In just one year, TMC volunteers donated a whopping 10 years of collective work

Volunteers help others get around the hospital.jpgChecking people in for breast screenings. Making home visits to hospice patients. Sharing the love of a therapy pet. Cuddling babies. Playing soothing instruments. Sewing heart pillows for cardiac patients. Running a resale boutique. Making daily visits to patients. Praying with patients under the guidance of pastoral services. And on and on.

Volunteers make a difference every day at Tucson Medical Center.

TMC thanks its more than 600 volunteers – from college students to retirees – who give their time across nearly 60 areas of the hospital to bring comfort and support to those in need.

TealSaguaro (2).jpgIn fact, our volunteers donated nearly 92,000 hours in 2017 to support TMC’s mission to provide exceptional health care with compassion.

That’s slightly more than 3,833 days of helping others. That’s the equivalent of 10 years of work – and 44 annual full-time employees! Whew!



Giving back gives back – TMC volunteers find true love together

Amidst the busy TMC surgery reception area, a few sparks flew on Tuesday afternoons between volunteers Paul Kelly and Sharon O’Koren. “We just had so much in common,” said Kelly. “From growing up in smaller towns and raising children to our likes and our dislikes – I felt like I could talk to her about anything.”

A lot in common

The two had a lot in common and shared something in common as well. “Paul and Sharon were perfect for surgery reception – both have such helpful attitudes and a sincere rapport with patients,” said Mary Leyva, a volunteer services specialist at the TMC Auxiliary.

Paul and Sharon started volunteering about a year ago, and as the weeks became months, the two volunteers got to know each other better. Both looked forward to volunteering at TMC every Tuesday afternoon – in part because they were making a meaningful difference in the community, and in part because of each other.

“We were doing a lot of good at the reception desk – but I really couldn’t wait to see him,” said Sharon. “We had great talks and great laughs,” Paul said with a smile.


After several months, Paul decided to ask Sharon to dinner. “I didn’t hesitate,” said Sharon. “We really do have a lot in common – even our birthdays are just days apart,” Sharon said. “We really hit it off,” Paul shared.

The question

The two continued to grow closer as they dated due to their shared experiences. “We have both lost our spouses, we both have family in Tucson, graduated high school around the same time and have the same sense of humor – the more time we spent with one-another the more we enjoyed each other’s company,” said Sharon.

What brought them together

Serendipity and an affinity for helping the community brought them together at TMC. “I worked in the medical field for many years and wanted to volunteer in a hospital,” said Sharon. “My daughter is a nurse here in Tucson and she recommended TMC.”

Paul is a retired Raytheon engineer, who originally hails from Jerome, but has called Tucson home for nearly 45 years. “I wanted to volunteer at TMC and give back to the hospital that cared for my family over the years.”

Earlier this month, the couple endeavored to spend the rest of their lives together when Paul popped the question and Sharon said yes!

What’s next for the happy couple? Sharon was quick with an answer. “Plan a wedding and keep volunteering at TMC.”


Could you be a friend for a senior?

SeniorHomeVisitsThere are seniors in your area who are waiting for a visit right now.

In just an hour each week, you could make a difference in the life of an older adult.

Senior Home Visit volunteers provide a friendly face and supportive listening to older adults who may not see anyone else during the week.

Volunteers can make a positive difference in the lives of others, particularly for those who are socially isolated, since loneliness can lead to depression and worsening health conditions.

If you are 50+ and are interested in volunteering, please contact Anne Morrison at 324-3746 or to find out more.

Cigna, March of Dimes and TMC share A Common Thread

008Summertime in not usually when Tucsonans think about needing a knit-cap…unless they are a preemie.

This summer, thousands of cute knit-caps are available for preemies thanks to Cigna volunteers, who donated the caps to TMC during national volunteer week.

In April, Cigna volunteers traveled from Phoenix to deliver nearly 3,000 knit caps for NICU babies at Tucson Medical Center.

The community service project is called A Common Thread, and was founded by Cigna employees as part of Cigna’s national sponsorship of the March of Dimes.

The caps provide warmth for babies, which is particularly important for infants facing serious health challenges. Crocheted in many sizes, the caps can accommodate both premature and full-term babies. In addition, families enjoy the different styles and colors that give the newborns individuality.

