Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tips to skip food poisoning this holiday season

The holiday season, a time for family, friends and festivity, is here. But there’s something not so cheery that can come along with it: Foodborne illness, which makes a spike during the winter months and especially around the holidays. Thankfully, there are things people can do to keep the illness-causing organisms from ruining the most wonderful time of the year – and the first way is especially close at hand.

“Hand hygiene is the number-one thing that we want to see and remind people to do,” says Dana Edwards, an infection prevention coordinator at CoxHealth. She notes that it’s especially important because not all germs are killed with alcohol sanitizers. “Norovirus – known as the “cruise-ship bug” – is very difficult to kill with alcohol. You want to make sure that you’re mechanically washing with friction, making a lot of bubbles and rinsing them away down the sink. Theoretically that’s removing the organisms from your hands and decreasing the likelihood of getting infected.”

But that’s not all people can do to keep from getting sick. Below, find some more tips from Edwards on how to keep this season a happy – and healthy – one.  

  1. Keep raw foods away from cooked ones. It’s easy for bacteria to unintentionally get from one food to another. For example, before using a fork to sprinkle onions on the green bean casserole, ensure it didn’t touch the raw turkey.
  2. Be sure to clean surfaces often. According to Edwards, this is more than simply wiping counters down with a wet paper towel. “Preferably clean it first with soap and water, and follow it up with bleach,” she says, noting that you can’t simply start with a an alcohol wipe, either. “We can’t disinfect dirt, so we have to make sure that the counter is clean.” She also notes that when disinfecting, be sure to find wipes that have a bleach base, since some versions use other cleaners that don’t kill organisms the same as bleach does.
  3. Promptly refrigerate and freeze foods. Ideally, this is within two hours of purchasing or preparing. Another tip: Contrary to longtime tradition, don’t defrost that turkey (or other frozen foods) on the kitchen counter. “Really, the safer way to do it is placing it in the refrigerator,” says Edwards. “That keeps things at a low enough temp that organisms can’t grow as easily.”
  4. Respect use-by dates. Yes, it might be tempting to go ahead and use that slightly outdated jar of mayonnaise, but is food poisoning really something you want to give your family as an early Christmas gift? “It’s a cliché, but it’s really important to respect those dates,” says Edwards. “After extended periods of time, organisms can begin to grow and cause harm if ingested.”

Unfortunately, it’s easy to spread the illness-causing organisms, which can cause issues within a very short period of time. “A lot of times the outbreak has happened before people realize it,” says Edwards, who also notes that the most common symptoms of foodborne illness are diarrhea, cramping, nausea and vomiting. There are several risk groups – including children, pregnant women and the elderly – who should take those conditions especially seriously.

“But as with any illness, if symptoms persist it is a good idea to call your provider,” reminds Edwards.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cox Heart Center Branson expands to greater serve patients

In an effort to greater serve patients, Cox Heart Center Branson (CHCB) has expanded – and has a new look! Now, there’s a total of 18 exam rooms in the center, which has a beautifully remodeled lobby. The public is invited to see these improvements – and meet the cardiologists – at an open house on Friday, Nov. 18 from 2 – 4 p.m.  

“These improvements mean that the center can offer more support to the community than ever before,” says Sherry Schutz, clinic manager at CHCB. “We want to offer patients the best care possible, and these improvements help accomplish that mission.”

In addition to the center’s new look and increased space, the number of cardiologists at the center has also gone up. Dr. Robbie Mangalasseril and Dr. David Lemons have recently come to CHCB, and bring a wealth of knowledge and a desire to help local patients. Both physicians specialize in treatment of cardiology conditions, including valvular heart disease, adult congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, as well as advanced cardiac imaging and heart failure.

CHCB provides a variety of cardiovascular services including the evaluation and treatment of a variety of cardiovascular conditions, an anticoagulation clinic, a pacemaker/ICD clinic, as well as ultrasounds, cardiac stress testing, and cardiac event monitoring.

The center is located at 1150 Hwy 248, Suite 200, Branson. For more information or to make an appointment at the center, please call 417-336-4112.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Cox Learning Center Branson to hold open house

As a growing and thriving community, the Tri Lakes Area needs proven child care to ensure that all community needs are met. With that in mind, Cox Medical Center Branson is excited to offer the Cox Learning Center Branson as a new option to the community. Families are invited to come see the beautiful new center, located at 1192 Bird Road, Branson, on Monday, Nov. 21 from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

“It’s a great benefit for our employees, who will be able to go to work and give the best possible care to our patients because they know their children are receiving great care as well,” says Simon Wajnblom, vice president of Performance Management at Cox Medical Center Branson. “However, we also want to extend this great service to our community. Having the availability of a credentialed learning center, with a tested and proven curriculum, aides in the development of the children while attracting and retaining an engaged labor force.”

The learning center, which is currently taking names on its waiting list, will accept children six weeks old up to 12 years of age. It will employ approximately 15 full-time employees and another 10 part-time employees when at capacity. The center will use nationally approved Creative Curriculum by Teaching Strategies, which is developmentally and age-appropriate and promotes child-initiated learning.

“As children grow and learn, we’ll make every effort to promote self-esteem and independence in the child and help the child grow emotionally, physically, intellectually and socially,” says Karrie Ridder, CoxHealth learning centers system director of more than 30 years. “The goal is to make learning fun and to spur creativity. Classrooms will be organized into learning centers, giving children a variety of activities to choose from each day.”

The center will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday – Friday. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon snacks will be served daily. Formula, diapers and wipes will also be included at no additional cost for children in the applicable age categories.

To learn more or to place your child on the waiting list, call 417-269-6775. For more information about employment at the learning center, please visit and visit the Career Center.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Mom leads fundraiser to buy books for NICU babies

Before becoming a mom, April Gensler didn’t know how much of an impact books would have on her life. But when her daughter, Amelia, was born at only 24 weeks old, reading books to her was the only way she could connect with her baby. “When I came back to the NICU, the nurse presented me with a book with my daughter's footprints inside,” says April. “She told me I could read softly to her.”

Amelia’s book was presented as part of the Books for Babies program, which has been operated from CoxHealth’s NICU for more than 20 years. Each baby is presented with a book, stamped with the baby’s footprints, and the baby’s parents are encouraged to read it to their child. Reading allows bonding to occur – because for some parents like April, even touching their baby isn’t an option.

“I wasn't even allowed to caress her because it could overstimulate,” says April, since Amelia’s skin wasn’t fully developed. “Reading was all I had. The only thing I could do.”  

So that’s what she did. With no other children at home, April would spend hours upon hours at the NICU, reading to Amelia from the NICU’s library. “She got stronger and stronger, but it was three months before I could hold my baby girl against my chest,” recalls April. “By that point though, reading was our ‘thing’ and it continued."

