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Recipient of 2010 President’s Award brought added joy to cancer patient’s hospital wedding

Posted Mar 4th, 2011

“A pure act of care that brought added joy” to a cancer patient by arranging for her to get married in the hospital chapel in a bridal gown and tiara, complete with a floral bouquet, is a perfect example of what makes staff member Cathy Caton so special.

The Niagara Health System (NHS) is recognizing Cathy’s incredibly kind-hearted and compassionate contributions by selecting her as the recipient of the 2010 President’s Award of Excellence. The President’s Award is presented each year to the staff member, doctor or volunteer who, in an overall manner, exemplifies all of the hospital’s success factors and demonstrates the values of compassion, professionalism and respect.

Cathy, who lives in St. Catharines and is a hospitality services aide at the St. Catharines General Site, got to know one of the palliative patients from cleaning her room. When Cathy found out this patient was to be married in the hospital chapel in front of a small group of family and friends, she went across the street to Stephanie’s Flowers to see if she could arrange for some complimentary flowers for the bride. She managed to borrow an artificial bouquet as well as a wedding dress and tiara that were on display in the shop.

“On her own, Cathy saw this patient’s quiet joy and decided to make it even more special,” says Hospital Chaplain Reverend Doug Jones, who officiated at the ceremony. “She made the arrangements and presented the idea and items to the patient. The patient and her family were delighted. This was a pure act of care that brought added joy to a patient whose heart desire had come to fruition.”

Cathy’s contributions were officially recognized Thursday at the annual President’s Award of Excellence celebration which recognizes the extraordinary service of hospital staff, physicians and volunteers.

“I was profoundly moved by the way Cathy cared for this patient, her family and her friends during such a happy but difficult time in their lives,” says Interim President and CEO Dr. Sue Matthews. “Cathy’s caring and thoughtfulness embodies the true essence of compassionate care.”

In addition to Cathy’s award, seven awards (there was a tie in one of the award categories) were presented to NHS employees who were nominated by their peers for demonstrating exceptional behaviours related to the NHS’s Success Factors or Core Values.

Recipients are:

  • Focus on those we serve: Marg Davison, Discharge Planning, St. Catharines General Site
  • Bring out the best in each other: Sherri Lemon, Volunteer Resources, Greater Niagara General Site
  • Build strong and successful relationships: Lillian Aulph, Emergency Department, Welland Site
  • Create a better way: Brenda Colbow, Risk Management, Welland Site
  • Use our resources wisely: Beth Draper, Complex Care, Port Colborne Site
  • Use our resources wisely: Dr. Kim Scher, Douglas Memorial Site
  • Compassion, Professionalism and Respect: Mike Doan, Emergency Department, Welland ite

A more detailed description of the contributions by the award winners is attached, along with a list of previous winners of the President’s Award.

The Awards of Excellence program is part of a comprehensive award and recognition program that recognizes the many contributions of staff, volunteers and physicians. These awards are presented annually to individuals or teams whose actions resulted in a significant contribution to the organization.

“We had a record number of nominations this year highlighting staff, doctors and volunteers at the hospital who are making a real difference in the lives of our patients and their families,” says Nancy Dillon, Consultant, Organizational Development. “The awards selection committee finds it overwhelming to choose the winners each year because the calibre of the nominations is so outstanding.”