014“We are most proud of this project,” said Jessica Celentano, executive director of market development at the Southern Arizona March of Dimes. “Each hat takes about 20 minutes to knit – that’s more than 900 volunteer hours to provide a needed and heartfelt service for families in our region.”

Cigna has been a partner of the March of Dimes and a national sponsor of March for Babies for the past 23 years. Since A Common Thread was founded, more than 12,000 baby hats have been donated to NICUs throughout the country and more than 8,500 have been donated in Arizona.

“It is a priority for Cigna and our employees to meaningfully contribute to local communities,” said Dr. Isaac Martinez, medical director of Cigna HealthCare. He joined Cigna employees Pamela Martin and Theresa Richards to deliver the 2,700+ caps to TMC. “Thanks to the many Cigna volunteers, like Pamela and Theresa, we’re honored to make this contribution to TMC.”

002Celentano, Martin, Richards and Dr. Martinez carried countless blue satchels filled with the donated caps through TMC’s Joel M. Childers Women’s Center. Pat Brown, TMC director of women’s and children’s services, thanked them for the unique caps and their community service.

“We are so thankful for their time and effort,” Brown said. “These caps are wonderful gifts for the babies and their families – and there is enough to last us for years.”

The NICU at TMC treats about 500 infants in the NICU each year, and more than 5,000 babies are born annually at TMC’s labor and delivery department – one of the busiest in the state.  A perfect fit for the sizeable donation.

Learn more about Cigna’s community support efforts like A Common Thread, on their Facebook page or on Twitter @Cigna or #CignaAZ. The March of Dimes website can provide more information about their efforts to help infants and families.



TMC Auxiliary presents gifts, welcomes new officers

Auxiliary Logo ProofThe TMC Auxiliary is thrilled to present gifts to TMC and announce a new installation of board of director officers! The TMC Auxiliary formed in 1949 and remains an integral part of the hospital providing volunteer and philanthropic support. TMC Auxiliary volunteers work in more than 40 areas of the hospital. In addition to giving their time, they also provide annual financial support to TMC, funding needed internal programs and projects.

The support the Auxiliary provides to TMC is truly astounding. In 2015, for example, they logged more than 78,000 hours – the equivalent of 40 full-time employees! Auxiliary volunteers made almost 1,500 heart pillows and delivered them to our cardiac patients to help them recover. They made and delivered nearly 400 walker bags and delivered them to patients in need along with almost 200 quilts for our pediatric patients and babies in the newborn intensive care unit. Additionally, they provided more than 16,000 patient-assistance visits.

On behalf of the TMC Auxiliary:

▪ Jon Schwindt presented a $50,000 check for the Joel M. Childers, M.D., Women’s Surgery Center
▪ Janet Grubbs presented a $30,000 check for breast screening services
▪ Sue Burg presented a $10,000 check for TMC’s Memory Care program
▪ Diana Bergen presented a $10,000 check for the Healing Arts program and a $4,000 check for TMC Foundation events
▪ Ginny Robbins presented a $7,500 check to provide medical massages to open heart patients
▪ Al Frizelle presented a $7,500 check to provide scholarships to patients who need Cardiac Rehab
▪ Lewis Jones presented a $6,000 check for TMC Hospice family assistance
▪ Shirley Alfano presented a $5,000 check for pediatric staff to purchase Tomas the Turtle stuffed animals for children to hold as they undergo anesthesia

IMG_4123Congratulations to the new TMC Auxiliary Officers:

▪ Dan Bailey, President
▪ Jim Kelaher, Vice President
▪ Gary Hembree, Treasurer
▪ Ginny Robbins, Parliamentarian
▪ Janet Grubbs, Volunteer Advocate
▪ Diana Bergen, Member at Large
▪ Marge Zismann, Member at Large
▪ Barbara Hammond, Member at Large
▪ Shirley Alfano, Member at Large
▪ Carole Fee, Service Coordinator
▪ Lewis Jones, Past President

TMC sincerely appreciates all of our volunteers for their time, talent and treasure!
If you are interested in joining this incredible volunteer force at TMC, please click here.

