On the Pulse

Despite Trying Times, Polk County Healthcare Personnel Rise to Top With Recognitions, New Positions

Summer is winding down, but the healthcare providers of Central Florida are still going strong. Despite the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, those working at hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, and medical centers are staying on their toes to provide the best healthcare options to Central Florida residents. Take the pulse of Central Florida’s healthcare industry with a look at all of the awards, new services, new facilities, and provider recognition designations that testify to the hardworking nature of the nurses, doctors, and other healthcare providers in Central Florida!

Lakeland Regional Health

In new employee news, Lakeland Regional Health (LRH) welcomed new team member Brett Jenkins, APRN, to the Lakeland Regional Health Physician Group as a Family Nurse Practitioner; Jenkins is seeing patients at Walk-In Care at the Gateway location. LRH also welcomed new team member Misti Thomas, APRN, to the Lakeland Regional Health Physician Group as a Nurse Practitioner; Thomas is seeing patients at the Grasslands Campus.

In employee recognition news, LRH was proud to announce that Dr. Vanessa Prowler, MD, a Breast Cancer Surgeon at Lakeland Regional Health Hollis Cancer Center, was recently recognized as a genetics provider by Cigna, the National Accreditation Program for Breast Center, and more after training in cancer risk assessment. Dr. Prowler will now be able to use genetics and genomics in breast cancer risk assessment, management and prevention, including imaging, chemopreventive and surgical interventions.

Additionally, Lauren Morata, DNP, APRN, CCRN, CCNS, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Research Coordinator, recently earned a Circle of Excellence Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses for achieving excellent outcomes in the care of acutely and critically ill patients and their families. Morata is one of just 15 nurses nation-wide to earn a Circle of Excellence Award.

In facility recognition news, in July, Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center was ranked as Polk County’s No. 1 hospital as part of U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best Hospital Rankings. LRH Medical Center was also ranked as 15th in all of Florida, up from 21st in 2019.

Similarly, Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center was also named as one of Newsweek’s Best Maternity Care Hospitals in July. LRH is one of only six hospitals in Florida to make the list. The recognition is based on reports concerning safety and quality performance, such as low rates of cesarean sections, episiotomies and early elective deliveries and following important protocols.

BayCare: Bartow Regional Medical Center, Winter Haven Hospital, Winter Haven Women’s Hospital 

Winter Haven Hospital

In employee recognition news, Winter Haven Hospital announced the winners of their DAISY Awards, which are awarded to show gratitude to nurses who provide extraordinary care. The latest winners were Jody Hagans, RN, with the COVID ICU team; Mackenzie Kohlbrand, RN, COVID Unit; Kathleen Updike, MSN, RN, with the MICU; and Winter Panton, RN, a nurse on the Mother/Baby Unit at Winter Haven Women’s Hospital.

Similarly, Winter Haven Hospital announced the recipients of its DAISY Nurse Leader Award, which is given annually to a nurse in any leadership position who provides compassionate care and support to their team, regardless of any challenges. Corrine Graham, RN, was named the DAISY Nurse Leader Award winner at Winter Haven Hospital for 2020.

Bartow Regional Medical Center

In employee recognition news, Bartow Regional Medical Center announced the winners of their DAISY Awards, which are given for the same reason as Winter Haven Hospital’s as they are both BayCare medical facilities. June’s DAISY award winner was Hazel Felix, RN, with the Surgical Services team.

Additionally, BRMC also awards a DAISY Nurse Leader Award. Virginia McCoy, RN, was named the DAISY Nurse Leader Award winner at Bartow Regional Medical Center for 2020. 

Gessler Clinic

In new employee news, Gessler Clinic is pleased to announce the addition of new providers joining their dynamic team. Gessler Clinic welcomed Dr. Clinton R. Hall to the General/ Bariatric Surgery team, Dr. Abid Shah to the Interventional Cardiology team, Heather Perry, APRN, to the Family Practice team, and Molly Fox, APRN, to the Walk-In Clinic team.


In employee recognition news, Gessler Clinic was proud that Dr. Michael Keown was voted the Best Family Doctor of Winter Haven.


Watson Clinic

In new employee news, Watson Clinic welcomed a host of new healthcare providers, including Dr. Melissa Ballengee, MD, who is now accepting patient appointments from the Watson Clinic Main facility in Lakeland. Dr. Ballengee’s areas of expertise include obesity medicine, women’s health and adolescent medicine. Watson Clinic also welcomed Paula S. Wibowo, APRN, who is a registered nurse practitioner working at the Watson Clinic Main location; Certified physician assistant Jessica Garber, PA, who serves patients at the Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine practice of specialist Phuc Vo, MD at Watson Clinic Main; and Wendi Johnson, APRN, a registered nurse practitioner who now serves patients of Gynecology and Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery specialist John R. Ellington, Jr., MD, at the Watson Clinic Bella Vista Building.

In employee recognition news, Watson Clinic was proud to announce that Michael Ward, PT, DPT, a licensed physical therapist in the Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine department in Lakeland, recently earned his certification as an Orthopaedic Clinic Specialist (OCS).

In facility recognition news, Watson Clinic achieved Certificates of Recognition as a Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA); it’s the third time in a row Watson Clinic has achieved this three-year term certificate. NCQA is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to improving healthcare quality. Six Watson Clinic locations earned the certificates of recognition, including Watson Clinic Main, South, Highlands, North Pediatrics, Bartow, and Plant City.

Additionally, Watson Clinic’s Radiology department was designated a Lung Cancer Screening Center by the American College of Radiology. This distinction reflects the department’s commitment to providing low dose screening and diagnostic care for those considered at high risk for lung cancer.

Bond Clinic

In employee recognition news, Bond Clinic announced the winners of their Team Member of the Month award. June’s winner was Tosca Harris, a Patient Attendant/Greeter/Screener, and July’s winner was Jessica Stetzel, a Technician in the Physical Therapy Department.

In new employee news, Bond Clinic welcomed Dr. Victoriya Strukova, DO, a board certified Rheumatologist; Tamer Elfallal, an APRN working with an Interventional Pain Medicine practice; and Chelsea White, an APRN who is also working with an Interventional Pain Medicine practice.

Similarly, Bond Clinic also celebrated the retirements of Dr. Michael Ort, an Ophthalmology Physician, and Dr. Christopher Miller, an Endocrinology & Diabetes physician.

In new facility news, The Bond Clinic Lakeland Complex, Bond Clinic’s first full-time campus in Lakeland, opened at 2039 E Edgewood Drive with Pediatrics and Gynecology Specialists.  They will continue to expand by adding Walk-in Care, Primary Care, Orthopedics and Physical Therapy and Sports Rehab.

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