Tragically, Amelia was just born too early: On Feb. 28, 2011, she passed away 155 days after her birth. But today, her mother is raising money to support the program that brought so many good memories to her time with Amelia. And although she’d love to see the funds to purchase as many books as possible, her goal is to get at least 155 – one for each day of her daughter’s life. “I just want to honor her life,” says April. “She fought every day to live. She was so strong. I want to carry that on. I want to give back to the programs that gave so much to us.”

April is asking the community to help: Monetary donations may be made until Nov. 20 via You Caring, a crowdsourcing site, which will allow books to be purchased at wholesale prices and given to babies in the NICU.

“I think it is the most beneficial program for a parent/baby in the NICU because you aren't able to care for your child like everyone else does,” says April. “All you have is your voice to give them, but so many people, including me, have a hard time finding the words especially considering the extremely emotional and stressful setting. But books gave us words when we had none.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

CoxHealth invites community to participate in healthy food drive

Increasing numbers of people across the Ozarks are relying on food pantries to meet their daily needs. However, when it comes to people with health-restricted diets, sometimes there are few options for food. That’s why CoxHealth’s employees are working to pack local pantries with foods that are low in sugar, salt and fat – and the community is invited to take part! 

“We know that obesity, heart disease and diabetes are leading health issues in our community,” says Glenda Miller, CoxHealth collaborative care coordinator and food drive organizer. “By donating healthy foods to our local pantries, we are helping not only provide much needed food for our friends and neighbors, but also support those who wish to eat a heart-healthy diet.”

Springfield’s donations will benefit Crosslines, a local food pantry that serves an average of 3,600 Ozarkers every month. “As a client-choice food pantry, it is important to Crosslines to provide a selection of healthy, nutritious food for families and seniors,” says Crosslines director Tom Faulkner. “Through CoxHealth’s healthy food drive, Crosslines will be able to help meet a special need for those with dietary health conditions, especially those that may have high blood pressure, diabetes, or even chronic heart disease issues.”

The food drive begins on Nov. 2, which coincides with National Eating Healthy Day, and runs through Nov. 18. In Springfield, donation bins will be placed at Cox South (near the north entrance, West Pavilion entrance and West Tower entrance), Meyer Fitness Center (inside the front entrance), Meyer Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Hospital (near the cafeteria), CoxHealth Surgery Center (inside the south entrance) and Cox North (outpatient entrance and near the FMCC entrance).

Some suggested items include no-sugar-added applesauce, 100-percent-fruit cups, low-sodium or “no salt added” canned vegetables, reduced sodium spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, brown rice, whole wheat noodles, canned chicken and dried beans.

Food donated in Springfield will be provided to Crosslines, Branson’s food donations will be sent to pantries operated by Christian Action Ministries, and Monett’s goes to Monett Community Kitchen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Keep trick-or-treating safe this Halloween

Halloween will soon be here, which offers a great opportunity to have fun – as long as everyone stays safe. One option is to attend CoxHealth’s free Trunk or Treat on Oct. 31, which will be held at the West Pavilion at Cox South. Departments will distribute candy from kid-friendly booths from 5 – 8 p.m.

However, for those trick-or-treating door-to-door this year, check out a few tips from CoxHealth’s Public Safety department: 

  • Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.
  • If your child will be trick-or-treating without you, establish a route with your child and don’t allow your child to go door-to-door in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
  • Be sure to walk on the sidewalks and driveways. When crossing a street, make sure you are crossing at the corner, or in a crosswalk. Remind your child to look carefully for traffic before crossing.
  • If possible, carry a cellphone. Teach them how to call home or dial 911 if they need to.
  • Make sure your child carries a flashlight. Attach a glow stick, small battery operated light or reflective tape on their costume. This will help keep them visible.
  • Remind your child of the dangers of getting into a stranger’s car. If someone stops them and asks them for help or offers them candy to get in their car, tell them to scream as loud as they can and run.
  • To help keep kids from being tempted to dig into their candy before they get home, feed them a meal or snack beforehand.
  • If your child has a food allergy, be sure to carry their emergency medicines with you, or display an allergy medical bracelet.
  • Examine all treats before they eat them. Only allow them to eat factory-wrapped treats, avoiding homemade treats from strangers.
  • Children should wear well-fitting masks, costumes and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips and falls. Better yet: Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cox South room refresh builds in-house pride

Our ‘refresh construction’ team brings innovative problem-solving to the task of making original Cox South rooms new again.

Take a look inside one of the renovated rooms on 500 West or 200 West at Cox South and you might easily mistake it for one of the rooms in the newly built West Tower.

Engineering’s “refresh construction” teams are currently working their way through the original hospital, giving the rooms a new look and new functionality that puts the original tower on the same level as the new construction. But the teams working on the refresh are building more than new rooms: They’re building pride and dedication that shows through in every step of the work.

Rather than completing the renovation through contractors, CoxHealth leaders decided early on to bring the work in-house. Supervisor Tony Hein says that decision has been a major win for Engineering, as teams put their expertise to work making an investment in CoxHealth’s future.

“This is not just a job, people take pride and ownership of what they’re doing for the hospital,” Hein says. “Everyone took this job because they wanted to make a difference and everyone works good together.”

The 10 members of the refresh construction team have all had input into the design of the rooms. They’ve brought their individual skill sets to the task of finding innovative solutions that bring the latest features to the renovated space.

For an obvious example of the team’s problem-solving prowess, look no further than the wood headwalls behind the bed in each patient room. Since the original tower’s rooms are a different size than those in the West Tower, the headwalls were going to have to be custom made.

Designing them to work around the placement of medical gasses in the original tower’s walls presented another challenge, as well as a variety of additional costs.

The team devised a solution: Purchase the raw materials and build the walls themselves. They gave it a try with formaldehyde-free medium-density fibreboard (MDF) that they’re cutting in the refresh construction shop and layering with Inpro, a high quality laminate that matches the walls in the West Tower. The entire process is a fraction of the cost of using custom-ordered walls.

Hein says the headwalls are just one of the ways a little ingenuity can produce a better result, all while building pride among the team.

“Contractors are fine, but I’m old school, from Cox North, where we used to do all this ourselves. It was your job and you felt good,” Hein says. “A person doing a job in-house, they take pride in what they’re doing. We’re getting a lot of that in-house pride back and people would be surprised how much we’re saving.”

Examples of the team’s innovations are everywhere in the new construction. In the restrooms, for example, the new design features a smooth floor that eliminates the “curb” that used to serve as the edge of the shower. Now, the floors simply slope into a drain. Even as they were installing the first of the shower floors, the team saw ways of perfecting the process.

