Health Hero Spotlight

Central Florida Health News has always been all about telling stories and informing readers of the amazing people in our community. It was with this thought in mind that the publication started a new department section, called Health Hero, in June of 2018.

The idea behind Health Hero is to spotlight an individual or individuals who are going above-and-beyond in the community. Whether it’s someone organizing events to raise awareness for a disease, inspiring others by persevering through their own health problems, or impacting lives through their actions, Polk County is full of heroes that deserve recognition.

Over the last year, Central Florida Health News has spotlighted 12 individuals who have done just that, and whose stories deserve to be told and re-told.

Below are the twelve recipients of our monthly Health Hero since June of last year. To read their full stories, visit

May 2019: Pattie Johnson – Was named the Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine’s 2019 Volunteer of the Year. Johnson has volunteered for the organization for 15 years and throughout those 15 years, she has amassed over 3,200 volunteer hours.

April 2019: Dr. Rosemarie Lamm – Dr. Lamm, the director of the Rath ConNEXTions Center in Lakeland, is eager to share what she’s learned and equally eager to learn what others share. This quest for sharing knowledge is what has helped the Rath ConNEXTions Center build a program for seniors that is the only one of its kind in the state of Florida.

March 2019: Dr. Mitsie Vargas – Named the 2018 Veterinarian of the Year by the Florida Veterinary Medical Association (FVMA). Healing and making the best possible plan of health is important as the goal and mission for Dr. Vargas. Her passionate work as a veterinarian and love of animals is reflective of her community involvement.

February 2019: Britainny Palmer – Despite the obstacles created by her own body, she has managed to attain a bachelor’s degree in supervision and management recently from Polk State College. It wasn’t an easy task, but with perseverance and a marvelous support network, Britainny defied the odds to complete her degree and set an example to her kids.

January 2019: Tom Grothouse – The Winter Haven resident is passionate about being an Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) instructor. With its Self-Rescue® program, it is nationally recognized as the safest provider of survival swimming lessons for infants and young children. Grothouse is one of only about 500 certified ISR instructors in the nation.

November 2018: Robert Weis – A local 71-year-old man who just found out in early 2018 that he has diabetes.Initially weighing 235 pounds, Weis made various lifestyle changes and no weighs 156 pounds and living a much happier and healthy life.

October 2018: Kia Troutman – The Head of the 2018 Polk County’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Campaign. Strong advocate for raising awareness and funding for breast cancer research.Her passion goes beyond breast cancer, as she also serves as a committee member on the CEO, Patient, and Family Board at Lakeland Regional Health.

September 2018: Phillip Williams – Lighthouse for the Blind in Winter Haven trains the visually impaired to perform daily living tasks and to gain or keep employment. After going through their training program, Williams wanted to give back and now he serves as a leader and mentor for others struggling to move forward, holding support-group meetings twice a month so the visually impaired who have gone through Lighthouse’s training have a safe place to share struggles, challenges, and successes.

August 2018: Brittany Schirm – For Brittany and others who spend their days at the Alliance for Independence in Lakeland, their lives are forever changed. Since 1954, Alliance for Independence has offered adults with developmental disabilities a place to learn new skills during the day. Brittany and her family and strong supporters of raising awareness and being a voice for those who are mentally handicapped.

July 2018: Asher Camp – Diagnosed with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy at six months old, the odds were stacked against Asher. SMA, a genetic neuromuscular disease that leaves children with no nerves to control muscle movement. Most children can’t crawl, walk or hold their head up, and most don’t live beyond 2 years old. Now, at five years old, Asher is continuing to defeat the odds.

June 2018: Brenn Hines – After his heroic actions saving a young child from and his mother drowning, Hines was awarded EMT of the Year by the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association.

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