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As seen in this rendering, an addition will be built just south of Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital on the site of the city’s former tennis courts. The expansion is part of Carilion Clinic’s plan to invest $1 billion over the next seven years on capital improvements.

By Nancy Howell Agee

Agee is President & CEO of Carilion Clinic

Whether it’s a short drive or a long journey, when we need help in an emergency, we look for the blue signs with the white “H” to guide us safely to the hospital. Not all health care takes place in a hospital, of course. In fact, a lot of care providers are closer to home in the clinics and doctor’s offices that dot our region.

Last week, across our country, we celebrated National Hospital and Health Care Week. It was an opportunity for us at Carilion Clinic to celebrate the more than 13,000 individuals whose around-the-clock commitment serves our communities through hope and healing.

A few days ago, the Carilion family announced exciting plans to expand Roanoke Memorial Hospital. We’ll improve the hospital’s emergency department and provide dedicated space for the Cardiovascular Institute. We’ll also replace the Rehabilitation Building with a new Behavioral Health Building, space that will respond to our community’s need for more treatment services.

As exciting as it is to see new buildings rise in the Roanoke Innovation Corridor, what’s even more exciting is what our neighbors and friends are doing in those buildings. The very human work that has brought us this far will take us into the future.

Ten years ago, Carilion and Virginia Tech planted the seeds for what is now recognized as one of the country’s fast-growing innovation corridors. As the clinical care, education and research enterprise grew, the City of Roanoke embraced the effort, health-related businesses began to arise, and new partners like Radford University further enriched the district. Those partnerships and others will help us make advances in treatment – here in Virginia, across the country, and around the world.

At the core of all this exciting, innovative work are talented, compassionate and hard-working people, so let me tell you about a few of them. These are a few of the many people who embody the values to which we, in the healthcare industry, aspire.

Take, for instance, one of our newer nurses, Brandon Lay. While helping a patient discharged from the emergency department at Roanoke Memorial, Brandon noticed the patient’s vehicle had a flat tire. Luckily, Brandon’s not just an excellent nurse, he’s an expert tire-changer.

I like to say: “There’s a difference between doing the right thing and doing what’s right.” Brandon did what’s right.

So did Michael Lawrence, a psychiatric tech in the New River Valley. He noticed a discharged patient who was without a pair of shoes. Seeing him standing there in socks – on a rainy day, no less – Michael offered his own shoes, an offer the patient accepted with tearful appreciation.

Or take the curiosity that’s part of our employees’ everyday work. Dan Djuric in our Health Analytics Department learned our Care Coordination team needed a better way to track follow-up calls to help our patients avoid being readmitted to the hospital. Dan’s a “We can do that!” guy so he developed software that’s reduced administrative time by at least one hour for every care coordinator. That’s extra time for them to focus on helping patients return home and manage their own chronic conditions.

And just last week, Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital’s staff cared for individuals injured in an explosion at a community store near Buena Vista. The emergency department deftly handled the response to an incident that impacted their close-knit Rockbridge County community.

If you encountered any of these individuals or the thousands of other health care workers in our community, chances are they would tell you that they were “just doing their job.” Maybe that’s true, but in our uniquely human business, doing their jobs often means healing, offering hope and, in fact, saving lives.

Thank you to all of the caregivers for all that you do, and thank you to their friends and families who support them every day.

Lastly, whenever you see the blue sign with the white “H” in it, remember that there are hundreds, if not thousands of your neighbors looking out for you when you need help the most – whether they are in the doctor’s office down the street, the community hospital in your town or the large academic medical center an hour away.

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