“One guy said, ‘I can make just as good a floor with a different material,’” Hein says. “I said, ‘Let’s prove it and see.’”

Rather than their first approach, they tried a different concrete subfloor product, which was about one-tenth the cost of the initial material. It worked.

The team also looked at replacing the doors, before finding a way to simply re-skin them with the same Inpro laminate used for the headwalls. When all new windows and updated window shades are in place, the original tower’s rooms will be virtually indistinguishable from those in the West Tower.

“Customers, families and friends will be impressed,” Hein says. “This is about good customer service – when we get a happy customer, word of mouth goes a long way.”

Hein says the team loves the challenge and they like being able to make a lasting difference, for the hospital and the community.

“When employees take ownership, things will go better, our customers are more satisfied and you’ll see employees with smiles on their faces,” he says. “It keeps it positive and builds on the ‘Cox family’ feel. I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead the team in this direction.”

DirectConnect now available statewide

Years ago, seeing a doctor from the comfort of one’s own home was the norm – just as it soon will be again. DirectConnect, CoxHealth’s telemedicine program, will allow most people in the state of Missouri to receive health care for common ailments remotely in the very near future.

Yes, that’s right: Instead of making an appointment, patients can be seen from their couch for things like coughs, colds, upper respiratory infections, allergies, bug bites and sore throats.

“We’re so excited about this initiative because it means that not only is health care easier to access, but it’s available to almost everyone,” says Heather Swearengin, CoxHealth’s system director of Business Development. “This opportunity is being offered directly in response to the need we saw for more accessibility in our region.”

Here’s how it works: Anyone wishing to be seen by a health care professional will simply go to our website at After filling out some initial information, a CoxHealth patient navigator will be sent the request for care. The navigator will determine the type of care required and will then contact the provider. A few minutes later, a provider will log on and see a patient via webcam before making a diagnosis. If a prescription is needed, it is sent to the pharmacy and the patient is able to use his or her health insurance just like they would when they obtain a prescription in the traditional office setting.

This service is available at the low cost of $49 for everyone, even those without insurance. Some are even able to pay a lower copay if the service is covered by their insurance plan. However, due to licensing requirements, all patients must currently be located within the state of Missouri to receive treatment. All info will be contained in a HIPAA-compliant connection, ensuring that health care information stays private.

This new technology doesn’t completely replace traditional doctor visits, because some things can only be diagnosed in person. However, with a thorough medical history review, a visual exam and interview of the patient, it is often possible to triage and treat patients without physically being in the same room with them.

This isn’t the first time that CoxHealth has ventured into telemedicine. We launched DirectConnect in 2015 by partnering with local businesses to bring virtual health care to employees. Its popularity grew quickly: Within just six months of DirectConnect’s launch, more than 50,000 lives were connected with the program.

CoxHealth invites local kids to Trunk or Treat on October 31

It’s not a trick, but it is a treat: The community’s kids (and their parents) are invited to CoxHealth’s Trunk or Treat on October 31.

“We’re hosting this Trunk or Treat because we really wanted to help families in our community,” says Lana Martin, pediatric trauma coordinator at CoxHealth. “This event will be a truly safe place for kids to have a fun Halloween.”

Instead of visiting unknown neighborhoods and high-traffic areas, this event offers a safe alternative to trick-or-treating. The event will be held at Cox South’s West Pavilion (3801 S. National Ave., Springfield), where employees will set up Halloween-themed, kid-friendly booths and distribute treats from 5 to 8 p.m.

For more information about the event, call (417) 269-0920. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Springfield Center for Dyslexia & Learning to celebrate first birthday

The Springfield Center for Dyslexia & Learning (SCDL) celebrates its first birthday in October, and the public is invited to help celebrate. From 5 – 7 p.m. on October 13, the center will be open for tours, visits, and refreshments. SCDL, which is housed in The Turner Center on CoxHealth’s campus, is a resource for local students with dyslexia. The organization works with students to provide specialized help in reading through small groups and one-on-one instruction.

“It’s been a great year, but we’re always looking for ways to help even more local kids succeed,” says Noel Leif, executive director of the center. “One in five kids has dyslexia, so we feel that this cause is one that must be addressed. It’s something that affects a large percentage of our population, and we want to help those individuals live up to their full potential.”

SCDL’s classes are open to all students, and are held at a variety of times. Through sponsorship from CoxHealth, the program’s teachers have been trained in the “Take Flight” program, a method of instruction developed at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas.  

For more information about the center or its programs, call 417-269-0259.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Orthopedic surgeon to discuss osteoarthritis during free lunch and learn

Community invited to tour mobile learning center as part of event

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chad Efird will be discussing osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, during an Orthopedic Lunch and Learn on Thursday, Oct. 20, at Cox Medical Center Branson. As part of the event, the public is invited to tour the Zimmer Mobile Learning Center and learn about treatment options for joint pain and joint replacement surgery.

“This event will be a great opportunity for people to see how using technology, we can help restore mobility, alleviate pain and improve the quality of life for people suffering from joint pain,” says Dr. Efird.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day, the Zimmer Mobile Learning Center will open for tours outside the main hospital entrance at Cox Medical Center Branson. The free lunch and learn will begin at noon in the Magnolia and Dogwood conference rooms. Following Dr. Efird’s presentation, there will be an opportunity for questions and answers.

The Zimmer Mobile Learning Center is a traveling educational vehicle that provides training to orthopedic surgeons, nurses and other health care professionals as well as community members on a wide range of orthopedic topics and treatment options.

Space is limited for the Orthopedic Lunch and Learn. Registration is required. Please RSVP by Oct. 17. To reserve your seat, call 335-7350 or email

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Population health transforms ED mission

CoxHealth EDs help patients access the right level of care to reduce overcrowding and improve health.

The model of care at CoxHealth’s emergency departments is evolving, with the goal of helping patients get the best care in the most appropriate setting.

Nationally, emergency departments are plagued with overcrowding. Several factors are driving the increase, but a trend has emerged in the past decade that presents a new challenge for ERs: More patients are turning to emergency rooms for treatment of chronic health conditions.

Reducing inappropriate ED utilization is the million dollar question facing Emergency De

partments. Recently, we realized we needed to change our model to one that will lead to better overall health of our communities.

In the emergency department, we are episodic care experts. If you have an acute exacerbation of an illness or an acute emergency, that’s what we do best. Likewise, the care of chronic conditions is best delivered in a primary care setting, or perhaps, even in the patient’s home.

The American College of Emergency Physicians and Emergency Nurses Association have partnered with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to get involved in population health – managing the health of every individual in the population. That can be as simple as updating immunizations to more complex issues of trying to get patients into the right and most efficient level of care.

