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The conception of heroism often revolves around bravery or doing something out of the ordinary to achieve a noble end. But in the field of health care, heroism can take many forms and happen at any time.

Although this year’s Health Care Heroes were all “just doing their job,” they’ve been recognized by their peers for their commitment to going above and beyond on behalf of the residents of Southwest Florida. As you read their stories of caring, curing and compassion, remember that these doctors, nurses, administrators, first responders and volunteers are the ones who perform the extraordinary every day.


Johanna Brown, M.D.
Lee Health

A Doctor Determined

In spite of the many advances in medical science, diagnosing a patient can still require dogged determination. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, one local patient picked up a bacterial infection from the surge water near their home. However, after two surgeries to collect culture samples, a local laboratory couldn’t identify the bacteria causing the patient’s infection. That’s when Dr. Johanna Brown, an infectious disease specialist with Lee Health, began a broader search.

Ultimately, that search took two months and led to the National Jewish Hospital in Denver, where the bacteria was finally diagnosed as one of only 200 identified cases in the world. Once the bacteria was identified, Brown scoured the country for the correct course of treatment. While that treatment will require 18 to 24 months of antibiotics, Brown’s patient is on a steady course to recovery and calls her a “hero in every medical way possible.”

This isn’t the only example of Brown’s tenacity, either: Her determined pursuit of care is also demonstrated by her 20 years of involvement with the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, a system of treatment and support for low-income people with HIV.


Nichole Lynch, APRN
Millennium Physician Group

A Caring Journey

Nichole Lynch’s career in nursing was inspired by caring for her grandfather as he battled Alzheimer’s disease. That journey has led to Lynch earning her CNA, RN and APRN degrees, and also has taken her to hospitals and emergency rooms across Florida, and across the country.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lynch traveled to some of the hardest-hit areas in Florida and the nation, including New York City, to help care for the huge influx of patients suffering from a deadly disease that, at the time, was not well understood. After returning to Florida, Lynch began working in the emergency room and NICU at Golisano Children’s Hospital. During that time, she also served as a foster parent to one of her young patients. Upon earning her APRN, she joined the practice at Millennium Physician Group and now sees patients one-on-one as a primary care provider.

However, Lynch’s journey hasn’t been limited to clinical settings. When a staff member opted to move home to New York to be closer to family after a health scare, Lynch and her husband helped that person mow the lawn, clean up trash and prepare their home for sale.

Mental Health Provider

Jason Sabo, Ph.D.
Lee Health/Golisano Children’s Hospital

Connecting With Kids

Serving as a Pediatric Psychologist at Lee Health and Golisano Children’s Hospital, Jason Sabo’s dedication, compassion and commitment to pediatric mental health have had a profound effect on countless young patients and their families. With a unique ability to create a nurturing environment for children facing unimaginable medical challenges, Sabo’s understanding of the connection between physical and emotional well-being extends beyond health care.

Recognized for his ability to make children feel safe, understood and empowered during their difficult journeys, Sabo works to alleviate the stress and anxiety that often accompanies medical treatment. He has also dedicated himself to destigmatizing pediatric mental health and educating patients, families and the community about the importance of emotional well-being during medical challenges.

In addition, Sabo’s advocacy with Kids’ Minds Matter has raised awareness and helped bridge the gap between physical and mental health. His work has been a positive influence on numerous young patients, helping them to navigate their health care experiences with courage, resilience and a sense of hope. Through his contributions to the field of pediatric psychology, Sabo also serves as a beacon of hope for families in their darkest moments.

First Responder

Paul Russell
Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District

First In, Last Out

Being a firefighter is pretty much synonymous with heroism. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, firefighters and other first responders in Southwest Florida encountered unprecedented challenges. Among the first responders who answered the call was Paul Russell (pictured left with Keith Gaudet), a firefighter with the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District.

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Russell and his crew provided water, food and first aid to survivors. In some cases, they simply worked to comfort those in shock and convince them it was safe to remove their life jackets. Russell was also among the many first responders who participated in search and rescue operations that stretched on for more than a month. Along the way, he worked shoulder-to-shoulder with his colleagues to provide any care or assistance they could, including helping with generators and clean-up as residents salvaged what remained from the storm. Russell and his fellow firefighters also assisted residents who needed help accessing their homes to gather personal items, including providing a lift assist to carry an elderly man up to his third-floor condominium.


Doris Nolan
Volunteer, Cypress Cove

Stepping up, Caring and Sharing

Doris Nolan is a resident of Cypress Cove, a not-for-profit life plan community in Fort Myers. But seeing a need to serve and help care for her fellow residents after she moved in, Nolan stepped up and took action. After receiving training from the Diocese of Venice in Florida, Nolan was appointed to be an “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion” in order to administer Catholic communion to Cypress Cove’s memory care residents. However, since not every resident is Catholic, Nolan designed a program known as “Joy with Doris” that provides all residents of any denomination an opportunity to come and share gratitude and conversation. That program has now expanded to include activities, such as trivia and treats.

Realizing that residents adapting to memory care can become more isolated, Nolan expanded Cypress Cove’s independent living volunteer program to include memory care. Under Nolan’s mentorship, five independent living residents now volunteer three days a week in the memory care facility. In addition, knowing the importance of seeing many of their former neighbors, Nolan regularly brings a group of memory care residents to the independent living dining area and has even covered the cost of meals.

Health Care Prevention (Individual)

Maxim Chasanov, M.D.
Medical Director, David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health

Building Better Mental Health Care

Joining David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health, or DLC, as medical director, Dr. Maxim Chasanov began supervising the psychiatrists and ARNPs managing the inpatient crisis unit for children and adults, as well as the adult detox unit. While these units have almost always been overcrowded, Chasanov also had to immediately manage the increased demand for mental health services spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in suicide attempts, an opioid addiction epidemic and the emotional effects of several hurricanes. Along the way, DLC also accepted admissions from Lee County for six months after Hurricane Ian and completed a 15-bed expansion to the Children’s Crisis Unit.

