School of Medicine staff honored with dean’s annual service awards

Kristin Palmquist (right), nurse coordinator in the Washington University Infectious Diseases Clinic, talks with co-workers Henry Westerfield and Amber Gase, both medical assistants, at the clinic. Palmquist has been awarded this year’s Dean’s Distinguished Service Award, the School of Medicine’s highest honor for staff. (Credit: Elizabethe Holland Durando)

For two hours, Kristin Palmquist sat in a waiting room, offering support and encouragement to a patient struggling through what was believed to be an anxiety attack or an infection involving his central nervous system.

After tirelessly working with the man and his mother to calm him, Palmquist convinced him to go to the hospital, where he was admitted.

“This care and concern for a patient and family member, with the willingness to stay with them until there was a successful resolution, is priceless,” wrote Lori Watkins, in a letter nominating Palmquist, a nurse coordinator, for her service. “Kristin exhibits this behavior in her nursing care day in and day out.”

Larry J. Shapiro, MD (left), dean of the School of Medicine, stands with award winner Kristin Palmquist; her husband, Tom Giles; and sons, Henry (middle) and Jake (right). (Credit: Ray Marklin)

Palmquist is the winner of this year’s Dean’s Distinguished Service Award, Washington University School of Medicine’s highest honor for staff. The award recognizes employees who excel in their job responsibilities, help create a positive working environment and improve the community.

A nurse coordinator in the Department of Internal Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases since 2007, Palmquist assists in the care of more than 1,600 patients with HIV infections and an equal number with acute and chronic infections.

“She goes above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis to help provide world-class care,” wrote Watkins, the division’s nurse manager. “She is unflappable in her resolve, in her care and concern, and in the calm demeanor she exhibits to those in need.”

Palmquist has been known to call patients to see how they are handling their antibiotics, wound care and regimen of multiple medications.

“We only know about these calls when the patients arrive for their appointments and share with us that they couldn’t have gotten through without Kristin’s phone calls for concern and encouragement,” Watkins wrote. “Every day, in every way, she motivates and inspires all of us.”

Palmquist has endeared herself even more to her co-workers by organizing staff involvement in several 5k runs; coordinating the giving of holiday gift baskets to employees in other departments that work with her division; and volunteering with her sons to perform music for hospital patients and nursing homes residents.

Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, presented awards to Palmquist and this year’s two other service award winners at surprise gatherings last month in each of their departments.

“I feel so honored to receive this recognition,” Palmquist said. “It is a testament to the incredible people I work with here in this clinic. Every day I learn and am inspired by their compassion, dedication and the care that they give to our patients. I feel so lucky to be a part of this team.”

Ray Marklin

John F. DiPersio, MD, PhD (left), stands with award winner Julie Ritchey and Larry J. Shapiro, MD, dean of the School of Medicine.

Julie Ritchey
, research laboratory supervisor in the Department of Internal Medicine’s Division of Oncology-Bone Marrow Transplant, is the winner of this year’s Dean’s Research Support Staff Award.

Ritchey began working for the Department of Surgery in 1991. Three years later, when John F. DiPersio, MD, PhD, joined the faculty, Ritchey joined his lab. There, her primary responsibilities include supervision over several projects and clinical trials and maintaining critical data integrity for many of the published studies the lab produces.

She has instructed more than 200 postdoctoral students, graduate students and technicians in all facets of lab work, from dissection to myriad diagnostic processes. In addition to her work in DiPersio’s lab, Ritchey is a major contributor to the success of other research labs within the stem cell biology section of the oncology division and in other labs throughout the university.

“Julie is one of the unsung heroes of our section,” said Timothy A. Graubert, MD, associate professor of medicine. “The DiPersio lab has consistently produced cutting-edge research over the years, and Julie deserves much of the credit. Scientists come to that lab with varying degrees of technical expertise, and much of the training, supervision and quality control falls to Julie. She rises to these challenges and delivers.

“I am struck that she takes ownership of the work in the lab, in the sense that she is personally invested in everyone’s data.”

In a nominating letter extolling Ritchey’s dedication and many skills and talents, DiPersio, the Virginia E. and Sam J. Golman Professor of Medicine, wrote: “Nothing gets done in my laboratory (and few things in our stem cell biology program) unless Julie Ritchey has a part in it. … She is willing to help anyone in any way that is going to further the cause of science.”

Ray Marklin

From left, Steven Sobo stands with Brenda Olech, her husband and award winner Ron Olech and Larry J. Shapiro, MD, dean of the School of Medicine.