Patients come to the ED for treatment of their chronic conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure or COPD, for any number of reasons, including not being able to get into primary care or not having access to the resources available.

Patients try to deal with their illness at home – they might get progressively sicker until their illness becomes an emergency and we address that need in the ER. But what happens when they leave the ER? How do we ensure that patients in high-risk populations transition to the right level of care for the ongoing treatment of their chronic disease?

Generally, if patients are not seen within 3-5 days after discharge from the ER or hospital, they are at risk for readmission. Hospitals are evaluated by CMS on 30-day readmission rates and ERs are measured on 72-hour patient returns. Any effort we can make for better care management after discharge will be better for our patients – and for our bottom lines.

CoxHealth has been a leader in getting patients into the best level of care. In Springfield, moving our urgent cares to the Cox South campus allows for lower acuity patients to have access to quicker, less expensive care. Also, the development of specialized trauma and disease-specific clinics allows for trauma patients and those with high-risk chronic illnesses to be seen within 3-5 days after discharge from the ED or the hospital if they aren’t able to get in to see their primary care provider.

Now, new processes and new external partnerships are helping us expand our population health efforts even further.

First, we identified gaps in service to our patient populations, such as dental care for those who come to the ED with tooth pain and have no insurance; outpatient management of mental health conditions for people who are stabilized in the ED but don’t have a mental health provider for follow up; and social health support for patients who are well physically but lack social support.

We developed a multidisciplinary team across the region involving internal and external partners. We identified and worked to close the gaps either within CoxHealth or by partnering with other agencies in the community such as Jordan Valley and Burrell Behavioral Health.

Jointly, we have worked to obtain grant funding that ultimately will reduce overall cost and reduce state and federal Medicaid spending while improving the health of our region.

You will be hearing more about some of those partnerships here in Connection in the coming months. Population Health coverage will also include efforts in Branson and Monett and through the work of the new Population Health team.

Thinking about serving our patients in different ways is exciting. Making a difference in the community – that’s what I love doing and I’m glad we work in an organization that allows us to reach out of our areas of expertise to find new ways to be the best for those who need us

Monday, October 3, 2016

Nurses honored for extraordinary clinical skill and compassion with DAISY Awards

Each quarter, CoxHealth recognizes nominated nurses with DAISY Awards. The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses is presented in medical facilities throughout the United States to recognize the education, training, skill and compassionate care nurses provide. Patients, their friends and families, co-workers, physicians and volunteers may nominate a nurse for the award.

Jamie Dudley, 700 East – Jamie was recognized for the compassion she showed a patient who spent her final days on the unit. The patient had been diagnosed with brain tumors and she was without family or friends. Jamie treated the patient like family, caring for her daily.

Jamie spent the patient’s final day with her, documenting in her room and only leaving to check on other patients and pass medication. She prayed with the patient and was by her side as she took her last breath.

Lana Garcia, Cox North ED – Lana was called in to work with a patient who had been the victim of domestic violence. Lana is a trained sexual assault nurse examiner and even though sexual assault wasn’t part of this case, her forensic expertise and ability to provide compassionate care was key for the patient. Lana provided emotional support throughout the patient’s ED visit and hospitalization.

“Some superheroes don’t wear capes. Lana was a superhero for that patient that night,” her colleagues wrote in the DAISY nomination.

Emily Stark, 400 MICU/CCU – Emily cared for a 97-year-old patient who, despite his declining health condition, wanted nothing more than to go outside. As his condition worsened, Emily thought he would benefit from being outdoors one last time. She worked with unit leadership to see if that was possible. With leadership approval, she stayed after her shift and took the patient outdoors for fresh air.

“This type of above and beyond care can do as much for our patients as any care we offer,” her colleagues wrote in the DAISY nomination.

Psychiatrist joins Cox Medical Center Branson

Dr. Lisa Lemons
Cox Medical Center Branson is pleased to announce that Lisa Lemons, DO, is now seeing patients at the CoxHealth Family Medicine and Obstetrics clinic in Branson. Dr. Lemons specializes in psychiatry.

Dr. Lemons grew up in California and received her medical education at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Vallejo, Calif. She completed her psychiatry residency at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis, Ore.

“To say we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Lisa Lemons to our team would be an understatement,” says Cox Medical Center Branson President William Mahoney. “For years, our community has had a lack of mental health providers and so we are thrilled to have someone as outstanding as Dr. Lisa Lemons join our Branson team. Dr. Lemons has a passion for providing quality, compassionate mental health care. She is a great asset to not only our team, but to our entire community.”

Dr. Lemons said she’s always known she wanted to work in the medical field, however, it wasn’t until her fourth year of medical school she decided to specialize in psychiatry.

“I really enjoyed that it wasn’t all just black and white. There is a lot of gray areas in psychiatry,” she explains. “Each diagnosis is so specific to that person and you really have to think of a treatment plan for each individual that focuses on their symptoms rather than looking for a general treatment plan. Depression, anxiety, bipolar - it looks completely different on each individual. It’s challenging yet incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to help people in this way.”

Dr. Lisa Lemons’ husband, Dr. David Lemons, an interventional cardiologist, joined Cox Heart Center Branson in August.

“He was blown away when he came here for his interview and I trusted his decision that this was the right place for us,” she said. 

When not working, Dr. Lisa Lemons enjoys running and hiking with her husband and spending time with their 6-month-old son Charlie.

She is currently accepting patients on a referral basis. For more information about Dr. Lisa Lemons or to speak to a representative in her clinic, call 417-348-8012.

Friday, September 30, 2016

CoxHealth’s Pink Ribbon Rally and Luncheon scheduled for October 8

CoxHealth has been uniting and inspiring breast cancer survivors, as well as their friends and family, at its annual Pink Ribbon Rally and Luncheon for 24 years. Scheduled for October 8, this year’s rally is sure to be another wonderful time of support for lives affected by the disease – and encouragement for early detection.

“This event is a great opportunity to come together with other people affected by breast cancer,” says Autumn Bragg, community oncology educator at CoxHealth. “People have a strong connection to breast cancer. If they haven’t experienced it personally, it’s likely they know someone who has.”

Because of that connection, the event is open to the general public. Activities include a photo booth, group painting, pampering, door prizes and more. Additionally, the lunch discussion will focus on healing emotionally and physically from breast cancer. Lunch will be provided by Chick-fil-A.

The event is free to attend, and will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Hulston Cancer Center (3850 S. National Ave., Springfield). Doors open at 10:15 a.m. Space is limited, and registration by Oct. 5 is required. Call 417-269-INFO for more information.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

CoxHealth brings new mammography technology to Branson

There’s new technology in the Ozarks: CoxHealth is now the first health system in Southwest Missouri to offer Genius 3D MAMMOGRAPHY exams, allowing tissue to be examined in far greater detail than ever before.