“She gained as much as she gave.” TMC Volunteer contributes to major improvements for diabetics’ care

Marjorie Zismann TMC Volunteer

Marjorie Zismann
TMC Volunteer

“You have diabetes.  Buy a book.”

That’s what Marjorie Zismann’s doctor told her when he diagnosed her with type 2 diabetes in her early 60’s.  Since then, attempts to understand her disease have left her completely frustrated. Every day, she weighs herself, pricks her finger, squeezes out a drop of blood to check her blood sugar and takes her medication. Mealtimes consist of sorting out “yes” foods from “no” foods, which leaves her feeling restricted with little control over her disease.

Now 78 years old and retired, Zismann volunteers at Tucson Medical Center. She was a patient here about a year ago, and was invited to be a patient advocate during what’s called a “kaizen.”  It’s a rapid-improvement workshop made up of about a dozen leaders from different departments who set out to tackle a very specific issue. The meeting is a crucial process of TMC’s journey to a Lean culture, which produces patient-focused, reliable, safe and compassionate care through continuous improvement and the purposeful use of our resources.

The challenge of this particular kaizen: improving glycemic management for TMC patients with type 1 diabetes and keeping them from having multiple hypoglycemic, or low blood sugar, events during their stay. For three days, members from pharmacy, dietary, and the diabetes educators, among others, dug into how to provide better care for these patients. “Every time an idea was pitched, we’d run it by Marjorie to get the patient perspective,” said Pat Ledin, a member of the TMC Lean Team, which organized the kaizen. “We’d ask her, ‘Would that help you? Would that offend you?  How would that make you feel?’ We can’t stress how important it is for us to hear the voice of our patients and involve them in every change and process improvement.”

The visual cue that was created to alert staff to patients at risk for hypoglycemic episodes

The visual cue that was created to alert staff to patients at risk for hypoglycemic episodes

Some improvements were made immediately, including educating the medical staff who are on the front lines. Special signs were created and placed on the doors of patients with diabetes to serve as a reminder to staff that a patient is at risk for hypoglycemia.  Finger sticks are done on a more consistent basis, which allows for more coordination with meal times. Pre-packaged “snack attacks” are readily available for when patients do have an episode. “These have the right number of carbohydrates and protein, so it’s the perfect snack for this type of patient. It’s bulletproof,” said Ledin. Supply kits have been streamlined, there is a standardized approach to what staff does with a patient’s medication, and there is more consistency in how these patients are cared for among different departments.

One thing the team found may be contributing to more hypoglycemic events – TMC’s On Demand Room Service, which allows patients the flexibility to call in their meals whenever they’d like. It’s without a doubt improved overall patient satisfaction scores, but for those with hypoglycemia, it can add confusion about appropriately coordinating meal times. TMC Lean Team leader Cheryl Young explains, “On Demand doesn’t work for these people because their insulin is associated with their mealtime. If they eat at 9 a.m. for example, and want to eat again at 11 a.m., our On Demand service allows them to do that. But if they do, it could cause a hypoglycemic event because the meals are too close together. It’s best to have at least four hours in between meals. So we’re educating these patients that although we have this service, it’s not necessarily the best thing for them and their disease.”  Another little nugget of information that Zismann has found invaluable at home.

“As a result of this kaizen, we now have a standardized approach for the food, medication, education and visuals for these patients,” said Young.

Just one month later – dramatic results.  “With these patients, their disease process causes the hypoglycemic event to happen. But now we are seeing the repetitious events minimized during their stay here, which is a direct result of the improvements put into place from the kaizen,” said Ledin.

Zismann said she learned more about her disease during those three days than she had since her diagnosis more than a decade ago. She discovered TMC has diabetes educators who are available to help patients. “For me, the most frustrating thing has been to try and figure out what I’m supposed to be doing,” said Zismann. “TMC Diabetes Educator Nancy Klug was tremendous. She opened my eyes to the fact that I CAN eat certain foods, I just can’t eat much of them. I left her office feeling so empowered, and relieved that I really didn’t need to be so restrictive!”

