rita’s story of her time at TMC dates back to 1970 when was participating in her high school’s co-op program.  She was just 17 years old at the time, and in 1972, landed a job as a financial counselor.  She spent time in the business office, and has worked in literally every position in the admitting department.

Today, she works at the El Dorado campus, and is a huge resource to those who don’t have the experience she does.  “Rita has always been the go-to person for her co-workers,” says Rita’s manager, Patty Ledbetter.  She adds that others in the department recognize Rita for her wealth of knowledge.  Rita’s leadership is just as impressive as her work.  “She believes in being accurate and through, and her work is just impeccable.  The quality is perfect.  She’s given that time.  She’s spent that time building that reputation.  And she deserves the recognition she gets for it,” says Ledbetter.

TMC holds a special place in Rita’s heart for many reasons.  Among them: This is where she met her husband.  Today, they have eight grandkids who lovingly consume most of Rita’s time when she’s not on the clock.  Rita, we hope your grandkids spoil you for this incredible milestone you’ve reached.  Thank you for serving Tucson Medical Center, and the Southern Arizona community, for the past 40 years!

Spotlight on Employee Service: David Howell

If you walk through the halls of the pediatric fluoro room in the Radiology department, it’s impossible not to notice the colorful artwork on the walls, and kid-friendly play room.  These are just a few of the many ideas partly inspired by David Howell.

David is celebrating his 50 years of service at TMC this year – a long career that started back in 1962, when he was just 16 years old.  He gets a good laugh thinking back to those days when he was actually living on campus.

“There was a residence for employees.  There were 12 rooms, and one shower for all 12 rooms, which proved interesting at times,” he recalls.  Rent was a whopping $12.50 a month –  Oh how things have changed!

David was hired as a houseboy, and was responsible for taking care of the yards and running errands for administration.  A few years later, he started working in the Radiology Department as an X-ray fluoroscope coordinator, getting patients ready for their exams.  It was here that David’s fun-loving personality quickly put anxious patients at ease.  David’s boss of the last 15 years, Luis Sapien, says, “David was a pro at establishing rapport with patients, but also their families.  His laughter, his humor, his compassion.  He just has a great way of making you feel welcome at TMC.”

While the patients certainly made his time enjoyable at TMC, he also loved that his job allowed him to do the things outside of work that he loved.  David did an assortment of volunteer work with senior groups, and church groups over the years.  He was in a rock-and-roll band in the 1960s, and even raced cars for 20 years.  It was actually through his racing that he experienced what became his fondest memory of his time at TMC.  He became friends with a special patient, a little girl who came with her family to TMC often.  As her health started to deteriorate, all she wanted was to see David race.  Her family arranged it, and shortly afterwards, she sent him a note that read, “I’ll see you in Heaven.  Thank you, David, for being so great.”

David says he has thousands of memories of his time spent in the Radiology department.  When he leaves TMC later this year, his colleagues will have many fond memories of him, including how he would thank them at the end of each work day.  Today, we are saying thank you, David, for your years of service and dedication to Tucson Medical Center.

Spotlight on Employee Service: Tina Aviles

“See you in a few minutes!”  It’s what Tina Aviles says to her coworkers at the end of every single workday in pre-anesthesia testing – her signature phrase that really means, “I’ll see you tomorrow!”

Yolanda Espinoza has known Tina for the past 20 years.  The two started working together in outpatient nursing.  Over her years at TMC, Tina also spent time in women’s services, surgery admissions, recovery, and was a senior unit clerk.  Her decades of experience makes her the go-to person in the department for workers who need guidance on a situation.

“She’s adored by a lot of people,” says Yolanda, who is quick to add that Tina’s great smile and quick wit puts patients at ease.

Outside of work, Tina holds the Arizona Wildcats near and dear to her heart – especially the Wildcat basketball team!  Another love?  Travel.  She says she’s been to half the world already.  And if you ask her what’s on her bucket list, she may tell you that she wants to travel the other half!  Tina, we hope you get the opportunity!

Congratulations on this incredible milestone you have reached.  We appreciate your 45 years of service to TMC, and thank you!

Spotlight on Employee Service: Carl Lo

When Carl Lo started at TMC, he knew he wanted to be a long-term employee.  But he never imagined that 40 years later, he’d still be here.  He’s been in the same department he started in back in 1972, and is currently a supervisor in the microbiology laboratory section of the clinical laboratory.