“This technology is revolutionary because it allows professionals to examine breast tissue layer by layer as opposed to a flat image,” explains Rachel Morgan, mammography technologist. “That means we have a much better chance at catching breast cancer early, beating it and possibly less aggressive treatment needed to do so.”

Powered by Hologic, this technology detects 41% more invasive breast cancers, and decreases recall rate by 25%. Additionally, it’s the only clinically superior breast tomosynthesis exam approved by the FDA.

The procedure takes place during the breast compression and only adds seconds to the exam.

To schedule a 3D mammogram in Branson, contact the Women’s Center at Cox Medical Center Branson at 417-348-8313. The exams are also available at CoxHealth’s Breast Care Clinic in Springfield. Call 417-269-6170 for an appointment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pulmonologist joins Cox Medical Center Branson’s growing team of experts

Cesar Artiles, MD
Cox Medical Center Branson is pleased to announce that Cesar Artiles, MD, has joined CoxHealth Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine clinic.

Dr. Artiles, who specializes in pulmonary and critical care medicine, has received extensive education, training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect breathing and the lungs, including asthma, COPD, sleep apnea, pneumonia and lung cancer.

He received his medical education at Instituto Tecnologico de Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and completed his internal medicine residency at Danbury Hospital, in Danbury, Conn. He was honored as the Internal Medicine Residency Program Resident of the Year for 2011-2012 and served as the chief resident of internal medicine from 2012-2013. Dr. Artiles continued his training at Cleveland Clinic - Respiratory Institute where he completed a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care.

“Dr. Artiles is a great asset to our community,” said Cox Medical Center Branson President William Mahoney. “He’s received excellent training at one of the world’s elite medical facilities – Cleveland Clinic. We are truly grateful that he chose to join our team in Branson where he’ll provide top-notch care to Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine patients as well as to some of our most critically ill patients in the hospital.”

Dr. Artiles was inspired by his father, a diabetic, to pursue a career in medicine. It was during his time in medical school however that he decided to focus on pulmonology and critical care.

“I was just starting to work in the critical care unit when I realized pulmonology and intensive care were so intertwined,” he explained. “I like to think of critical care as the best in medicine. You really have to think about all of the systems of the body, how they interact and how they work together when determining the best treatment plan for each patient.”

While completing his fellowship at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Artiles participated in a lung cancer and advanced diagnostic bronchoscopy track where he learned about a relatively new procedure - endobronchial ultrasounds (EBUS). EBUS is a minimally invasive yet highly effective procedure used to diagnose lung cancer, infections and other diseases. Dr. Artiles is now providing this service in Branson.

“Being able to offer this procedure here means patients do not have to travel outside of our community for this test, they’ll receive a diagnosis faster and begin treatment sooner,” Mahoney said.

Dr. Artiles chose to join the Cox Medical Center Branson team because he saw the opportunity to make a difference in the community.

“In the Branson area, we see a lot of diseases related to smoking,” he said. “I saw a lot of opportunities where I could make a difference in the health of the community. Since arriving, I have really enjoyed how friendly the people are as well as the beautiful landscape and lakes.”

When not working, Dr. Artiles enjoys running, playing basketball and spending time with his wife Carmen and their daughters, 1-year-old Amelia and newborn Deanna.

For more information, call 335-7559.

Allergist anticipates another tough season for allergy suffers

Sneezing, coughing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes are common for many allergy sufferers this time of year. CoxHealth physician Brett Hronek, MD, who specializes in allergy and immunology, anticipates those who are allergic to weeds might want to pick up an extra box of tissues though this season.

“We’ve had a lot of rain again this summer which is a good indicator that we will have a lot of weeds during the late summer and early fall months,” Dr. Hronek said.

September and October is when weed pollen typically peaks, especially ragweed, which means allergy suffers could be in for a long couple of months.

“It is hard to predict what type of allergy season we will have, but the quantity of rain we receive can impact the amount of weed pollen that is in the air,” Dr. Hronek said. “Weeds are also in the air until the first freeze, so if we have a long fall, we can also have a long allergy season.”

Over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal steroids may help with sneezing and mild cases of runny nose. If allergies are severe or interfere with day-to-day activities, it’s best to seek help from an allergist.

“An allergist can help identify which specific allergens are causing symptoms,” Hronek said. “An allergist can design a treatment plan to significantly improve the patient’s symptoms and quality of life.”

To schedule an appointment with a CoxHealth allergist in Branson or Springfield, call 417-875-3742.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Skaggs Bash: Hollywood Comes to Branson set for Oct. 1

Exclusive event offers cocktail hour, fun prizes, entertainment and more

Every year, Skaggs Foundation invests thousands of dollars into the Tri-Lakes Area to support health and wellness.

The community is invited to be a part of this important effort by supporting Skaggs Foundation. On Oct. 1, Skaggs Foundation will present its largest annual fundraiser, Skaggs Bash, at Branson IMAX Entertainment Complex. Themed Hollywood Comes to Branson, the event includes a cocktail hour, hors d’oeuvres, moonshine tasting, an IMAX film, great prizes, giveaways and even “paparazzi.” Every guest will also take home a souvenir refillable popcorn container, entitling them to free popcorn refills for a year at the IMAX.

Funds raised through the bash make it possible for Skaggs Foundation to continue its mission of supporting community initiatives that improve health and wellness in Taney and Stone counties.

“In 2016, Skaggs Foundation will put more than $1 million into programs right here in Taney and Stone counties,” says Skaggs Foundation President Meghan Connell. “In this year alone, we are helping to improve the lives of literally thousands of people in our community. Through programs we support, we are helping at-risk pregnant moms and newborns, we are making it possible for children to see a dentist for the first time in their lives, and we are helping the uninsured and underinsured in our area receive the health care they need.”

To learn more about the Skaggs Bash or to reserve your seat, call 348-8002 or email RSVP by Sept. 23 for reserved seating.

CoxHealth brings new mammography technology to the Ozarks

There’s new technology in town: CoxHealth is now the first health system in Southwest Missouri to offer Genius 3D MAMMOGRAPHY exams to high-risk women, allowing tissue to be examined in far greater detail than ever before.

“This technology is revolutionary because it allows professionals to examine breast tissue layer by layer in both breasts, as opposed to a flat image,” says Susan Smith, director of CoxHealth’s Breast Care Clinic. “This way, fine details are much more visible.”

Powered by Hologic, this technology detects 41% more invasive breast cancers, and decreases recall rate by 25%. Additionally, it’s the only clinically superior breast tomosynthesis exam approved by the FDA.

