The Joplin Business Journal has selected three from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College to be among this year’s Health Care Heroes.  The top prize in Outstanding Achievement in Health Care Education has been jointly awarded to Bethene Fahnestock, interim dean of the School of Human Environmental Sciences, and Deborah Morgan, chair of the Department of Nursing.  Sarah Smith, a sophomore nursing major, has been named the top winner of the Non-Physician Health Care Provider category.

The Joplin Business Journal’s Health Care Heroes recognizes individuals and organizations for their outstanding efforts in promoting and providing health care services and education to the communities they serve, said Phil Graham, vice president for major accounts.

“Not only do these awards honor those professionals that serve in their respective medical and Allied Health fields, but it spotlights many of the advances and innovations made in the industry that have raised the level of health care in the region to among the highest in the nation,” Graham said. 

Morgan and Fahnestock have played crucial roles in the establishment of NEO’s Fast-Track to RN programs for licensed practical nurses and paramedics.  The pair also led the NEO Nursing Department in its receipt of a full accreditation by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission and approval by the Oklahoma Board of Nursing in 2006.  Throughout the devastation caused by the flood of 2007, Fahnestock and Morgan were able to relocate nursing classes and maintain a quality education for their students despite being displaced from their building.

“Bethene and Debbie, along with the NEO Nursing faculty, have been the driving forces that have moved the Nursing Program forward, meeting the demands of our students and the nursing community,” said Dr. Jeffery Hale, president.  “Their efforts have enabled Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College to provide a greater number of nurses at a time when the industry is suffering from a lack of individuals in health care professions.”

Sarah Smith, a Tulsa native, is an NEO sophomore nursing major who wrote and was awarded a $1000 grant toward the purchase of a new vitals machine for the Ottawa County Health Clinic.  The grant Smith received is a Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur Award that has been administered through Oklahoma Campus Compact.  It is sponsored by the Roselyn and Jimmy Carter Partnership Foundation.   

“Students such as Sarah are the reason why the Nursing Program at NEO is known across the region for producing exceptional graduates,” said Hale.  “As a student, Sarah participated in clinical rotations at the Clinic and through that experience was able to identify this need.  We are proud that her contributions will benefit the Clinic and the Ottawa County community.”

Graham said the response to the call for nominations for the awards was unprecedented.  The Journal recognized 34 professionals and organizations.  Thirty-eight winners were selected from nine categories, including Community Outreach, Medical Clinics, Physician, Nurse, Health Care Provider – Non-Physician, Professional Staff, Volunteers, Outstanding Achievement in Health Care Education, and Lifetime Achievement.