Zismann admits she still has a long way to go before fully understanding her disease, but calls the opportunity to join that kaizen “one of the best things that’s ever happened to her.” “I felt like part of the group,” she said. “These people care. They come up with wonderful ideas. They work well together. It was unbelievable to watch them, and I have learned so much from the experience.”

While Zismann is applauding their efforts, the kaizen team leaders insist they’re the ones who were fortunate to have her there.  “We were able to collectively come to better decisions that have already led to better outcomes for our patients because of what Marjorie brought to this process as both a patient and a volunteer,” said Young.  “I think she absolutely gained as much as she gave.”

If you are interested in acting as a patient adviser for a particular department or issue, please contact Angie Bush at (520) 324-5512 or

To contact a TMC Diabetes Educator, please call (520) 324-3526.

Giving back: NICU unit associate making big impact on so many lives

Mary Tisdale TMC NICU Unit Clerk and volunteer

Mary Tisdale
TMC NICU Unit Associate and volunteer

Mary Tisdale never gets tired of seeing babies leave TMC’s newborn intensive care unit – bigger, stronger and healthier than when they came in. “It’s wonderful seeing a little person who came in so small and helpless get to go home because of everyone who worked together to make his or her life better. It’s without a doubt the best part of my job,” she said. As a unit associate in TMC’s NICU for the past 23 years, Tisdale provides valuable support to clinical staff. But on Saturday mornings, she provides support to those babies in a different way – and she doesn’t earn a dime for it.

A volunteer in the NICU encouraged Tisdale to think about giving back. “She told me that they were looking for someone to volunteer at The Teal Saguaro. I thought to myself, ‘I just might like that.’ I’ve always had an interest in retail, and I love shopping, so I gave it a shot,” said Tisdale.

The Teal Saguaro is the TMC Auxiliary’s resale boutique. It’s completely run by TMC volunteers, and all funds raised directly support TMC. “I’ve seen how the funds provide life-saving equipment to NICU babies, and what great comfort that gives their parents,” Tisdale said. “I see the how this money makes programs like the NICU After Care Program possible. Volunteering is just one little way I can give back and continue to help the babies who depend on TMC for care every day.”

In 2013, The Teal Saguaro raised more than $50,000 for the hospital.

The boutique, located at 5395 E. Erickson Drive, just inside the medical park south of TMC, also serves as an easy access resource center for families in need of booster seats and bike helmets for children. And when patients need clothing due to emergency circumstances, staff can offer vouchers good at The Teal Saguaro.

Tisdale says volunteering her time here is incredibly rewarding. She’s one of 500 active volunteers who graciously give their time to TMC on a regular basis, and were honored during National Volunteer Week. On any given day, an estimated 78 volunteers are working at TMC. Last year, they logged a whopping 79,000 hours. “The amount of work our volunteers do for this hospital is truly astounding,” said Hope Thomas, TMC director of Volunteer Services. “We feel so fortunate to have a force who is dedicated to giving not only their time, but also their talents. Mary is a perfect example of someone who wholeheartedly believes in TMC’s mission – a seasoned, dedicated employee who is motivated to help the community in which she serves even when she is off the clock.”

So what’s even better than seeing NICU graduates leave TMC? Tisdale said it’s when those babies come back years later – sometimes with their own kids in tow – to thank the nurses who cared for them. “That is just the best,” laughed Tisdale. “It sure makes us feel old, but there is nothing better than knowing you were a small piece of a big impact on so many lives.”

TMC nurse positively impacts patients 2,500 miles away

TMC Orthopaedics Nurse Sandi Triplett tends to a Haitian girl at a clinic

TMC Orthopaedics nurse Sandi Triplett tends to a Haitian girl at a clinic

TMC Orthopaedics nurse Sandi Triplett is back stateside after a medical mission with Friends of the Children of Haiti, a humanitarian organization that provides vital medical services, clean water and economic opportunity to tens of thousands of people in one of the world’s most impoverished countries.

Triplett had such an enlightening experience during her first medical mission to the country two years ago, that she jumped at the opportunity to go again. This time, she also brought her husband Merle. They were among 23 volunteers who powered on for two weeks, seeing as many as 300 patients a day, like a little girl who had been in a motorcycle accident, the gentleman who had a “crutched leg,”  a baby with congestive heart failure, a baby with pneumonia, and another baby who was diagnosed as failing to thrive.

