Recognition & Awards

Professional Council Awards

CAP         CNSW         CRN


Tim Poole Memorial Award: Laurie Benton, PhD, PA-C

This award was established in honor of Tim Poole, PAC, who passed away in 2008. Tim was an exceptional clinician and incredible human being who dedicated his life to the care and well-being of CKD patients and their families. The Tim Poole Memorial Award will be given to a CAP member who follows in Tim's footsteps and demonstrates the qualities that made him so outstanding.

Laurie Benton, PhD, PA-C, began her career more than 30 years ago and her accomplishments and quest for knowledge have never slowed down. She is a Physician Assistant, a certified Emergency Medical Technician, a Registered Nurse, and a Major in the Texas National Guard. She holds an Associate's Degree in Nursing, and a Bachelor's Degree in Clinical Health Services from the University of Washington, where she also completed her PA training. She received a Master of Cardiothoracic Surgery Physician Assistant Degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and recently completed requirements for a PhD in Health Administration from Kennedy Western/Warren National University of California. Dr. Benton currently works in the Nephrology/Hypertension/Internal Medicine Unit at Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, TX.

To classify Dr. Benton as simply an academic is an error. In addition to her many academic accomplishments, she remains an achiever and a teacher. Together with Charles Foulks, MD, she has developed educational programs used first at Scott and White and later adapted for use in national nephrology organizations. Before the NKF Council of Advanced Practitioners was even a consideration, she was a driving force behind designing and offering programs specifically for advanced practitioners. It was largely through her enthusiasm and tenacity that the Council was formed, bringing together all nephrology advanced practitioners into one professional organization for the first time. Under her leadership, NKF-CAP now offers a full program track at the NKF Spring Clinical Meetings. In addition, she has served on the American Association of Physician Assistant's CME Committee for three times longer than anyone else, further exemplifying her dedication to education and passion for program planning.

When she is not at work or tending her many animals (most of whom are rescue animals), Dr. Benton is giving back to the community. She volunteers at low-income clinics, organizes cooking demonstrations for nephrology patients and their families, teaches CPR and Advanced Life Support, and continues to serve in the Texas National Guard.

While she is not at work or tending her many animals, most of whom are rescue animals, Dr. Benton is giving back to the community. She volunteers at low-income clinics, organizes cooking demonstrations for nephrology patients and their families, teaches CPR and Advanced Life Support and continues to serve in the Texas Guard.

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Nostradamus Award: Ambrose Tsang, MD

A 16th century seer, Nostradamus has long been portrayed as someone who could see into the future. This award will be given annually to an individual or organization that, through forethought and vision, recognizes and promotes the contributions of advanced practitioners in nephrology.

Through his over 30 years of practice, Dr. Ambrose Tsang has exemplified leadership, mentorship and advocacy. In 2012, he was the first MD to be sent to the Philippines by DaVita in their Bridge of Life Program to assist in forming an acute dialysis care system clinic and teach the local nephrologist and staff how to best provide care to their CKD and dialysis patients. He volunteers his time to teach students in a DO program to pique their interest in nephrology; for three years in a row he has been nominated by the students and awarded Professor of the Year.

Janett DelaCruz, MSN, FNP-C, has worked with Dr. Tsang and attests that he fits the dictionary definition of mentor—"someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person"—and then some. In her nomination, Ms. DelaCruz describes how, through forethought and vision, Dr. Tsang recognizes and promotes the contributions of advanced practitioners. She states: "By recruiting me as his nurse practitioner, he was the first MD in the DaVita Wild West Division to incorporate an NP into a nephrology practice. Since then, dozens of nephrologists have followed suit. From the very beginning, he has guided me in learning everything I can to better my craft. He has included me in decision making for numerous unit-specific protocols he's created or amended for dialysis units where he sits as Medical Director. He has also encouraged me to assist him in creating his lectures to the DO students he teaches and his dialysis in-services materials and plans. I agree with the old adage that younger generations truly learn by example. As a nephrologist, Dr. Tsang teaches me by example. He brings hard work, humor, and kindness to his combined roles as great teacher, smart advisor, caring and loving caregiver, patient advocate, and leader. It gives me great pleasure whenever I hear how our patients frequently comment that I sound just like him. Or, as one patient said, I am his "mini-me" because imitation is the sincerest form of gratitude."

For the last 15 years, Dr. Tsang has also allowed Ms. DelaCruz to function as his Sub-Investigator/Study Coordinator to more than 20 clinical trials where he was Principal Investigator. Dr. Tsang's enthusiasm for education and recognition of the NP role makes working in nephrology exciting and rewarding.