The exam is currently available to CoxHealth’s highest-risk patients. However, the health system has plans of gradually rolling it out to all patients. To schedule an exam, contact the Breast Care Clinic at 417-269-6170 (Springfield) and 417-348-8313 (Branson).

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Miracle Ride 2016 to raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at CoxHealth

Riding a motorcycle can be fun – but it’s even better when it’s for a good cause. On Saturday, Oct. 1, riders will have the chance to make a difference for local kids at Miracle Ride 2016, from which all gifts and proceeds benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at CoxHealth. The 50-mile scenic ride begins in Springfield and travels through the Ozarks, is escorted by local law enforcement, and also includes the chance to win a 2014 Harley-Davidson XL 1200T Sportster, a 50/50 raffle, a bike show and bike wash.

The ride begins at 10:30 a.m., and starts from the American Legion Post 639 (2660 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield). Registration is $20 in advance or $25 the day of the ride. For more information or to register, call 417-551-4823 or visit

Prostate health info night scheduled for Sept. 15

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a great opportunity for men to learn about prostate health – especially since, aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. That’s why, on Sept. 15, CoxHealth will hold “Prostate Cancer Treatment: Your Options,” a panel presentation led by CoxHealth physicians. All men (and spouses/friends) are invited to come and learn more about options for dealing with prostate cancer should it arise.

“One in seven men will get diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime,” says Dr. Ibrahim “Abe” Abdalla, Oncology medical director  at CoxHealth. “Thankfully, there are many treatment options available and this program is to help men learn about the options and weigh the pros and cons of the different treatments. We want men to know that there are treatment options that will retain quality of life – but that prostate cancer must be addressed in a timely fashion for them to be most effective.”  
The evening will be led by Dr. Abdalla and urologist Dr. Andrew Schultz. After the presentation is over, there will be time for questions from the audience.

The event will be held at Cox South (3801 S. National Ave., Springfield) in Foster Auditorium at 6 p.m. Heavy appetizers will be served. It is free to attend. For more information or to register, please call 417-269-5224.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Interventional cardiologist joins Cox Heart Center Branson

Cox Medical Center Branson is pleased to announce that David Lemons, DO, has joined Cox Heart
Center Branson. Dr. Lemons specializes in interventional cardiology.

“As an interventional cardiologist, Dr. David Lemons has received extensive training, education and experience in minimally invasive procedures performed on the heart and arteries,” says Cox Medical Center Branson President William Mahoney. “We are incredibly fortunate to have someone of Dr. Lemons’ caliber joining our expert team of cardiologists here in Branson.”

Dr. Lemons took what some might consider a non-traditional route on his journey to the medical field. He grew up in Jefferson City and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri – Columbia, majoring in farm management. He’s worked for the National Guard’s environmental section, conducted fisheries research and worked in a veterinary clinic. While Dr. Lemons said he loves working outdoors and with cattle, he always dreamed about being in the medical field.

In 2009, Dr. Lemons received his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his internal medicine residency as well as his cardiology and interventional cardiology fellowships at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.

“From the time I started med school, I was drawn to cardiology,” Dr. Lemons explains. “It’s an exciting field that is always evolving and has a lot of good research behind it. As I see it, it’s a field where I can truly impact the lives of my patients, from improving quality of life to life saving measures.”

Dr. Lemons is joined in Branson by his wife, Dr. Lisa Lemons, a psychiatrist who has also joined the Cox Medical Center Branson team. The couple has a 5-month old son, Charlie.

"Growing up, I vacationed here several times and I really liked the area,” Dr. David Lemons said. “Branson is a good town and I’ve heard a lot of great things about the quality of care at Cox Medical Center Branson. As physicians, those things were important to my wife and I when we were making our decision.”

When not working, Dr. David Lemons enjoys fishing, hiking and running.

Dr. Lemons is seeing patients at Cox Heart Center Branson. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 336-4112.

Free lunch and learn focuses on women’s health

‘It’s Time for You’ features Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner Kelli Gosch

Whether it’s caring for kids, grandkids or parents, women spend much of their time caring for others.

"As women, it is easy to put our own health on the back burner when we are so busy caring for others, but really, that is the last thing women should do,” says Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner Kelli Gosch, MSN, who sees patients at the Cox Medical Center Branson Women’s Center. 

On Thursday, Sept. 29, Gosch will be the featured speaker during It’s Time for You, a free lunch and learn event from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Tree Rooms at Cox Medical Center Branson, 525 Branson Landing Boulevard.

The lunch and learn is part of the 2016 Skaggs Foundation Speaker Series and is presented by Susan G. Komen Ozark and Skaggs Foundation. Gosch will present It’s Time for You again on Thursday, Oct. 20, at Bistro 58, located inside Vino Cellars at the Lake, 15038 Business Hwy. 13, in Branson West.

“During these free lunch and learns, I’ll be sharing important information about women’s health, from breast self-awareness, and what you need to know, to pelvic health, and why women no longer have to live with embarrassing issues,” says Gosch. “I want to empower women to change their attitudes about their health and show them the power of prevention.”

While the lunch and learns are free, reservations are required. RSVP by Sept. 23 for the event at Cox Medical Center Branson on Sept. 29 or RSVP by Oct. 13 for the event at Bistro 58 on Oct. 20. Call 348-8998 or email

Monday, September 12, 2016

Pink Door Thrift Store celebrating new location with open house Sept. 19

Free gifts for first 50 guests during event

Pink Door Thrift Store will celebrate its new location in Hollister with an open house on Monday, Sept.19. Activities get underway at 10 a.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony courtesy of Hollister Area Chamber of Commerce. The first 50 guests (18 and over) will receive a free gift from Cox Medical Center Branson volunteers.

The open house, which runs until 4 p.m. that day, offers guests an opportunity to visit the Pink Door’s new location, enjoy some bargain hunting, meet Cox Medical Center Branson volunteers and take home a treat. The Pink Door is now located at 180 Mall Road in Hollister.

“Our new location in Hollister is absolutely wonderful,” says Christine Guise, president of Cox Medical Center Branson volunteers. “The Pink Door, now conveniently located between Lowes and Country Mart, features a beautiful open space inside and ample, level parking outside. While the space is new to us, we will continue to offer the same level of quality, gently used merchandise at great prices shoppers came to know at our former location.”

Guise said shoppers will also continue to find the same friendly service at the new location.

“The Pink Door is operated solely by volunteers – volunteers who love helping people and love supporting the hospital,” she said. “Proceeds from the Pink Door help fund important purchases and projects for Cox Medical Center Branson as well as help us provide seven $1,000 scholarships every year to local students pursuing careers in health care.”

