Palm Healthcare Honors Top Palm Beach County Nurses

WEST PALM BEACH, FL. – They have provided hospice care to veterans as our nation’s heroes face the last battle of their lives, guided families through the difficult end-of-life stages of Alzheimer’s, and founded a school-based health care clinic for underserved children.  These are just a few of the significant achievements behind the eight honorees of the 2008 Palm Healthcare Foundation Nursing Distinction Awards.


On May 9, 2008, Palm Healthcare Foundation brought together over 730 healthcare workers and supporters for one of Palm Beach’s largest and most inspiring events at The Breakers Palm Beach. The event honored registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nurse educators, nursing assistants, nursing students, and volunteers who have made a significant impact in the lives of patients and fellow healthcare professionals throughout Palm Beach County. 


A committee of 30 selected the eight honorees from 160 nominations submitted by healthcare professionals and patients/families.  Winners were chosen on the basis of dedication to excellence in an area of expertise beyond the scope of their jobs, commitment to the profession of nursing, and a sense of community. Gale Howden, VP Community Relations and Marketing of the Palm Beach Post, Robert Jaffe, Palm Healthcare Foundation Chair, and Steve Weagle, WPTV Chief Meteorologist, the evening’s charming emcee, had the honor of handing out the awards to the deserving honorees.


The 2008 Palm Healthcare Foundation Nursing Distinction Award honorees are:


2008 Palm Healthcare Foundation and Palm Beach Post Nurse of the Year: Gary Reardon*, MSN, MSHRDA Director of Surgical Services/Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Columbia Hospital


Achievement:  Having advanced in his career from orderly to Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Mr. Reardon consistently seeks opportunities to develop, challenge and promote staff.  He is focused on retention, mentorship and empowerment in the nursing field.  In 2003, Mr. Reardon was awarded the Dr. Thomas Frist Humanitarian Award, given in honor of his outstanding commitment to humanitarian values.


Recommendation:  “He cultivates and optimizes others’ talents and capabilities so that all are working toward a common goal: to provide excellent patient care.”--Marcia Korow, RN


*Mr. Reardon is also the winner of the Leadership Award.


Registered Nurse of the Year:  Carol Ann “Andi” Devine, Pediatric ARNP, MPH, Palm Beach County Health Department


Achievement:  Ms. Devine is the founder of the Rams Health Clinic at Palm Beach Lakes High School, sponsored by the Palm Beach County Health Department.  This school-based clinic serving the medical needs of underserved children is the only one of its kind in Palm Beach County.  Ms. Devine provides examinations, vaccinations and educational services on campus, and will soon offer a full-scale teen nutrition program to address the problems of obesity and malnutrition.


Recommendation:  “The students love her because she treats them with respect.  They know that she will keep their confidences, while providing them with competent medical care.”—Barbara Gissenter, RN


Licensed Practical Nurse of the Year:  Donna Pixley, LPN, West Palm Beach VA Hospital


Achievement:  Ms. Pixley serves as a resource, educator and mentor, particularly in the area of Mental Health Intensive Case Management for patients with dual diagnoses.  She works with case managers to educate them on the importance of treating both problems to help them more fully recover.


Recommendation:  “Ms. Pixley consistently communicates with veterans in a respectful and helpful manner and exerts efforts to motivate them in the recovery process from alcohol and substance addictions.”—Gloria Bays, Associate Director for Nursing Services


Certified Nursing Assistant of the Year:  Marie Lucie Douyon, Certified Nursing Assistant, Bethesda Hospital


Achievement:  Having arrived in the U.S. from Haiti just four years ago where she worked as a secretary, Ms. Douyon today is a widely recognized certified nursing assistant at Bethesda Hospital.  Patients and their families regularly write to praise her care, and she has received hospital commendations for exemplary behavior in her job and going the extra step.


Recommendation:  “Marie’s dedication to her patients at Bethesda improves their health and well being, physically, emotionally and socially.”—Paula Friend, MSN, RN, CEN


Nursing Student of the Year:  Charlene Chippy, LPN, Staff Nurse, West Boca Medical Center


Achievement:  Working diligently over the last five years to achieve her desire of becoming an RN, Ms. Chippy has served as a role model to classmates while continuing to provide excellent care to patients as an LPN.  She was selected by her class to speak on their behalf to the president of PBCC, a reflection of her collegiality and professional demeanor.