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Robert W. Whitlock Lifetime Achievement Award: Stephanie Johnstone, LCSW

This award is named in honor of Robert W. Whitlock, MSSW, MHA, LCSW, Director of the Missouri Kidney Program (MoKP), a leader in the kidney community, who passed away in 2008. Bob was a dedicated nephrology social worker and an outstanding contributor to research, teaching, and clinical practice in nephrology social work.

Stephanie Johnstone, LCSW, has been the Regional Lead Social Worker at Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA) since October 1983. During her tenure, she developed innovative social work programs such as "Outcomes-Driven Nephrology Social Work Practice," "Patient-Provider Conflict Resolution," "Team-Oriented Problem-Solving," "Project Professionalism," and "Staff Continuing Education Series: Treating the Chronically Ill Patient." Modern Healthcare magazine presented Ms. Johnstone and FMCNA with the "Spirit of Excellence" award in recognition of the company's innovative new social work program that she developed, which has increased patients' adherence to dialysis treatments by addressing quality of life issues. In addition to her work at FMCNA, she has been a research consultant on various projects including, "Evaluating the Impact of a Group Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention on Depression, Perceived Social Support and QOL for Patients on Hemodialysis." She also designed a psycho-educational/behavioral intervention to enhance adherence, which was turned into the nationally released program, "Living Longer, Living Better."

Ms. Johnstone is active with NKF-CNSW, serving on the editorial board of the Journal of Nephrology Social Work (JNSW), and as Chair of the San Diego CNSW Chapter. She is the co-developer of the NKF-CNSW "Outcomes Training Program," and has been honored twice nationally by CNSW for outstanding achievements. She has been published in JNSW, Nephrology News and Issues, and Advances in Chronic Kidney Disease. In addition, she has presented nationally on topics such as in depression in dialysis, quality of life, conflict management, outcomes improvement, and improving adherence.

It is clear that Ms. Johnstone's various programs, publications, and teachings have had a profound impact on the field of nephrology social work. What is even more impressive, however, is the impact her presence has had on those around her. She has inspired and mentored countless social workers, is very generous with her time, and makes herself available to discuss difficult cases and explore clinical options. What is singularly unique about Stephanie is her visionary thinking style. With the FMCNA Missed Treatment Initiative, she accomplished her lifelong objective to empower nephrology social workers to use their clinical skills and training to improve patients' quality of life. Not only are thousands of patients suffering less, but thousands of nephrology social workers are achieving their professional potential and experiencing more satisfaction in their work lives.

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Merit Award: Melissa Fry, MSW, CAPSW, NSW-C

Melissa Fry, MSW, CAPSW, NSW-C, is currently the Director of Social Services at Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston, WI.  She is very active within the CNSW Wisconsin Chapter and served as its Chair from 2008 to 2012. During that time, she made herself available to Chapter members for questions and support as they navigated the new Conditions for Coverage and incorporated them into their practices. After her term, she actively assisted other Chairs, and contributed to an update of the Chapter's New Worker Manual. She has been involved in professional education programs as part of the planning committees for both the NKF Spring Clinical Meetings and the NKF of Wisconsin Fall Symposium, facilitated roundtable sessions at Chapter meetings, and presented nationally on the topic of managing personality disorders in the dialysis unit. Ms. Fry takes an active role in providing education to patients, families, staff and other professionals. She identifies issues needing more attention and takes on leadership roles to address these concerns through research to further develop dialysis interdisciplinary teams' skill sets and improve quality of care for patients.

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New Worker Award: Temima Danzig, MSW, LSW

Temima Danzig, MSW, LSW, has been a nephrology social worker for one and a half years, employed at DaVita St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center 2B Subacute and Getty Avenue Dialysis Centers. In this short time, she has fully acclimated to her role on the interdisciplinary team, acting as a champion of transplant, CVC reduction, skilled nursing facilities' outreach efforts to promote the Fistula First initiative, and protection of the frail, elder population. She belongs to the New Jersey CNSW Chapter and has fully embraced, both personally and professionally, her scope of practice and the national mission of NKF-CNSW to promote the optimal adjustment and overall quality of life for kidney patients.

A keen student of human behavior and organizational construct, Ms. Danzig truly exemplifies the key roles of the nephrology social worker as liaison, patient champion, vested colleague, and communicator. In addition to all of her responsibilities as a full-time nephrology social worker, Ms. Danzig has tirelessly given of herself to fellow colleagues and newer social workers in the field as a mentor and trainer. Her energy and brilliant assessment of skill levels and strengths supports colleagues and patients alike. She will continue to grow in this field, demonstrating leadership and keeping the nephrology social work profession strong and enduring.

