Cavalari is MHA Caregiver of the Year

Jennifer Cavalari, DO, a hospitalist at Houlton Regional Hospital, has been selected to be the Maine Hospital Association’s Caregiver of the Year.

Since 2002, the MHA Caregiver of the Year Award has been given to a caregiver employed by a member institution who, on a daily basis, demonstrates extraordinary commitment to the delivery of care to patients and their families.

Jennifer Cavalari, DO

Cavalari received her award Wednesday, June 20, at MHA’s annual Summer Forum held at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. News Center Maine Anchor Sharon Rose Vaznis presented the award.

According to Traci Peabody, BSN, RN, patient care coordinator at Houlton Regional Hospital, who nominated Cavalari for the award, the doctor has always had compassion for people and has made healthcare for others the priority in her life.

Not long ago, a patient who was sick and in pain came to Houlton Regional Hospital. He was looking for answers about what was happening to him. He’d had recent scans at another hospital, and though he had received a bill, he hadn’t received the scan results.

Cavalari went to work to find those results, and after much digging and several phone calls, including one to the specialist, the patient finally heard from the doctor who had ordered the tests.

“The patient and his spouse cried (as did Jen) and they could not thank her enough for the extra effort she had put in to get them the results,” Peabody wrote. “The results were not what they wanted, but at least now they had an answer. She also told the patient she would not discharge him until there was a solid plan in place. You could see the relief on his face.”

Peabody says Cavalari treats her patients like they are members of her family.

“It does not matter how busy Jen is, when I say a patient or family member wants to talk to her, she puts everything down and goes,” Peabody said. “She never rushes. She spends endless amounts of time sitting and talking (or just listening, when necessary) with them; sometimes about treatment options, the weather, or the difficult conversation when there are no more options. She cries with them, laughs with them, and even swaps recipes with them.”

During a rotation in her first year of residency, Cavalari visted Honduras. While there, she became concerned about the lack of follow-up care and supplies available to the community. She felt compelled to help them. So, she did.

With a business partner, she formed an international non-profit organization called SELF (Sustainable Empowerment Leadership Foundation). The goal of SELF is to work collaboratively with community leaders in Honduras to help the whole community. Community projects have included Medical Brigades that provide such services as Pap smears, dental screenings and eye exams. At the end of these brigades, volunteers provide self-care education. But the sole focus isn’t on treatment, it’s also on prevention. For example, the organization raised $15,000 to provide a town with a permanent, 24-hour clean, purified water source. Having clean water will reduce the number of water-borne illnesses that plague much of the country.

Over the past year, Cavalari’s commitment to global health has extended to Puerto Rico, which continues to suffer from the results of last year’s devastating hurricane. She spent her Christmas holiday seeing patients at free clinics and doing nighttime rounds on the homeless, where her team provided food and comfort.

Peabody says it’s her willingness to listen that makes Cavalari an exceptional caregiver.

“Doctors get endless phone calls at night, but she never complains about them,” Peabody wrote. “She listens carefully and respectfully to the nurses, and often stays awake and ends up calling back to make sure everyone is ok, patients and nurses. Sometimes she even calls the room and talks with the patients. Jennifer truly believes in the importance of team centered care for her patients, and includes all disciplines when making decisions. This is true here and in Honduras.”

Coverage from NewsCenter