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Kansas Home Care & Hospice Association

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Kansas Home Care & Hospice Association

Home Care & Hospice Physician of the Year Honorees

Each year at our Annual Conference, the Kansas Home Care & Hospice Association likes to recognize some of the special people in the home care and hospice industry. Our Home Care & Hospice Physician of the Year Award honors a physician or nurse practitioner who excels in providing and utilizing home care, and who advocates for home care within the health care system.  

2023 Honoree

Jennifer Eagleson, APRN
Greenwood County Hospital, Eureka, KS

Her nomination reads:  “Jennifer Eagleson is an Advance Nurse Practitioner who specializes in family medicine at one of our rural health clinics.  Her friendly down to earth approach puts patients and providers at ease while earning their trust with her patient advocation and compassionate care. Jen maintains open communication and a great working relationship with our home health agency with her prompt responses to requests and orders.

In the past, when working with a mobile healthcare company, Jen made home visits with home health nurses to ensure thorough and timely provider assessments were performed for vulnerable home health patients who had limited ability to leave the home for appointments. Her timely communication isn’t only during clinic hours, she replies after clinic hours which is a huge asset to HH field staff.

She is a full-time caregiver who will assist patients with anything from toileting and transfers to assisting with codes that come in through the ER. When her patients are in the ER and she knows this, she makes a point to go over and check on them. She assists in seeing patients on the hospital nursing floor and ER, as well as her clinic appointments. She is a huge advocate for HH services and sees the value HH brings to all patients.”

2022 Honoree

Elizabeth Mercado, APRN

Regional Director

Health Watch Home Health & Hospice, Liberal, KS

Her nomination reads:  "Elizabeth Mercado was born and raised in Liberal, KS. She has 3 wonderful children and became interested in nursing while taking care of her grandfather due to his heart issues before his passing. She obtained her nursing degree at the local college in Liberal and received RN in 2011. She worked at the local hospital full time and then went back to school for her BSN. Then after being hired in 2017 as the DON of Health Watch Home Health office in Liberal, she finished her Advanced Practice degree in 2019. She was then offered the position of Regional Director of Liberal, Garden City, Lakin, and Guymon Provider numbers and Health Watch Hospice. Liz has been very instrumental in growing her region to the largest in the 36 office company. She continues to grow her region and her staff and works closely with the Hospice Physician to assure her Hospice patients receive the best care available. She provides direct patient care to assure her offices maintain 4 - 5 Star CMS ratings. Elizabeth is the primary reason that Health Watch continues to grow in SW Kansas."

2021 Honoree

Dr. Kevin Sundbye

Medical Director

Caregivers Home Health, Topeka, KS

His nomination reads:  "Dr Kevin Sundbye has been our Medical Director for 11 years. During that time, he has played a significant role in the recognition, promotion, and utilization of Home Health services in our community. As a Stormont Vail Post-Acute Physician/“SNFist”, he provides physician services to multiple SNF/AL sites, consistently advocating for home health services as an valued resource in the post-acute care continuum.

"Specific to our agency, Dr Sundbye acts a peer liaison with physicians for issues/questions with homecare patients. He identifies resources, connects us to people/programs to address patient needs, and advocates for patients who might benefit from home health. When no physician was available, he has provided home visits to assess, initiate, or continue services. He meets with us regularly to review current programs and provide insight into current and future priorities. He has helped establish a “chair at the table” for home health services in the hospital/SNF community; a positive voice in keeping home health in the discussion.

"In summary, Dr Sundbye has been our guide, advisor, medical resource, advocate, and friend we could count on to act in the best interest of patients at all levels of post-acute care. We would like to recognize him for his selfless dedication to patients and the community and thank him for his positive impact on home health agencies and the people we serve. He is a physician we would want to have working with our family member and we are certain he would refer for home health services when needed!"

    2020 Honoree

    Dr. Christopher Worthen

    Clay Center Family Physicians, Clay Center, KS

    His nomination reads:  "We are appreciative of Dr. Worthen and his willingness to refer patients to hospice and to have conversations with patients about why hospice will be of benefit to them. Dr. Worthen likes to remain active in the care of his patients and work with our team to ensure the best decisions are made for the good of his patients. He acknowledges that patients at end of life should be allowed to make decisions for how their journey finishes. We once served a patient who's end of life wish was to have fried chicken and pepsi and Dr. Worthen was very much on board that sometimes end of life wishes are not big and grandiose. They are the normal everyday loves that maybe have been taken away from us in the course of our healthcare due to our illness. Dr. Worthen makes himself available to staff for his patients on hospice care. He wishes to speak with us directly so the wishes of his patients are met timely and have the best outcome as possible. He is willing to make home visits in times of extreme need to navigate the best options for his patients. Our team appreciates that Dr. Worthen "gets it". He understands that the home environments we are working in are not a hospital setting, but it is the comfortable setting for the patient."

    2019 Honoree

    Fonda La Frenz
    Nurse Practitioner
    Northeast Kansas Multi-County HH & Hospice, Hiawatha, KS

    Her nomination reads: “Fonda is a critical part of our team. She retired a few years ago from the local family practice but continued as a nurse practitioner for two different hospices.  She has a passion for helping those at the end of life.  Our staff knows we can contact her anytime we are in a pinch and need a provider's assistance.  Weekends, holidays, evenings, she is available to lend a hand. She attends our IDT meetings and actively participates with out of the box ideas to meet our patients' needs.  If we are stymied with managing a patient, she will make home visits to help us figure out a plan forward.  Fonda will make home visits to those who are too ill to go to a clinic.  Patients and families know that Fonda will be direct with them and give them the knowledge they need to make the right decisions for themselves.  Even while dealing with her own health issues at times, there is no doubt she will continue to help those at end of life until she physically cannot.  She bonds with some patients over shared aches and pains.  Fonda La Frenz is a true hero and champion for those with serious disease in our community."