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New Worker Award: Ola Labisi, LCSW

Information from the CNSW membership listserv and the NKF website were invaluable to the professional development of Ola Labisi, LCSW, as she navigated the field of nephrology social work over the past year and a half. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the NKF-CNSW, and in appreciation of the wealth of information and support she received, she submitted a flyer highlighting the accomplishments and strategic goals of CNSW. Her flyer was chosen to commemorate the anniversary and was showcased at the 2013 NKF Spring Clinical Meetings in Orlando, FL.

As an eager new worker, Ms. Labisi not only gained knowledge through her participation in NKF-CNSW, but also shared what she had learned to further educate members of the interdisciplinary team at her clinic. She created an in-service presentation emphasizing the importance of a team-based approach in the provision of clinical services to her patients, who are dealing with chronic illness. She also introduced her clinic staff to how current research on STI (Symptom Targeted Interventions) have scientifically shown an improvement in patient outcomes.

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Regional Social Work Award – Region 1: Anita Kahan, MSW, LSW

Anita Kahan, MSW, LSW, represents five clinics as Area Lead Social Worker for Fresenius Medical Care (FMC) in New Jersey, and is also a PhD student. Due to her professional expertise she has led area social work meetings and mentored new social workers, providing support and guidance. She joined the Corporate Quarterly Social Work Publication Committee at its inception and is a frequent contributor. She has presented research posters at several Quality Insights Renal Network 3 meetings. Ms. Kahan is a strong believer in using cognitive behavioral therapy to improve clinical outcomes. She also serves as Manager of the Treatment Options Program where she has the opportunity to educate the community's pre-ESRD patients. Anita is currently one of two members of the FMC Social Work Advisory Board representing the North Division.

Among her successes, nothing has compared to the way Ms. Kahan stepped up during Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 when her Hoboken clinic was destroyed by flooding. All patients and staff were displaced for seven months while the clinic was being rebuilt. She was a "rock" for both patients and staff, even when she was without power in her own home for more than 10 days. While the storm was raging outside, she was present on conference calls to make sure her displaced patients would all be situated in neighborhood clinics and that transportation was set up so they did not miss even one dialysis treatment. By traveling to clinics where her patients had been scattered and reassigned, she made sure they well cared for, providing stability and continuity of care during their time of crisis. Her advocacy abilities were apparent once she returned with her patients to the Hoboken clinic in 2013 and learned that some who were dependent on county transportation were in jeopardy of having their service discontinued. With determination and tenacity, she proceeded to help the patients write a petition, get signatures, and even contacted a local politician who was able to have their transportation resumed. Ms. Kahan is recognized by her social work peers for being consistently willing to go beyond the scope of her job, volunteering at every turn.

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Regional Social Work Award – Region 5: Babitha Ramakrishna, LCSW, NSW-C

Babitha Ramakrishna, LCSW, NSW-C, has proven herself as a quiet leader since entering the nephrology subspecialty 10 years ago as a pre-licensed MSW. Stable, even-keeled, approachable, and soft-spoken, she addresses her duties and responsibilities as a frontline social work practitioner and a social work supervisor with proficiency, consistency, and persistence to achieve high-quality outcomes. She has contributed to NKF-CNSW by participating on the member listserv, volunteering as a CEU Review Board member, and serving as part of the Greater Los Angeles CNSW Chapter leadership. Professionally, she provides supervision to pre-licensed MSWs, co-created a psychosocial assessment form which has been used as a template for several companies, presented at corporate social work meetings, and served on a panel as social work representative at a community CKD education event. Ms. Ramakrishna builds crucial, trusting relationships with each individual patient and staff member, and functions as an expert nephrology social work resource.

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Outstanding Service Award – Karen Wiesen, MS, RD, LDN

Karen Wiesen, MS, RD, LDN, received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from Pennsylvania State University and her Master of Science in Clinical Dietetics from St. Louis University. She has been a clinical dietitian for 34 years, and has over 25 years of experience as a renal dietitian. Ms. Wiesen has served as a clinical preceptor for St Louis University, Barnes Jewish Hospital and VA Hospital renal dietetic internships and was an adjunct clinical instructor and a guest faculty member in the graduate program at St. Louis University's Department of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has authored numerous articles, two book chapters, and was Co-Editor of the first and second editions of A Clinical Guide to Nutrition Care in Kidney Disease. She has spoken at local, regional, and national conferences on nutrition, addressing chronic kidney disease and home dialysis. In 2007, she received the NKF-CRN Recognized Renal Dietitian Award. She has served on the Executive Committee of NKF-CRN for 10 years in numerous positions, including RenaLink Editor, Region III Representative, Associate Chair, and Chair.

Karen is currently Inpatient Dietitian Coordinator at Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA, where she continues to mentor dietetic interns. She remains active in the renal community and is serving on the committee updating the "Standards of Practice and Standard of Professional Performance for Dietitians in Nephrology." In the realm of professional education programs, this marks her ninth year on the planning committee for the University of Missouri School of Medicine's Annual Dialysis Conference.

