10 UCLA Health nurses recognized for ‘nursing greatness’ by Simms/Mann Family Foundation

‘We want people to understand the urgency of investing in nurses,’ says Executive Director Rachel Barchie.
10 UCLA Health nurses were named Off the Chart award recipients.
UCLA Health Off the Chart award recipients, from left, Christopher Lee, Amy Castillo, Kelly Hopkins, Kemi Reeves, Kayla Kafka-Peterson, Valentina Obreja, Lindsay Brant, David Yamada and Mithun Mahinda, with UCLA Health Chief Nursing Executive Karen Grimley. UCLA Health Off the Chart recipient Iris Mayoral is not pictured.
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5 min read

When Kemi Reeves, MSN, GNP-BC, learned she was one of 10 UCLA Health nurses being recognized for her exemplary work by the Simms/Mann Foundation’s Off the Chart program, the details took time to register.

Seated in the office of UCLA Health Chief Nursing Executive Karen Grimley, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, FAAN, Reeves read the formal announcement letter over and over, until the details became clear – including the $10,000 gift each nurse would receive, with no stipulations on its use.

“I was really in a state of shock when I read the letter and the details of the gift,” says Reeves, a gerontological nurse practitioner in the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program. “It probably didn’t set in until that night when I realized what an honor this is. It’s nice to be recognized and to have our work seen and valued.”

Reeves is among 30 nurses to be recognized for nursing greatness by the Simms/Mann Family Foundation. Nurses from City of Hope and USC’s Keck Medicine also were recognized in this inaugural year of the program. The $10,000 gift was to show gratitude and appreciation to the nurses for their leadership, innovation and expertise in caring for their fellow humans and future generations.

The nurses were chosen by a diverse group of leaders from within each organization; honorees were not told who had nominated them. By the program’s design, recipients embody “a bias toward action, capacity for self-direction, originality and creative instincts, courageous and bold thinking, and the potential to achieve even more.”

Gift recipients

In addition to Reeves, the UCLA Health recipients include David Yamada, RN, clinical nurse; Mithun Mahinda, BSN, RN, clinical nurse, ICU; Kayla Kafka-Peterson, BSN, RN, radiation oncology nursing supervisor; Amy Castillo, BS, RN-BC, clinical nurse; Christopher H. Lee, BSN, RN, clinical nurse, medical-surgical unit; Iris Mayoral, BNS, RN-BC, clinical nurse, neuropsychiatry; Valentina Obreja, DNP, AG/AC, clinical nurse, cardiothoracic ICU; Kelly Hopkins, BSN, RN, clinical nurse, neonatal ICU; and Lindsay Brant, BSN, RN, critical care nurse, cardiothoracic ICU, and end-of-life doula.

“I am very proud to say the nurses from UCLA Health are truly representative of the varied contributions that nursing makes not only at UCLA but in the profession and across the community,” says Dr. Grimley.  

“Having those exemplary nurses – filled with passion around the care they deliver – sparks innovation and idea-making, enhances the patient’s stay and engages the patient in their care. And that’s probably more meaningful to me than anything.”

Appreciation for nurses

This year marks the start of a three-year commitment to operate the campaign with the three organizations, says Rachel Barchie, Simms/Mann executive director. The Foundation hopes to add two more health care systems next year, honoring a total of 50 nurses.

The program grew from the longstanding appreciation Simms/Mann Family Foundation founder and President Victoria Mann Simms, PhD, has had for nursing, stemming from the care her late father received as a patient at UCLA Health more than 20 years ago.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dr. Simms realized how much nurses bear the brunt of the work, and it brought back feelings of gratitude,” Barchie explains. “She wanted to do something to support nurses as a reminder that nurses help alter the trajectory of patient care. It’s the Foundation’s hope that the recognition and the gift would be individually impactful to each nurse – a shot in the arm and a boost to keep doing the great work they’re doing.”

A second aim of the program, Barchie adds, is to highlight the critical role nurses play in maintaining the health and safety of the public – especially significant as the nation faces a nursing workforce crisis that could see one-third of nurses leaving their profession over the next four years.

“We want people to understand the urgency of investing in nurses and have created a model playbook that other philanthropists and health systems can follow to try to create this in their own community or organization,” she says.

All eyes on health care

“We need all eyes on health care, and we need to do a much more meaningful job of demonstrating the value of nursing outside of hospital and health care metrics. I think Ms. Simms and her Foundation are trying to help us with that. They are trying to establish Off the Chart as a regionally recognized award with stature that illuminates the impact of nursing greatness on patients and our community,” Dr. Grimley says.

She notes the gift amount is significant, as well.

“From my perspective, it’s a valuable gift for those nurses,” she says. “Gifts like this recognize tangible examples of nursing excellence and its impact on patients, families and the community. They also reinforce the reason why these acts of caring made a difference to those involved.”

‘Wow moment’

For Reeves, being an Off the Chart recipient is still sinking in.

“I am honored to receive the recognition because that is really the mission of the Simms/Mann Foundation: to elevate the profession and to acknowledge the work of nurses and nursing practice. Probably even more so, this recognition aligns with my professional mission to do good work in the manner of elevating professional nursing,” she says.

Reeves still has no idea who nominated her, but believes she was chosen because of her work in equity, diversity and inclusion, advocating for systemwide changes to meet the needs of nurses and patients outside the clinical setting.

“I hope that I’m able to inspire a younger generation of nurses,” she adds.

She laughs when she recalls receiving the email to report to Dr. Grimley’s office and admits to being a bit nervous. “We always just jump on a Zoom call. I realized I didn’t know where her office was.”

Dr. Grimley says watching the 10 nurses read the gift announcement letter was “sheer joy.”

“You don’t get those opportunities often,” she adds. “Just to see them know how special they are and have that quiet moment with them was priceless. It was just a ‘wow moment’ for me.”

Jennifer Karmarkar is the author of this article.

Take the Next Step

Learn more about the Simms/Mann Family Foundation’s Off the Chart program.

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