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Health Heroes Toasted
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The 2022 HEALTH HEROES included four Wood River Valley individuals: Dr. Terry O’Connor, left; Sonya Wilander in the striped shirt in the middle and Cathy Swink and Paula Shaffer of The Apothecary on the right.
   
Sunday, May 29, 2022
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Two Wood River Valley individuals and a business have been honored as 2022 Health Heroes for their work keeping Wood River Valley residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and for helping men recover from substance abuse.

The awards were made by the South Central Public Health District to honor those making a big difference in the health of the community the past two years. The heroes were nominated by community members.

  • DR. TERRY O’CONNOR was honored as one of two Adult Professionals for providing consistent, science-based advice to local jurisdictions that helped guide policies and save lives in the Wood River Valley during the COVID-19 pandemic.

     
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    Dr. Terry O’Connor receives his commendation. PHOTO: Randy Hall.
     

    “He has gone above and beyond in offering his expertise and supporting organizations as they made difficult and important decisions to protect their community,” it was noted. “Sometimes this support and guidance would be offered after Dr. O’Connor had already worked long hours in the local hospital emergency room. His effort to provide quality education and protect lives made such an impact.”

    Joy Prudek, public relations manager for St. Luke’s Wood River, noted that all the locals who were honored deserved recognition, but she was particularly thrilled to see her colleague receive the award.

     
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    Sonya Wilander received a commendation, along with a bag of swag.
     

    “Dr. O’Connor was pivotal in providing a trusted voice to help relay important health information to our community, providing advice to elected officials, organizations and businesses, as well as spending countless hours striving to conduct research studies that would advance the scientific community’s knowledge of COVID-19,” she said. “All while working tirelessly and compassionately with our patients and providing support for our team at St. Luke’s Wood River.”

  • SONYA WILANDER was honored as Adult Volunteer for her work as the executive director shepherding Men’s Second Chance living (MSCL). She founded the organization, which provides a safe and sober living center in Hailey for men recovering from substance abuse, in November 2018. And she and board members have embarked on a campaign to open a second home in the Wood River Valley as demand soars from individuals in Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties.

    Wilander has volunteered more than 40 hours a week for the past four years to provide 45 men with  access to medical services, dental services, behavioral health services, nutrition assistance, matched savings and financial education, funding for higher education,  and recreation opportunities to support a sober, quality lifestyle.

     
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    Cathy Swink and Paula Shaffer did everything they could to make it as easy as possible for Wood River Valley residents to get COVID vaccine, including scheduling walk-in booster shots.
     

    “Throughout this service, Sonya is noted for showing incredible compassion and grace,” it was noted.

    “I believe everyone deserves a second chance,” said Wilander. “Before MSCL House, there were no options to provide a second chance for men in our valley who are struggling with addiction. Our mission is to help them maintain their sobriety, regain their independence and ultimately reintegrate into the community.”

     
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    Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary in the magenta-colored blouse and face mask sits on the board of the South Central Public Health District.
     

     

  • The VALLEY APOTHECARY in Ketchum was honored in the Organization category for going the extra mile to make COVID-19 vaccines more readily available to the community.

The Ketchum pharmacy is headed by two pharmacists” Dr. Cathy Swink received an award for outstanding performance in clinical pharmacy in her class at the University of Southern California before moving to Idaho where she worked at Karen’s Family Pharmacy initiating the valley’s first pharmacy-provided immunization practice. Paula Shaffer began her career in the Reno/Tahoe market before moving to Boise and, eventually, to Ketchum.

“This organization was one of the first to sign up to help administer the doses, SCPHD spokesmen noted. “They arranged for volunteers to help expand their ability to provide the shots. Valley Apothecary even set other business needs aside, when necessary, to fit in more appointments. In the first few months of 2021, this organization managed to vaccinate about 3,500 people. More appointment times were opened up when the vaccine became available to the general public in April of 2021.”

Others honored include the all-volunteer HISPANIC COALITION, which organized virtual town halls and in-person clinics to help the Hispanic community in South Central Idaho navigate the COVID pandemic. ALEJANDRA HERNANDEZ was honored for providing Spanish translation for hundreds of flyers, documents, press releases and webpages about public health risks within 24 hours of the request.

JOHN PINE, a career forester for the U.S. Forest Service, was honored for saving countless lives in Camas County through medical intervention and education as a 30-year volunteer EMT (emergency medical technician). He even saved the life of a cardiac arrest victim during a basketball game out of his jurisdiction.

KATELYNN CRABTREE AND LEXI ROBERSON were honored as Youth Volunteers for creating the Warrior Project, an adolescent support group that meets at The Crisis Center weekly in an effort to support teens’ mental health and reduce suicides in the region.

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