NHS 2010 recipients of Awards of Excellence

  • Focus on those we serve: Marg Davison, Discharge Planning, St. Catharines General Site. Marg facilitates patient discharges from the hospital and implements plans of care recommended by the patients’ healthcare team. One patient who had been admitted to hospital on several occasions had a father who did not want to participate in his daughter’s care any longer. Marg explained several discharge options for the patient, however the patient’s father was adamant that his daughter would fail at recovery and did not want to be involved. Undeterred by these circumstances, Marg drew upon all of the resources available to her and worked on behalf of the patient to ensure she was discharged to a safe and appropriate place. Marg makes a point of being well-informed about all of her patients’ cases. She is a strong advocate for each patient, always placing his or her needs first.
  • Bring out the best in each other: Sherri Lemon, Volunteer Resources, Greater Niagara General Site. Sherri always thinks of new ways to bring the Human Resources team closer together by building relationships and making the team members feel involved and proud of their accomplishments. Over the past couple of years, Sherri has initiated and organized a number of events for the HR group. These initiatives included: collecting clothing and household items for a prisoner upon his release; adopting a family in need at Christmas; and arranging presentations for staff that encourage healthy living. Sherri gave a lot of her own time to bring out the best in others. She would take photos of items collected which she would then share with the HR team to keep them up to date. These updates encouraged the group to provide feedback and reinforced the impact the projects were having on others’ lives.
  • Build strong and successful relationships: Lillian Aulph, Charge Nurse, Emergency Department, Welland Site. Lil has the ability to get along with everyone while ensuring her department runs as smoothly as possible. Between 2007 and 2009, Lil filled the role of Interim Manager several times in the Welland and Greater Niagara General ERs. She used her excellent interpersonal skills and knowledge of the ERs and staff members to succeed in these roles. She gained commitment from the staff because of the strong relationships and trust that she built with everyone. She dealt with issues in a timely manner, treated everyone with respect and always kept her trademark sense of humour. Thanks to Lil, the ERs ran as smoothly as possible until permanent managers could be found. Lil’s presence in the ERs was a positive step for the staff, patients and the hospital as a whole.
  • Create a better way: Brenda Colbow, Risk Management, Welland Site. After a workplace injury left Brenda, a registered nurse, unable to continue to provide bedside care, she learned to channel her skills in other directions. She is currently the lead support for the implementation of the Incident Reporting System (IRS), an organization-wide online reporting software initiative. She has successfully trained most of the staff on this new program, which is on target and well on its way to full implementation across all sites. Brenda possesses great leadership and communication skills. She applies her assessment skills at each IRS training session as she adapts to meet the needs and skill levels of each trainee. Brenda demonstrates her excellent work ethic, respect and compassion for everyone on a daily basis. She is organized and professional at all times. Creating a better way is the only way for Brenda. She is a true role model for others.
  • Use our resources wisely: Beth Draper, Complex Care, Port Colborne Site. Beth used both internal and external resources to ensure the nurses on her unit met the required regulations to care for patients on ventilators. The process was a difficult one and required effective communication, reassurance, role modeling, empathy, reassessment and evaluation to ensure the registered practical nurses were at full scope to safely care for patients on ventilators. Beth is also a key member of the Niagara Health fundraising team working to raise $20,000 to send local youth to Kenya to help build a community health clinic as part of the International Year of the Nurse initiative. She has been instrumental in the success of this volunteer effort, giving much of her own time and expertise to help organize and run many fundraising activities, including pasta dinners and car washes.
  • Use our Resources Wisely: Dr. Kim Scher, Douglas Memorial Site. Dr. Scher is the lead physician of Douglas Memorial Site’s palliative care program. He is a busy family doctor and also works eight or nine nights a month at the Douglas Memorial Urgent Care Centre. He is well known as a compassionate and selfless physician. On many occasions, he has come to the hospital to see patients early in the morning or after 10 p.m. to help alleviate a family’s concerns. He is also well known for regularly visiting patients in their homes accompanied by his three-year-old daughter Meah. Dr. Scher has been instrumental in advocating for palliative care services in the Fort Erie area, and his efforts have helped many patients and their families. His efforts have also helped make better use of the hospital’s resources.
  • Compassion, Professionalism and Respect: Mike Doan, Emergency Department, Welland Site. Mike was off duty with his family at Sherkston Shores when a 17-year-old girl overcome by the waves and undertow was pulled from the water with no vital signs. Mike, who is a registered nurse, approached a very chaotic situation and quickly took a calm skilled rescue approach. With the assistance of another off-duty Niagara Health nurse, he performed CPR and revived the young woman. When asked by the police and media for his name, Mike declined the public recognition. This is typical for Mike; he is not one for praise or recognition. A highly skilled Emergency RN and a true team player, Mike demonstrates compassion, professionalism and respect for patients, families and co-workers at all times. In facing the many stresses of the day-to-day activity in a busy ER, Mike remains focused on providing the best care for our patients – and he does this while maintaining a great sense of humour.

Previous President’s Award Winners


  • 2005:  Luc Guilbault, Manager of Food Services, Welland Site
  • 2006:  Cherie Bernard, Hospitality Services Aide, St. Catharines General
  • 2007:  Monica Koepke, Clinical Manager, Greater Niagara General Site
  • 2008:  Joan Martinelli, Charge Nurse, Port Colborne Site
  • 2009: Donna Rothwell, Chief Nursing and Professional Practice Officer and Health Program Director responsible for the regional Maternal Child Program and the Welland Site

Niagara Health System