In the community, Chasanov has advocated for the $45 million Collier County Central Receiving Facility, which will greatly expand the in-patient bed capacity in the area. The facility will meet the behavioral health needs of Collier County for years to come and be managed by the DLC team. In addition, Chasanov has served an important role in education through a series of training sessions for NCH residents, the production of video content for DLC’s Mind Your Mind prevention campaign and donor communications and advocacy as DLC’s liaison with the Collier County Medical Society.

Innovation (Individual)

Arie Dosoretz, M.D.
Advocate Radiation Oncology

Proton Therapy Provider

Cancer treatment can be both physically and emotionally grueling. And that burden can be even more taxing on patients and their families when they have to travel to access the treatment they need. But now, thanks to Dr. Arie Dosoretz, the managing partner at Advocate Radiation Oncology, Southwest Florida residents no longer have to travel across the state or across the country to have access to advanced proton therapy treatment.

Proton therapy offers a more precise radiation treatment option that delivers the maximum dose of radiation to tumors while minimizing side effects by reducing the amount of radiation received by nearby healthy tissue. However, the complexity and cost of the facilities have often limited their availability to larger cities. In opening the first proton therapy center on the Gulf Coast, Dosoretz is not only offering more advanced cancer treatment options to a broader population, but a greater quality of life during that treatment. That’s important, since radiation therapy can often mean four to nine weeks of daily radiation treatments. Now, Dosoretz and his staff can offer Southwest Florida residents world-class cancer care without leaving home.

Health Care Staff

NCH Baker Hospital—Neuro Unit

Comprehensive, Compassionate Care

When a trip to the grocery store ended with an ER visit and a brain tumor diagnosis, Kelley Watson needed immediate care. Watson said she was lucky to be treated at the NCH Baker Hospital.

“My CT scan revealed a bilateral frontal lobe tumor the size of a kiwi. Fortunately, the neurosurgeon on call was one of the best in Naples,” she says. “From the start, I felt like I was taken care of. My awesome team included me every step of the way and I was shown every single MRI. They took their time to figure out the type of tumor I had, and the best way to treat it.”

Throughout her stay in the NCH Neuro unit, Watson said she encountered professionalism, respect and compassion from every member of the staff. That included not only doctors and nurses, but the transporters and meal service staff, as well.

“I had two brain surgeries and I wasn’t scared of either one because I knew they would take care of me. I was so lucky to have such confidence, because you really want competent people in a situation like that,” Watson says. “It was actually not that unpleasant of an experience.”

Urgent Care

Premier Mobile Health Services

Providing Care Everywhere

With a mission of providing access to quality health care to the medically vulnerable and those who are at the most risk of developing and experiencing long-term illnesses and hospitalizations, Premier Mobile Health Services makes a difference in Lee County by serving underserved and underinsured individuals, regardless of their situation or lifestyle. A 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, Premier Mobile Health Services provides care for free or at a reduced rate to patients without insurance who are below federal poverty guidelines.

Led by Nadine Singh, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, Premier Mobile strives to close the gap between primary care and emergency care for the unhoused, vulnerable and marginalized members of the community. To do that, the organization offers a walk-in clinic and mobile clinics that travel around the county to serve those who lack transportation or the resources to access the care they need. The agency also offers telemedicine, screening for diabetes, hypertension and other chronic and progressive diseases, HIV and sexually transmitted disease testing, blood pressure checks, annual vaccines, disaster response and referrals for dental, vision and mental health care.

Health Care Prevention (Organization)

David Lawrence Centers’ Mind Your Mind Campaign

Maintaining Mental Health

While we’re often reminded to care for our physical well-being, maintaining our mental health is too frequently overlooked. And that’s why David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health, or DLC, a Collier County-based behavioral health care provider, launched the Mind Your Mind initiative.

Designed to encourage individuals to prioritize their well-being, as well as that of their family, friends, neighbors and community, the Mind Your Mind campaign features a monthly email and curated website content from clinical experts and community partners. Focusing on an important topic related to mental wellness each month, each email includes articles, educational resources, stories and videos. The DLC website also offers a variety of Mind Your Mind-focused articles and resources.

In addition, the Mind Your Mind Speakers Series has extended the initiative further in the community by offering in-person, educational talks focused on important and relevant topics related to behavioral health care. Those talks have focused on workplace wellness, establishing work-life balance, children’s mental health, veteran services, personal well-being and even mental health first aid training.

Innovation (Organization)

The United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades WeCare Program

Caring for Those in Need

Someone’s ability to pay for medical care should never dictate the care they receive. That’s why the United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades created the WeCare program. WeCare connects qualifying individuals with severe medical conditions that can’t be managed by a primary care provider with the medical care they need, free of charge via an extensive network of volunteer providers.

Contracted through the Florida Department of Health, Voluntary Health Care Provider Program, the WeCare initiative has made a huge difference for patients and their families. In 2023, WeCare provided more than $9 million in charitable care, covered 2,448 medical visits and procedures and served 332 patients ranging from 16 to 87 years of age. The program is supported by more than 300 individual providers, 50 medical offices and 30 corporate partners. Most importantly, any medical provider can refer a patient to WeCare.

In addition, WeCare providers also extend their care beyond the individual patient to include the entire family. Thanks to the generosity of United Way donors, even the youngest members of the Southwest Florida community can be comforted by the knowledge that someone genuinely cares for them.

Copyright 2024 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

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