A vascular surgeon, a chiropractor, an attorney, a beagle and her master, and a pirate who fights for those suffering from childhood cancer are among local volunteers who have been recognized with a 2016 Healthcare Hero award from the Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD). Now in its tenth year, the Healthcare Heroes is GHD’s annual awards program that honors volunteers who help advance the delivery of quality healthcare in the East County region.
“The purpose of these Healthcare Hero awards is to recognize volunteers whose unsung work in health care might not otherwise be recognized,” said Grossmont Healthcare District 2016 board president Bob Ayres. “This year’s group of honorees demonstrated extraordinary and inspirational care and selfless dedication that has played a critical role towards a healthier East County community.”
This year’s honorees included: Dr. Scott Musicant, Vascular Associates of San Diego; Dr. Kevin Ryan, chiropractor; James Byrnes, San Diego Freedom Ranch; Michael Colombo and his dog Shiloh, Sharp Grossmont Hospital Pet Therapy Program; Sam Mejia, Sons of Charity.
Musicant, a practicing vascular surgeon with Vascular Associates of San Diego, donates his time and expertise to serve the underserved in San Diego County as a physician volunteer for Project Access San Diego (PASD). PASD is the flagship volunteer physician program of Champions for Health, a nonprofit organization previously called the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation. Since 2009, Musicant has helped about 20 uninsured or underinsured East County residents who cannot afford specialty surgeries. These patients were suffering from various vascular- and arterial-related diseases, including varicose veins and thoracic and abdominal aortic aneurysms. Patients were treated at Musicant’s office on Center Drive in La Mesa or an area surgery center.
Ryan, a chiropractor since 1983, has volunteered as a team doctor for high school and college sports teams in the East County for nearly 30 years. During many fall seasons, he has been a familiar face on the sidelines for more than 250 football games at Grossmont College and another 200 football games at Grossmont, Valhalla and Santana high schools. He also volunteered over a 10-year span as team doctor at San Diego Christian College (SDCC), caring for soccer, basketball, softball, baseball and cross country athletes. He currently teaches genetics, biochemistry and microbiology at SDCC. He also volunteers his chiropractic skills to several San Diego State University (SDSU) sports teams.
Byrnes, an attorney in private practice since 1991, has served for the past 29 years on the board of directors of the San Diego Freedom Ranch, an alcohol and drug residential treatment facility in Campo. Since 1972, Freedom Ranch’s 120-day recovery program has helped thousands of men live sober lives. Since joining the board in 1987, James has served twice as chairman for a total of seven years. More than 8,000 men have graduated from the program during his time of leadership. Byrnes has a personal reason for his decades of support to San Diego Freedom Ranch. He is a recovering alcoholic who spent five months there in 1984.
Colombo, a retired commercial construction superintendent, and his beagle named Shiloh have visited patients throughout the hospital campus, including the Emergency and Critical Care Center, David and Donna Long Center for Cancer Treatment and the Rehabilitation Center, as well as private rooms. They also have made trips to the Sharp HospiceCare LakeView home in La Mesa. Since January 2014, the duo have logged more than 375 hours of volunteer service.
Mejia is founder of a nonprofit that provides financial assistance, resources and encouragement to children and their families suffering from life-threatening pediatric cancer. Founded in January 2014, Sons of Charity has provided emergency grants to cover a variety of expenses ranging from daily living or household needs, such as food or gasoline, to travel expenses during lengthy hospital stays and alternative treatments not covered by insurance. About a dozen families have been helped in the past two years. Dressed as a pirate and resembling the lead actor in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, Mejia regularly visits Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego to bring a smile to the faces of children and family members going through a rough time.
The Grossmont Healthcare District presented its 2016 Healthcare Hero awards on Wednesday, May 18, at Steele Canyon Golf Club in Jamul.
The Grossmont Healthcare District is an East County regional public agency that supports various health-related community programs and services in San Diego’s East County. Formed in 1952 to build and operate Grossmont Hospital, the District is governed by a five-member board of directors, each elected to four-year terms, who represent more than 500,000 people residing within the District’s 750 square miles. For more information about GHD, visit www.grossmonthealthcare.org