A resident of Matlacha received a grant from the Lee Memorial Health System to further pursue a career in the health care industry, which she received during a special ceremony in Fort Myers on Aug. 2.
Randy Toscano, business partner and workforce development coordinator for the Lee Memorial Health System, said when the educational grant program began in 1990 the primary funding source was one of the hospital auxiliaries.
Since then the funding comes from Gulf Coast Medical Center, Lee Memorial, which represents Lee Memorial and HealthPark and the Cape Coral Auxiliary. In addition, Toscano said they also have several endowments through the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation that goes toward the grant program.
Those include the John T. Beckett Fund, Eloise M. Carlson Education Endowment Fund, Jim Nathan Endowment Fund, Nathan Family Educational Excellence Fund, Robert and Frances Feuchter Endowment for Nursing and Healthcare Education Scholarships, Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Nursing & Allied Health Profession Scholarship Fund and Madeleine R. Taeni Nursing Education Fund.
"It was set up to encourage and reward individuals to purse education in the health care industry," he said, adding that it helped answer the question, "How do we continue to fuel our future with health care providers."
So far 1,713 grants have been awarded to local students for a total of $2.25 million.
On Aug. 2, the Lee Memorial Health System was set to give away $200,000 to 156 individuals in the auditorium at South Fort Myers High School. Toscano said 60 of the recipients are members of the community, while the remaining individuals are a part of the Lee Memorial Health System.
"It is a neat celebration for the future health care providers of our community," he said of the ceremony Thursday night.
Susan Whatley, a resident of Matlacha for the past 12 years, was one of the recipients of the grant this year. She began working for the Lee Memorial Health System in 2000 and has worked in the Trauma Center as well as being an educator.
She is the director of a certification course for all the trauma nurses, as well as the director for the emergency pediatric nursing program.
"Every month I am teaching one or the other, they are so worthwhile and valuable," Whatley said about the program that is endorsed by the Emergency Nurse Association.
She is currently working toward obtaining her doctorate degree as a family nurse practitioner, so she can broaden her base of knowledge. The degree is being sought online from Graceland University, which is out of Missouri.
"I was just so pleased," Whatley said of receiving the grant. "Lee Memorial has helped me throughout the years to get all my degrees. So pleased that they are helping me out again."
She went on to say that Lee Memorial believes in her and is always helping her out.
"They adjusted my hours when I needed it, wonderful people," Whatley said.
She hopes once she finishes her degree that she will go back to working at the Trauma Center.
"So blessed, the money, the help, I sure hope to give back to the community by being at the Trauma Center and helping the people that need it most," Whatley said.
There is a selection process that the recipients had to go through to be selected for the grant. Toscano said the selection committee is comprised of a member from each of the auxiliaries, foundation and members from the community.
Each individual had to write an essay to express their desire of why they need the grant. They were also scored on their grade point average and recommendations from the community.
Toscano said their score determined the grant amount they received.
In addition he said those who were seeking to become a nurse practitioner, nurse, pharmacist, physical therapist or occupational therapist were also funded at a higher level because they are critically harder positions to fill, according to Toscano.
The application process takes place between April 1 and May 31 every year.