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Susan C. Knapp Excellence in Education Award: Katy Wilkens, MS, RD

For Katy Wilkens, MS, RD, the primary role of the renal dietitian is to teach. Whether through writing, speaking at events, educating peers and students, demonstrating healthy cooking techniques on television, developing patient education materials, or sitting down with one of her hemodialysis patients, she finds it rewarding to offer information that can lead others to a healthier future.

Ms. Wilkens has worked in renal nutrition for over 35 years, and is currently the Nutrition and Fitness Services Manager of Northwest Kidney Centers in Seattle, WA. In addition to helping her patients navigate their dialysis diets, she mentors multiple dietetic students in yearly rotations at Northwest Kidney Centers, and educates fellow healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses and social workers. She founded the Washington State CRN Chapter and the Northwest Renal Dietitians Conference, helping renal dietitians across the region to learn and network. Ms. Wilkens is heavily involved in community outreach, assisting in planning the Northwest Kidney Centers' Kidney Health Fest for African-American Families each year, speaking at numerous community health events and nutrition and renal conferences, and discussing healthy nutrition on radio and television.

Ms. Wilkens is the author of the renal chapter in the internationally-recognized Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy textbook and of the original American Dietetic Association's "Suggested Guidelines for the Care of Renal Patients."  She is the long-time Editor and author of a nutrition workbook for patients, "Nutrition: The Art of Good Eating for People on Dialysis." She writes regular nutrition columns for the Ballard News-Tribune, AgeWise King County (a senior services newsletter), and Renal Business Today.

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Recognized Renal Dietitian: Catherine M. Goeddeke-Merickel, MS, RDN, LD

Cathy Goeddeke-Merickel, MS, RDN, LD, has a passion for "all things renal" that stems from her undergraduate studies during a clinical practicum at a dialysis center. She has many years of work experience as a renal dietitian, and was the first dietitian to be hired as Abbot Renal Care Regional Clinical Specialist, a position held only by RNs.

In addition to her professional roles, Ms. Goeddeke-Merickel has been involved both locally and nationally with NKF-CRN in numerous positions. She is currently the Journal of Renal Nutrition Feature Editor for Patient Education, an NKF KLS CPE Clinical Reviewer, CRN Publications Co-Chair, and a member and contributor to the CRN-RPG project workgroup to update and revise the "Standards of Practice and Standard of Professional Performance for Dietitians in Nephrology." She has served as CRN Program Chair for the annual NKF Spring Clinical Meetings, and as CRN Region Representative for two different regions! Ms. Goeddeke-Merickel's contributions to the field and involvement in leadership roles show she is truly most deserving of this year's honor as Recognized Renal Dietitian.

Recognized Regional Renal Dietitian – Region 2: Christine Swafford, MS, RDN, CSR, LD

While completing her internship, Christine Swafford, MS, RDN, CSR, LD, quickly realized that her passion lay in the field of renal nutrition. After gaining experience during a brief stint in clinical nutrition, she found her dream job working for a large dialysis provider in a typically low-income, underserved area of South Atlanta. To her, this was the perfect setting and provided the challenge she was looking for early in her renal career. She truly blossomed in this position, working with teams in nine dialysis facilities around the Metro Atlanta area, ultimately touching the lives of over 550 patients. Her many roles as a renal dietitian include precepting dietetic interns, conducting nutrition research and being a regional point dietitian for DaVita. Ms. Swafford has also been involved with the Georgia CRN Chapter (GCRN), leading charitable events it sponsors. She is currently the GCRN Treasurer, newsletter editor, and liaison for the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her recent contributions have earned her a promotion to Facility Manager, where she enters into the operational realm of dialysis.

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Recognized Regional Renal Dietitian – Region 3: Connie Yost, RD, CD

Connie Yost, RD, CD, has 22 years of experience working with hemodialysis patients and, in the past, peritoneal dialysis patients. She has been involved with bone management, Quality Assessment Performance Improvement (QAPI), development of the "Protein Pass Program," development of patient nutrition contests and monthly patient nutrition bulletin boards, and has participated in the development of electronic medical record patient care plans. She has also been a preceptor for University of Wisconsin-Green Bay dietetic interns. Ms. Yost's community and professional involvement as a renal dietitian is commendable. Her community experience includes facilitating an education program with the NKF of Wisconsin, entitled "Learning About Chronic Kidney Disease," and volunteering for the NKF of Wisconsin Kidney Screenings at the local YWCA. Her professional activities include membership in the Wisconsin CRN Chapter, serving as Secretary, and membership in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and the AND-Renal Practice Group (RPG).