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PHIL honoree Trina Dobson displays her award certificate and Appreciation sculpture.
PHIL honoree Trina Dobson displays her award certificate and appreciation sculpture.
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Respiratory therapists PHIL vital role as medical professionals

Published on Monday, November 4, 2019

By: Gary Pettus, gpettus@umc.edu

In October, Kimberly Carter and Trina Dobson shared an on-the-job experience that took their breath away – ironic, given that their job is helping people breathe.

“Shocked” is how both described their reaction upon hearing she had won a first-ever University of Mississippi Medical Center PHIL Award, presented to the “best of the best” in respiratory care.

Established by the Michigan-based FACES Foundation, the PHILs honor medical professionals who treat patients suffering from asthma, respiratory failure, pulmonary disease, sleep apnea and more.

“Trina and Kimberly are rock star therapists,” said Driscoll DeVaul, UMMC director of respiratory and pulmonary services.

Dobson is the award recipient from adult respiratory care, while Carter represents children’s respiratory care. Both of these registered respiratory therapists are Mississippi natives. Both chose to work at the Medical Center for the opportunity to treat a vast range of patients with a variety of conditions.

“You will see things here you won’t see anywhere else,” Carter said. “And the Medical Center has the only children’s hospital in the state. I knew I wanted to work with kids in the hospital.”

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PHIL Award winner Kimberly Carter, center, receives congratulations from Ellen Hansen, left, chief nursing and clinical services officer for Children's of Mississippi, and Driscoll DeVaul, UMMC director of respiratory and pulmonary services.

A Hattiesburg native now living in Jackson, Carter earned a respiratory therapy degree at Pearl River Community College in 2006, joined UMMC in 2007 and by 2013, while still on the job, had earned a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from the School of Health Related Professions.

Always set on a health care career, she first heard about respiratory therapy from her friends, and was sold.

“I thought I wanted to be nurse at first, but after learning about RT, I knew it sounded right for me,” Carter said.

“When you can’t breathe, it seems like the world stops. As an RT, you just know you’re making a difference. Just knowing you’re helping someone breathe a little easier, knowing you’re helping somebody— that’s always been me.”

For her part, Dobson was also destined for a health care career, based on her DNA: “My mom and several of my aunts are nurses,” she said. “And I have a cousin who is a physician.”

Her choice of careers was sealed after she helped care for a family member with asthma. “I didn’t know anything about asthma, but as I did research on it, it became more and more interesting to me,” Dobson said.

Her research led her to the field she has been a part of for about 25 years. A Jackson native now living in Brandon, Dobson graduated with an associate degree in Respiratory Care Technology from the Hinds Community College-Nursing & Allied Health Center in Jackson before joining UMMC in 1994.

“Trina and Kim do an awesome job,” DeVaul said. “We definitely wanted to recognize the work of our respiratory therapists on a grand scale. We are proud to be the first hospital in the state of Mississippi to promote this award for our deserving RTs.”

One way to do that is through the PHIL Award, named for Philip C. Lamka, who died after a three-year battle with lung disease. In 2006, his wife Sharman Lamka founded a non-profit organization in his memory to give hope to patients with life-threatening pulmonary diseases: The FACES Foundation (Family and Caregiver Education & Support).

The PHIL Award is the foundation’s signature program, and UMMC is the only Mississippi hospital partner listed on its Website.

The organization describes the PHIL Award as “the only nationally recognized hospital-based recognition program dedicated to honoring outstanding respiratory therapists;” in December 2018, the Medical Center began making plans to recognize its own.

“Over the course of a year, we placed nomination boxes throughout the hospital,” DeVaul said.

The nominators were patients, their family members and other caregivers – including one who described Carter’s diligence treating four young traffic-accident victims, two of whom who needed intubation: “Kim ran so hard and ran back and forth between the trauma rooms making sure the patients were OK. She partnered with the doctors and nurses and techs to make sure all was well in very chaotic situation. Very inspiring.”

As award winners, Carter and Dobson received the Appreciation sculpture and paid tuition to their state's annual professional conference.

“I love what I do,” Carter said. “I love the people I work with. It’s hard sometimes. But we always get back to work, collectively, all of us.”

Her fellow honoree Dobson said when she sees patients, it’s like seeing her own relatives. “I treat them the way I would want my family treated if they were in the hospital,” she said.

“I love working with everybody, and I love teaching the students,” Dobson said. “When I retire, they are the ones who are going to be taking care of me. So I train them the way I want to be treated: ‘I want y’all to know what you’re doing.’”