Merle Triplett visits with a mother and her children

Merle Triplett visits with a mother and her children

“These patients were willing to endure long lines, even wait for days outside the clinic just to be seen,” said Triplett. “They wore their best clothes to get treated, even though the soles of their shoes were often worn to the ground. Their children were extremely well-behaved and well-mannered. They would also wait in long lines without complaining. There’s one little boy in particular who I will never forget. He was about 3 or 4 years old. He was sitting quietly beside his mother in a rather long line. When I handed him a toy car, he jumped up, hugged me, gave me a kiss, and said ‘Merci!’ It truly made my day.”

Triplett worked in the lab and physical therapy. Her husband, who worked as a non-medical volunteer, spent his time as a pharmacy tech, delivered toys to children, and modified shoes for patients with sizable wounds on their feet. “Sharing the experiences at the clinic with Merle was amazing,” said Triplett.

A Haitian girl receives a breathing treatment at the clinic

A Haitian girl receives a breathing treatment at the clinic

During her visit two years ago, Triplett said she was overwhelmed by the number of patients with blood pressures and blood sugars that were completely out of control. “Friends of the Children of Haiti started educational programs for these patients, and it has made a huge difference. This year, a majority of them had their blood pressures and blood sugars much closer to normal. They were more knowledgeable about their disease process and were taking ownership of their health. It was really wonderful to see.”


Last year, Triplett volunteered as a nurse with Honor Flight Southern Arizona, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to send as many World War II veterans to the National WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. as donations will allow. Please click here for that story.

TMC surgeon’s Afghan deployment detailed by KGUN 9 On Your Side

KGUN 9 On Your Side’s Greg Gurule recently shared with viewers the story of TMC Vascular Surgeon Dr. Michael Lavor from Saguaro Surgical.  Dr. Lavor spent several months in Afghanistan with the U.S. Navy directing medical operations and saving lives.  Click here to find out why he can summarize his experience as the good, the bad and the ugly.  Or check out some incredible video from his trip by clicking on the link below.


Afghan deployment was positive experience for seasoned TMC surgeon

Dr. Michael Lavor can summarize his medical stint in Afghanistan for the U.S. Navy over the past year as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Deployed out of the Navy Operational Support Center in Tucson, Dr. Lavor sBlog Lavorpent September 2012 through April 2013 directing medical operations at the base at Tarin Kowt, in southern Afghanistan.

The Good included the fact that we were operating at a coalition base: a Dutch base with an Australian commander, Australian special forces, Slovakian security personnel, Singaporean surveillance… it was amazing how so many people from so many places worked so well together,” he said. “We did a lot of valuable training with Afghan personnel, educating them in medical procedures.”

Dr. Lavor was considerably older than most of his colleagues; he has long years of experience in vascular and trauma surgery in Tucson, and his medical record dates all the way back to military service as a medical corpsman during the Vietnam War era back in the 1960s.

On the Bad side of this new experience – the environment was desolate, rocky, dusty and hot. And the Ugly obviously included the loss of life.

But overall, the experience was generally positive, even in the face of adversity.

“We were staying in temporary shelters,” Dr. Lavor said. “The isolation was especially difficult for the young troops.  We managed to bring sanity back into our lives during downtime. We used things such as basketball, ping pong, Christmas parties, barbecues…We even made our own golf course, good for chipping and putting, with some help.” He thanks Tucson golf pro Don Pooley and Southwest Greens of Tucson for providing the valuable golfing diversion.

Dr. Lavor noted that the medical team served a vital function in treating anyone injured in the conflict – coalition military personnel, Afghan civilians, or wounded insurgents. “We were proud that 100 percent of wounded personnel brought into our base were treated successfully, and were able to leave the base alive.”

In his view, is the ongoing presence in Afghanistan beneficial to the US?  “Yes,” said Dr. Lavor.  “Our team did a phenomenal job in training Afghan medical and military personnel, and it’s certainly a positive situation for the Afghan people. There were many positive interactions; we saw the Australians bringing Afghan teens and other civilians in for training in construction and other skills.”