Recommendation:  “I have been a nurse for over 30 years and Charlene inspires me!  She loves the patients she cares for every day and her caring spirit always shows through.”—Ruth Schwarzkopf, Chief Nursing Officer


Educator of the Year:  Kellie Bassel, MSN, RN, Nursing Department Chair/Professor, Palm Beach Community College


Achievement:  In the face of a nursing shortage crisis, Ms. Bassell is creating innovative and exciting ways to engage nursing students and influence new students to consider a nursing career.  She was one of the primary designers for an online curriculum available to nursing students, and through a pre-requisite nursing course regularly influences 30-40 students per semester to consider nursing as a career.


Recommendation:  “Her openness and positive attitude help to create a learning community that consists of faculty and students working together in nursing education.”  --Joanne Masella, Ph.D., RN


Hands & Heart Award (recognizes a nurse whose compassion and caring has made a profound impact on a patient’s life):  Denise DiGiovanni-Segal, BSN, RN, Veteran Program Manager, Vitas Innovative Hospice Care


Achievement:  Many hospice and healthcare professionals are unaware of the impact of war experiences on veterans as they face end-of-life, and families often struggle to find information about hospice services and related benefits for veterans.  Ms. DiGiovanni-Segal provides specialized comfort, care and education to veterans in hospice care to meet their unique needs and is creating greater awareness of available resources regionally as co-chair of the newly formed South Florida Hospice-Veteran Partnership.


Recommendation:  “Denise was so gracious to come to my home and sit with my dad, my husband and I and explain what benefits we were entitled to by my dad being a WWII veteran.”--Debbie Maseth


Extra Mile Award (recognizes a nurse who fosters professional growth in others and/or serves the community as a mentor or volunteer):  Lisa Bottke, RNC, Clinical Educator, Hospice of Palm Beach County


Achievement:  Inspired to become a nurse after a medical mission to Mexico, today Ms. Bottke educates healthcare workers, social workers, volunteers and others how to guide families through the challenging end-of-life stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  She used her expertise to co-author a hospice course for Alzheimer education approved by the State of Florida Division of Elder Affairs.


Recommendation:  “She educates caregivers on how to provide compassionate care to those with a life limiting diagnosis.  She displays a true “Hospice Heart” through her daily work with the staff by mentoring them.”—Jackie Lopez-Devine, Director of Patient Care.


Gary Reardon, Nurse of the Year took home a $1000 cash prize and a weekend at The Breakers in Palm Beach.  Each category winner received a certificate to Gianna Christine Salon, Spa, and Wellness Center, a professional portrait and an award. 


“These awards recognize the significant impact nurses have on improving healthcare in Palm Beach County,” said Suzette W. Wexner, Palm Healthcare Foundation President and CEO. “This year’s winners have displayed extraordinary innovation and commitment to patient care and to promoting the nursing profession.  Every one of them serves as an example to the great possibilities that are within reach through a nursing career.”


Major sponsors for the event were VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, Boca Raton Community Hospital, the Palm Beach Health Network, WPTV, and The Palm Beach Post.



About Palm Healthcare Foundation, Inc.
Palm Healthcare Foundation, Inc. was chartered in 2001 as an independent community healthcare foundation. Believing that “Together We Can Do More,” the foundation’s mission is to transform healthcare challenges by bringing together the talents and resources of the community to create innovative solutions that deliver high-impact results. The Foundation’s funding priorities—access to healthcare, healthcare quality and safety, healthcare technology, healthcare policy and healthcare workforce—are designed to empower non-profit healthcare organizations and healthcare professionals to create programs and services that improve the quality of life for Palm Beach County’s underserved citizens.  Since 2001, the Foundation has distributed more than $20 million to over 80 non-profit organizations in Palm Beach County.  To learn more about Palm Healthcare Foundation, please visit


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