In the 22 years since she began her tenure at the University of Pittsburgh Medical CF care center, Connie Richless, R.N., M.S., an adult CF nurse coordinator and quality improvement coach, has seen a lot of changes, both in the number of CF patients she sees and how those patients are being treated.
In that time, the one thing that hasn't changed is Connie's steadfast commitment to the CF community. She says helping adults with cystic fibrosis live meaningful, productive lives is a labor of love.
“You can't do this job and not give 150 percent,” Connie said. “When I see what people with CF go through just to stay healthy, I am inspired to work harder and do more to help them.”
Connie's devotion to the CF community earned her the Mary M. Kontos Care Champion Award. The award is named in honor of pediatric nurse practitioner and program coordinator at the CF Center at the Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo, Mary M. Kontos, and recognizes the contributions of non-physician members of a care team who demonstrate a passion for excellence and commitment to care of individuals with CF. The award was presented to Connie at the 2014 North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference in Atlanta.
A Team Effort
For Connie, earning the Mary M. Kontos Care Champion Award is a reflection not only of her dedication to the cause, but of the commitment of an entire team of people.
“Here at the University of Pittsburgh, we've worked hard to build a great team, and I give a lot of credit to the CF Foundation for that. The Foundation has helped create and foster a team-based culture, which is really unique in the health care community,” Connie said. “As a team, we all work as equals toward one, common goal: to help people with CF live healthy, productive lives.”
Each day, Connie works with doctors, nurses, therapists, dietitians and social workers who all help guide people with CF. When she isn't visiting patients in clinic, Connie can be found talking with them over the phone, helping them navigate insurance or simply being available for emotional support.
“What's most rewarding is seeing the real impact my work, my team's work and the CF Foundation's work is making in the lives of people with this disease,” Connie said. “Because of our collective efforts, people with CF are living meaningful lives and achieving milestones they never before thought possible.”