As for someone at his “advanced age” – he has now turned 64 – Dr. Lavor suggests that age should be no obstacle to service.  “I would encourage physicians even near the end of their career to consider volunteering, to give back.  Being older in age helped provide stability for the junior officers and enlisted personnel.  I had direct responsibility for the wellbeing of my crew as a senior leader.”

It helps to be in shape, he added. Older personnel generally face lower fitness mandates than the younger folks do, but Dr. Lavor noted that he managed to meet the physical qualifications of those 17-to-20-year-olds.

Now, the bigger challenge for him, he admits, may be getting back to the workday routine at Saguaro Surgical P.C., treating patients at facilities such as Tucson Medical Center and the TMC Wound Care Center, and re-learning all those computer systems involved in practicing modern medicine in the U.S.

A perfect match: An organ donor’s personal motivation

Organ Donation 003

Barbara Lacoursiere
Donor Network of Arizona Volunteer

Tucson resident Barbara Lacoursiere understands how far the science of organ donation has come, and how its acceptance has grown over the past 60 years.  And she knows exactly what a precious gift it is to donate. 

Her influence goes back to the early 1950s when her brother Freddie lost his eyesight from diabetes.  “He became what they call a ‘guinea pig’ at the Eye Institute of Minnesota, and they ended up removing his eyes during an experimental procedure,” she said.  “When he came home, he had glass eyes in his pockets and I was so mad at him.  He said ‘Barbara, it’s ok.  I know what the blue sky looks like.  I know what the color red looks like.  Think of all those people who have never seen anything.  Maybe someday what I did will help others.’” 

In 1958, her brother Jerome, who also suffered from diabetes, needed a kidney transplant.  “The Mayo Clinic in Rochester had only done three kidney transplants at that time.  My brother was too sick for them to help him.  It was absolutely devastating for me.  I had to go home and tell my mother the news.  Jerome passed away three months and three days later,” she said.

Determined to put the pain behind her, Lacoursiere didn’t think about organ donation much – until a conversation with another brother, Michael, at a family reunion 16 years ago.  Michael also had diabetes.  “I knew he wasn’t well.  I asked him what was really going on.  He said, ‘I need a kidney.’  I looked at him and said ‘I know they’ve come a long way – so just get one.’  And he looked back at me and said, ‘You know, Barbara, you don’t just get them at Ace Hardware.  Most everybody has two kidneys, and you only need one to live a healthy life.’  I joked, ‘You can have one of mine.’”  But in reality, she wasn’t joking. 

At first, doctors were hesitant to test her to see if she was a match since she was over age 55.  She was 62, but she was healthy and strong.  She convinced them to test her.  Sure enough, she was a match, and donated a kidney to her brother in 2001.  Michael eventually passed away last August.  “He lived 10 years and 10 months with our kidney,” she said tearfully.

Organ Donation 005

The Arizona Donor Quilt

These days, Lacoursiere spends her time volunteering for the Donor Network of Arizona – educating others about the life-saving and life-changing decision they make when they decide to become an organ, tissue and cornea donor.  Lacoursiere was outside of the TMC Cafeteria in front of the Arizona Donor Quilt with TMC Clinical Educator Sue Bentley and her team – educating anyone who would listen, and signing up people who committed to saving and improving lives…long after they pass on.

Organ Donation 006

J.D. Hakes
Organ Donor

The Arizona Donor Quilt is one of 18 currently in the state.  “All of the squares were donated by the families of donors in honor of their loved one,” explained Kristi Clor, Donor Network of Arizona Hospital Donor Program Coordinator.  Each square is a remarkable tribute to a life that was lost but continued to live on. 

One of the squares is for little J.D. Hakes, who was only 2 years old; another for 17-year-old Courtney Wagner.

Organ Donation 007

Courtney Wagner
Organ Donor

For the families, creating a square is often therapeutic.  For those passing by, it’s a way to see the people who have made a difference.  “Instead of ‘my loved one passed away,’ it changes that last chapter of their life, and makes it ‘my loved one passed away but they saved some other people,’” said Clor.

For more information on the registry, click here and check the new tribute site at

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