“When you talk to him, you can tell he is very passionate about his job,” says Laboratory Manager Sanjay Timbadia.

What does Carl enjoy most about his job?  He doesn’t hesitate for a single second when he says, “the people.”  Some of his co-workers are also some of his closest friends.  Carl says the laboratory staff was actually bigger when he started, than it is now.  Perhaps the biggest change he’s seen is in the technology.  Carl recalls that when he started working here, a lot of the testing methods he’d use were manual methods.  Now, automated instruments have drastically reduced the amount of time it takes to get results.

“Results that may have taken us 24 to 48 hours in the past are now able to be generated in probably 5 to 12 hours time.  That’s a big difference in the amount of time it takes us to get the information the clinician needs in order to treat their patient.”  That’s what keeps Carl plugging away – knowing that he’s making a difference.

“I hope I can be here for the next 40 years,” he says with a smile.  Although he’s quick to add that realistically, it may be another 6 or 7 before he retires.  We appreciate your service, Carl!

Spotlight on Employee Service: Patti Kubista

Patti Kubista started getting a paycheck from TMC in 1972, but her work – and her memories – go back a few years before that when she spent time as a Candy Striper.  “The gift shop that I was doing candy striping at was very, very small – almost the size of a bathroom.  I remember coming in, and feeling very welcome.”  It’s that experience, she says, that made her realize what a family-oriented place TMC is.

“In a lot of the areas, there’s still a family connection in the hospital.”  Patti has worked in the IT department for the last 40 years, and credits her happiness to the fantastic people she’s been surrounded with.

“I think TMC recruits very talented people across the organization.  And because of that, it allowed me to stay here.  If I was unhappy, I would have left.”

Patti credits Falena Reed, her Information Systems Manager, with fostering a true team spirit in the IT department.  “She listens to us.  She knocks down barriers.  She really works as a manger for us.  And I’m not saying that because she’s my manager, and my evaluation is coming up pretty soon,” she jokes.  Patti notes that the entire team feels this way, and that strong leadership encourages cohesiveness.

The department is big on celebrating birthdays.  If you’re the one celebrating, you have to pose a question – either simple, or complex – that everyone has to answer.  Sometimes, the responses are pretty surprising – a team-building exercise that brings this bunch even closer together.

As a manager, Reed says Patti is a true gem, “I feel blessed that she’s on my team.  She’s an incredibly hard worker and she’s fun to work with.   She’s one of those people where you can give her an assignment and you know she is going to run with it, and see it until the end.  She is just incredible.  Patti, you can’t retire until I do, because I don’t want to do the job without you!”

TMC thanks you, Patti, for your years of service to the Southern Arizona community.

Spotlight on Employee Service: Service Pin Ceremony

It’s hard to believe that it’s already that time of year again, where we shine the spotlight on some extraordinary employees, and celebrate their many years of service to Tucson Medical Center.  The annual Service Pin Ceremony in which TMC honors employees who have reached a five-year milestone of consecutive service, will take place on Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Westin La Paloma.

We wanted to dish up some much-deserved kudos for these employees ahead of the event as well.  Starting today, you can read about these incredible people, and their memories from their time at TMC.  This year, we are giving special recognition to  some long-time employees, including one 50-year honoree:  David Howell from Radiology.  David lived on campus during his early days here, where he rented a room for $12.50 a month!  There are some other long-time stars, too, including Nancy Spiller and Tina Aviles, who have been here for 45-years.  There’s another group right behind them at 40-years of service that includes Janie Cook, Patti Kubista, Georgia Turner, Rita Cadava, Vickie Nunez, Carl Lo, and Donna Brewer. 

Each employee has a story to tell, and a rich history to share.  Donna – a wound, ostomy, and continence nurse, will tell you about the early days when she had to go to Danny’s Pharmacy across the street in order to get her supplies!  There are many other honorees with amazing stories of friendship, dedication and love for TMC.

The Service Pin Ceremony is TMC’s opportunity to recognize those employees who are truly proud to be here.  Enjoy reading their stories in the coming days.  They may conjure up some memories yourself!

About the ceremony:  TMC’s annual  Service Pin Ceremony will be held on Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Westin La Paloma.  This year’s theme is the 2012 Olympics – Celebrating TMC’s Medalists.  Everyone celebrating milestone anniversaries this year received invitations in the mail and can bring one guest at no charge.


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