Thanks to funds raised at the Pink Door as well as at a volunteer-run gift shop, Cox Medical Center Branson volunteers have purchased wheelchairs for the hospital, equipment for the fitness center and cancer center and much more. In addition to the purchases, Cox Medical Center Branson’s dedicated group of volunteers have committed $250,000 over the next five years to help fund the emergency department and critical care unit expansion.

The Pink Door has a double mission: support local health care and provide a place where people can find great prices on items they want and need.

Normal business hours at the Pink Door are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

CoxHealth employees: Join us for Fall Fest on Saturday, Sept. 10

Fall Fest is happening this Saturday at Silver Dollar City! Be sure to check your packets for your tickets & wristbands and get ready for this incredible day including:

• 5 Hours of Exclusive Ride Time (8:30-9:30 a.m. & 6-10 p.m.)
• Bingo, Family Feud, Live Band & Dance Party
• Exclusive Food & Merchandise Discounts

Plus - you can upgrade your event ticket to a Silver Dollar City Season Pass for just $30+tax!

Season Pass upgrades are available at CoxHealth Headquarters in the Opera House or the Rentals Booth just inside the front gate. You must present wristband for easy identification.

In addition to an exciting day of fun on 40+ rides & attractions, your Fall Fest ticket also include a night full of fun including:

• 6 p.m.: Concert from the country music icons Lonestar in the Echo Hollow Amphitheater at 6 p.m.
• 6-10 p.m.: Exclusive ride time on all of your favorite rides & attractions
• 8-10 p.m.: Put on your dancing shoes and join our Street Troupe for a dance party featuring all of your favorites like the Electric Slide, YMCA, the Chicken Dance, and Cotton-Eyed Joe!

See the full details, a schedule of events and downloadable event guides at this link. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

CoxHealth Pharmacy adds delivery service for busy employees

Susan Smith, director of the Breast Care Clinic in Hulston Cancer Center, knows how difficult it can be to find time out of our busy workdays to pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy. Even though there’s a CoxHealth retail pharmacy next door in Wheeler Heart & Vascular Center, finding time and remembering to complete the task is a challenge.

“My husband will order a refill of his blood pressure medication online and ask me to pick it up,” says Susan. “You get busy with your day, and unless I write myself a note, I can forget to pick it up and sometimes two or three days go by, and there’s my husband without his medication!”

Dr. Ghazanfar Qureshi of the Case Management team, has a similar issue.

“Doctors can make lousy patients. I’m always running out of medications,” says Dr. Qureshi. “My wife asks if I’ve ordered my meds and she ends up calling the pharmacy, but by the time I can get to the pharmacy, it’s closed.”

One day, Dr. Qureshi was at the CoxHealth Pharmacy in Ferrell-Duncan Clinic and told pharmacist Mary Ann Bennett that he wished there was a tunnel across Primrose so he didn’t have to drive over to get his medications.

“She told me I could have my medications delivered to me in my office and I said, ‘You’re kidding!’ This is an excellent service.”

Both Dr. Qureshi and Susan are among the many satisfied customers of the new free prescription medication delivery service for CoxHealth personnel announced recently by CoxHealth’s retail pharmacy, which as of Aug. 1 changed its name from Convenient Care Pharmacy to CoxHealth Pharmacy.

“We know our time at work is valuable,” says Ryan Baker, Pharmacy Ambulatory Care Director. “This free delivery service to our CoxHealth colleagues helps us with the work-life balance and lets more people take advantage of the savings available with the system’s retail pharmacy. For Cox HealthPlans members, we guarantee the lowest co-pays on your prescriptions.”

The delivery service is available in Springfield and Branson. You can call one of the pharmacy locations and request delivery at work. Just give them one day’s notice to complete the request. Pay over the phone with your Medical Flex card, Healthy Living HRA card or credit card.

In Springfield, if you work late hours or overnight, the pharmacy offers a central site pickup using Cox South inpatient pharmacy, which is available 24/7.

The CoxHealth Pharmacy also accepts refill orders online at from your desktop or you can download the free RefillRx Mobile app from your Android or Apple phones by searching the App Store or Google Play.

At Cox Monett, there is already a process for free delivery of refill prescriptions to employees’ homes when those prescriptions are prepaid. Refills may be mailed out to the employee if they are prepaid, refills remain on the prescription and the prescription is not being filled too soon based on insurance. Monett employees may also pick up prescriptions 8 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. in the pharmacy located on the hospital’s second floor.

Staffers eager to welcome international nurses

Teams are excited about the international nurses project, which helps us keep pace with growth.

As we prepare for the arrival of the first nurses in our international nursing program, leaders say the new staff members will be key to CoxHealth’s continued expansion.

“A nursing shortage is facing the United States, and we must try new solutions to fill the gap,” says Karen Kramer, chief nursing officer. “We always want to supply the health care that our community needs, and we feel that bringing nurses to us is a good way of doing that.”

CoxHealth is still actively recruiting local nurses and health care professionals, and this project won’t replace traditional recruitment efforts.

“The need for nurses is only going to continue to grow,” says Kramer. “Supporting that need through international hires doesn’t solve the problem, but it does allow us to greater support our patients.”

Kim Cash, administrative director of nursing, has led the project, working with planning, recruiting and developing customized onboarding for the first nurses.

Nurse educator Sarah Gamble was on the team that participated in Skype interviews with the first nurses who will be arriving in the coming months. She was immediately impressed with the candidates.

“These nurses have a lot of clinical experience, they just need to learn how we do things in the U.S. and here at CoxHealth,” Gamble says.

“I was blown away. Most of them have been nurses longer than most of us in the education department,” she says. The team saw nurses with more than 10 years of experience in a variety of areas who were excited about practicing in the U.S.

New nurses will attend systemwide orientation and then spend time dedicated to learning computer systems and working hands-on with equipment in our simulation labs. After the orientation, which lasts about three weeks, the nurses will join nursing floors and work alongside a peer mentor for six weeks.

Mentors are currently being trained and staff members are eager to get started with their new colleagues. Nurse managers like Stacey Cannon say their teams are looking forward to the energy their new co-workers will bring

“They’re excited! The international nurses are doing a lot of things on their end to get to the states to get to work here at CoxHealth,” Cannon says. “For our staff to see how much they want to be here, just makes them more excited to have them as co-workers.”

Katie Lane, nurse manager on 800 West, agrees.

“They’re very passionate about being bedside nurses and they really portrayed that in their interviews,” she says. “They are very excited to be here, this is the big leagues to them.”

Two of the first group of nurses will join 800 West and Lane says the team is ready to welcome them with open arms.

