Michele Mizda, CF Care Center Social Worker
At Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, Michele Mizda wears a lot of hats: advocate, mediator and, oftentimes, friend.
The CF care center social worker gets to know the children and adults who come to the center for specialized cystic fibrosis care, connecting families to available resources that help with the financial, emotional and physical burdens of the disease.
“Michele pours her heart into her professional work as a social worker for CF families,” says Nate Cross, Northern Ohio Chapter executive director, “and she is just as dedicated to supporting everyone in the CF community through her volunteer work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.”
And her work reaches far beyond the hospital walls.
Every spring for the past seven years, Michele has laced up her walking shoes to lead her local Great Strides walk, raising funds for the ultimate goal she shares with the families she serves — a cure for CF.
Supporting CF Families Beyond the Clinic Setting
When Michele joined the Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron CF care center team in 2004, she knew only basic information about cystic fibrosis. As she jumped into her new role and developed personal relationships with her patients, she immediately was touched by their experiences dealing with the disease.
“People with CF have so much courage, and I continue to be amazed by their determination to live their lives to the fullest despite the challenges they face,” she says. “I’m honored that they allow me into their lives.”
Inspired to go even further to help the families she works with, Michele translated her work in the clinic into a commitment to Great Strides and raising funds for the CF Foundation’s search for a cure.
Michele spreads the word about the walks and the many ways to get involved with the Northern Ohio Chapter during clinic visits. She reaches out to other departments in the hospital — from respiratory therapists to food services staff — inviting them to create their own Great Strides teams. She also asks care center staff to attend at least one of the many local walks.
“We see the results of the incredible research made possible through Great Strides, and that is the source of a lot of hope for everyone in our community,” Michele says.
When a new CF Climb event launched in Cleveland, Michele and several of her colleagues made the trip to participate and cheer on other volunteers brave enough to attempt the athletic feat.
“Michele is more than just a social worker to the families she works with,” says Suzanne Zak, senior director of development for the Northern Ohio Chapter. “They know she really cares about them personally.”
Partnering Up in the Fight Against CF
With the support of center directors Drs. Nathan Kraynack and Titus Sheers, hospital president and CEO Bill Considine, and the entire Akron Children’s Hospital CF care center team, Michele strives to empower local families affected by CF to help raise the funds needed to bring about dramatic advances in research and care.
To effectively achieve this goal, she says, it’s critical for the care center to partner with its local CF Foundation chapter.
In addition to chairing the Akron Great Strides walk and serving on the chapter board, Michele invites the Northern Ohio Chapter to have a presence at the hospital’s annual spring patient education day, to help get the word out about CF Foundation resources. She also includes local CF Foundation events in the care center’s quarterly newsletter.
“It’s our goal to help people see what’s available throughout the community — opportunities for additional support and ways to become involved,” Michele says. “Many families become isolated because of infection control issues, so it’s important to help connect people with CF with the support they need.”
Last fall at the annual North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference, the care center’s efforts were recognized with a 2011 Outstanding Partnership Award, in recognition of the center’s dedication to the Foundation’s mission and exceptional collaboration with the Northern Ohio Chapter.
“To see us going the extra mile outside of the clinic setting — that really makes a huge difference to the families we serve,” Michele says.
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