BRUNSWICK — Based on the theme, “Teamwork Lights the Way,” the Southeast Georgia Health System honored longtime team members May 8 during the annual service awards banquet at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.
A total of 328 team members with 5-50 years of service attended a buffet dinner and received certificates that recognized their years of service to the health system.
Team members Nona Stephens and Janet Edmonds were recognized for 50 years of service.
Stephens was in high school at Glynn Academy when she began working at the health system’s Brunswick campus in 1956. She completed training to become a medical technologist and worked in different areas of the laboratory before finding her niche in the blood bank.
In the early days, Stephens recalled, medical technologists went up to the patients’ rooms to collect blood samples, so there was more interaction with patients. They also collected donor blood and would have to call in donors if there was a bad accident or the blood supply was exhausted.
Even though medical technologists, donors and patients don’t interact the same way today, Stephens said she knows she still makes a big difference in people’s lives.
“If someone has an urgent need, we have to find compatible blood for them quickly,” she said.
Stephens also has witnessed many changes within the health system in the past five decades.
“Over the years, the laboratory has been in five different locations, and I have had the opportunity to work with many different team members,” she said. “I’ve been a part of a small hospital that has grown into a large health system, and it has been amazing.”
Meanwhile, Edmonds, born and raised in Glynn County, also was recognized for her 50 years of service.
After graduating from Risley High School in 1962, she began her career with the health system as a patient-care technician, advancing to diet technician and then retail associate in food and nutrition services.
Edmonds’ current role as a hospitality specialist at the senior care center in Brunswick allows her to interact with patients on a daily basis.
“It has been a joy to treat people like I want to be treated (and) love them like I want to be loved,” she said. “These 50 years have been a great ride.”
In 2013, Edmonds decided it was time to switch from full time to a part-time position, and then immediately signed up to be a volunteer for the health system.
“The people I work with are so caring to our patients and the best fellow team members I could ask for,” she said. “I just can’t leave.”
Judith Varnadoe, who works at senior care center in St. Marys, was honored for 35 years of service. She started in 1979 as a certified nursing assistant and has spent the past decade working in medical records, a job she said suits her quite well.
“I actually love the paperwork,” she said. “The more paperwork I have, the happier I am.”
She said she also likes that being in medical records still allows her to get out of her office and meet the residents and their families.
Among those honored for 25 years of service was Gloria Frazier, a unit clerk for radiology and cardiopulmonary services at the Camden campus.
Frazier said she remembers how small the hospital was when she first started working there in 1989.
“Back then, it was Camden Medical Center, and it was just one floor with the medical-surgical unit at one end and the maternity unit at the other end,” she said. “Everybody knew each other, even if you worked a different shift.”
With growth also came new technology.
“In radiology, we just had regular computed tomography and X-ray when I first started, and now we have magnetic resonance imaging and nuclear medicine,” Frazier said.
She added that she loves her job.
“I am at the registration desk, so I get people checked in and back to where they need to be,” Frazier said. “I see lots of different people with different attitudes, and I have to be able to adjust to each one. But I love it, because I am a people person.”
Gary R. Colberg, the president and CEO of the Southeast Georgia Health System, attended the celebration as well.
“The team members we honor tonight have collectively provided more than 4,080 years of service,” said Colberg, a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. “It demonstrates confidence in us as an employer of choice, but more importantly, it shows that working together works.
“I could not do my job without all the people I work with on a daily basis, and it is because of all the good things you do that we are able to offer new services, recruit qualified physicians and team members and provide the highest level of care. I am honored to work with you.”
Vance Hughes, a member of the Glynn-Brunswick Memorial Hospital Authority, voiced his appreciation as well.
“I am truly grateful that you have dedicated so many years to improving the lives of others through your service to the health system,” he said. “You save lives daily, bring new lives into the world and continue to mentor new team members. On behalf of the hospital authority, thank you for your commitment to the health and well-being of our community.”