“We work really hard to make 8 West and the Jared Neuroscience Center more than co-workers – more like a family,” she says. “The staff understand that we can get them here, but it’s up to us to welcome them and get them to stay. We really hope we can bring them into our family.”

Gamble says it’s impressive to see the commitment of nurses who have worked to come to the United States.

“You don’t just decide you want to be a nurse in the U.S. It’s years of work to get to this point,” she says. “People want to build a life; that’s a huge boon to our organization.”

International nursing facts

While recruiting internationally is not widespread in the Midwest, hospitals across the United States have done so for the past 50 years.

Foreign-educated nurses work through a rigorous process to achieve a nursing license in the United States. Their transcripts are examined and they must pass the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools Certification Program (CGFNS) as well as pass the NCLEX.

• In the Philippines, there are only BSN programs and the curriculum matches closely that of the U.S.
• Even though English is an official language in the Philippines, nurses must still pass an English proficiency exam.
• The nurses are paid a prevailing wage, which is set by the Department of Labor. This wage is comparable to the rate a CoxHealth nurse earns.

Part of an ongoing recruitment effort

We’re working hard to keep the best nurses in our system and since 2014, CoxHealth has increased the minimum nursing pay by 7.95%, which outpaces the average statewide increase of about 3.5% in the same timeframe. We’re also offering tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness to our nurses. Talent Acquisition currently has outreach efforts with 38 schools. We have also expanded the Global Float pool and created additional support positions.

'All anyone wants is a chance'

Claudin Victorio has spent the last few months working as a patient care tech in CoxHealth’s Urgent Care. Years ago, she had worked as a nurse in her native Philippines and she’s currently studying for her NCLEX exam so she can begin practicing here. 

Claudin Victorio has seen firsthand the challenges and immense rewards of starting a career, and a life, in the United States.

When Claudin Victorio heard that a new project will bring 100 highly qualified international nurses – many from her native Philippines – to CoxHealth, she was thrilled.

She knows what it’s like to be a nurse with a dream of practicing in the United States. She’s experienced the power of starting anew in the U.S. and she’s excited to see others share that opportunity.

“There’s a saying in the Philippines that once you get to the U.S., you will want to kneel and kiss the ground,” she says. “That’s how badly people want to be here. I spent 27 years of my life in the Philippines. I have my friends there. I don’t have kids, but I have my nieces and nephews. I decided to leave all that and take a chance.”

Claudin arrived in the United States a year and a half ago. Through her extended family, she made a connection with a woman who had lived the dream she was hoping to achieve for herself.

Marivic Fernandez, who immigrated from the Philippines in the 1970s, had built a career at CoxHealth. When she connected with Claudin, she encouraged her to consider coming to Springfield.

Claudin, known as “Claud” to her friends, took her advice. In Springfield, she soon found a job, and a mentor in Marivic.

Back home, Claud had earned her bachelor’s degree and worked as a nurse. Nursing salaries are low in the Philippines – the degree provides an income that covers basic needs, but it can be difficult to save for the future.

So, Claud had left the medical field and spent eight years in the more lucrative world of banking, both to support herself and help her nieces and nephews. All the while, she knew she would return to nursing and come to the U.S. if she had the chance.

Marivic is in the unique position of understanding exactly what Claud is going through. In 1979, she left the Philippines to work with an international nursing agency. She had job offers in Zambia, Iran and West Plains, Mo. The other positions offered more money, but they paled in comparison with the United States.

At age 21, Marivic arrived in Missouri, alone and thousands of miles away from her family and friends. During her one-year contract in West Plains, she met a colleague from Burge School of Nursing, now Cox College, who helped her get a foot in the door at CoxHealth.

“Springfield was such a great community for me,” she says. “I liked the warmth of Springfieldians.”

She worked as a float nurse and in Med-Surg, before finding her calling in a dialysis unit.

“I liked the patients and it became a joy just to report to work. It was truly my home.”

From hearing Marivic’s stories, Claud knew CoxHealth was where she wanted to be. Since she was coming on her own, rather than through an international nursing agency, she was responsible for transferring her own credentials and passing the NCLEX. With credentials in hand, she’s working as a patient care tech in the Urgent Care. Now, with help from Nursing Administration, she’s preparing to take the NCLEX so she can return to nursing full time.

“CoxHealth has given me more than just a salary, they gave me a chance I’ve never had – something I’d wanted to have eight years ago,” she says. “I’ll always be thankful because of this chance.”

Marivic says those chances can be life-changing. In the 1980s, she worked her way up in dialysis, eventually serving as assistant nurse manager. It was on the dialysis unit that she met her husband, nephrologist Dr. Gary Kell. When Dr. Kell’s mother became ill, Marivic left her nursing role to care for her. She and Dr. Kell also began volunteering their time to help Filipinos who were new to the U.S.

“Because of my experience, I always wished I had a family that could show me the ropes and who could have been there when I was homesick or lonely,” Marivic says. “I made a conscious effort to help Filipinos who would come my way.”

Claud says the support from Marivic and Dr. Kell has been a driving force for her.

“I call them my parents,” she says. Dr. Kell encouraged her to pursue nursing and he reminded her that anything is possible. “He inspires me every time I talk to him, he’s my superman. At some point I want to become a doctor because of him.”

They strongly recommended CoxHealth, and Claud says the support she’s received here makes it clear why.

“I love it here – and I love the teamwork!” she says. “Melody (Smith) is the first nurse at Cox who believed in me and opened the door for me to do this. After I take the NCLEX, I want to work in Urgent Care because of the chance she gave me.”

While Claud works toward the nursing exam, her brother, Clyde, has also joined the CoxHealth team as he prepares to enter an associate’s program for nursing. Marivic says there’s no better place to begin a long-term career.

“Cox is where I had all of my professional growth. I tell people, if you stay with CoxHealth, you will grow with CoxHealth,” she says. “CoxHealth is a very solid company and they’re great employers.”

CoxHealth has always taken innovative approaches and the international nursing project is just the latest example of how we grow our workforce. The project supports our patients and colleagues, and it creates a powerful opportunity for the nurses who will soon call Springfield home.

“People don’t understand that by coming here, we now have a chance,” Claud says. She points out that in the Philippines, home ownership is rare, cars are status symbols and retirement planning is out of reach for most of the population. Having a stable income and the ability to plan for the future is an empowering experience.

For Claud, seeing the life Marivic and Dr. Kell have built is a daily inspiration to achieve her dreams. Once you’ve lived it, Claud says you can’t help but cheer for other hard-working nurses who are dedicated to pursuing the American dream.

“The nurses coming to CoxHealth will have a chance for a good future. I’m just happy that they have a chance. That’s all anyone wants, a chance.”