    2018 Honoree 

    Becky Rhone, APRN

    Wilson Medical Center, Neodesha, KS

    Her nomination reads: “Becky Rhone is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner who specializes in wound care.  She travels multiple counties throughout the week to see patients in their homes, nursing homes, and assisted living that cannot travel to the wound clinic, while also seeing patients in the wound clinic twice a week.  She advocates for her patients and has excellent follow-through.  She treats patients in the holistic manner and does not just see the patient as a wound patient.  She is thorough with her wound care and is open to trying new things to enhance the healing of her patient’s wounds." 

    "Becky is a vital asset to our home health care team.  Without her support in the home, completing complicated wound care management would be unbearable to our home health agency staff.  She is able to provide a wealth of knowledge, support, and helps to provide resources to the patient and family.  For instance, one particular client's goal was to leave a long term care facility and go back home.  This patient had complicated wound care that her husband would not be to manage by himself.  Becky worked countless hours with this patient and family to get the support in the home so patient would be able to not only reach her goal, but to be successful.  Becky was able to get a hospital bed ordered with specialty air mattress, manage a wound care plan that both her, home health agency, and family/caregivers would be able to follow, worked on diet and nutritional plan to add supplements to help patient reach her nutritional goals.  With Becky's determination and perseverance to help this patient, she did just that and the patient was able to reach her primary objective, and now working on another goal to heal her wound with a surgical flap.

    "Again, Becky Rhone, APRN is an outstanding resource in Southeast Kansas.  A true pioneer for home care."

    2017 Honoree

      Dr. Samuel Dandar

      Hospice Medical Director

      Saint Luke's Home Care & Hospice, Lansing, KS

      A portion of his nomination reads: “Dr. Dandar has been the Hospice Medical Director for Saint Luke's Hospice for over 10 yrs. During his tenure, he has endured us with great medical care, compassion, empathy, guidance and direction. Dr. Dandar is available 24/7. This included a time when he was out of town. He has also made several home visits at the drop of a hat when needed. He has presented to the community on end of life decisions and the need to make them. He is also on the board of directors for our Leavenworth community indigent health care program. I have listened to him and watched him interact with patients. His compassion is one that makes you walk away knowing that whatever decision was made, difficult or not, it was made with the knowledge needed and a feeling of satisfaction/empathy, that it is the right decision.....

      "Words in my heart can not be communicated in my words on paper, to the blessing it is to have Dr. Dandar as a part of our medical community and our hospice team. He is a true testament to the mission of Hospice and Home care and should receive this award."

      2016 Honoree

      Dr. Brad Appl

      Medical Director

      Aquinas Home Health, Shawnee, KS

      A portion of his nomination reads: “Dr. Brad Appl is the medical director and part owner of Aquinas Home Health. He grew up on a farm in Leoti Kansas. He is the glue which keeps AHH being one of the only five-star agencies in the Kansas City metro area.

      "Dr. Appl has been instrumental in the strategic planning of AHH's disease specific programs. He can be found at AHH weekly where he reviews all clinical management reports regarding staffing, re-hospitalizations, complaints, supply utilization, program evaluation, and overall operations for the agency...."Dr. Appl is an inspiring leader, a dedicated father, and a beloved board certified family physician of 7200 patients. His love for people and his desire to heal are evident in everything that he does and his unassuming nature is refreshing! I would really appreciate you considering honoring his dedication to others by naming him physician of the year."

      2015 Honoree

      Dr. Wayne Wallace Jr.

      Medical Director

      Atchison Hospital Home Health & Hospice, Atchison, KS

      Pictured right with Kris Meinert, Director, Atchison Hospital Home Health & Hospice 

      A portion of his nomination reads: “Dr. Wallace has experienced over 40 years of health care and it's many changes. When he began his practice it was beside his father when the art of medicine looked much different then present. Dr. Wallace has worked in numerous areas of medicine over his career which has helped shape his views on Homecare and specifically Hospice. He has worked in Private Practice, Substance abuse, Anesthesiology, Workman's Compensation, Business Health and Homecare. He is a natural educator with Co-workers, students, families and patients. He advocates strongly for patients to receive excellent care, good pain control and peace as they leave this life behind. As nurses we know Dr. Wallace will always answer the phone any time day and night and do so willingly and kindly to solve an issue for a patient. He will make home visits whenever asked. I've had to argue with him that he cannot be available to the agency while lying in a hospital bed as a patient himself! We know at Atchison Hospital Homecare that Dr. Wallace is a "one in a million", we would like for everyone at KHCA to know as well. ”  

      2014 Honoree

        Richard Whitlow, MD

        Internal Medicine

        Saint Luke’s Medical Group, Lansing, KS

        A portion of his nomination reads: “I have had the privilege to work with Dr. Whitlow for more than 25 years in the home care field. He has been very proactive and supportive of disease management with appropriate referrals to home health to maximize patient success at home...  Dr. Whitlow has also done home visits when patients are truly homebound. He has also supported the face-to-face commitment with a home visit when needed.... I hope that Dr. Whitlow is considered for this honor related to his understanding, commitment and dedication to home health and hospice.”   

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