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Fond farewells at NIH

August 25, 2014

John Halfen, Retired NIH CEO

As of July, Northern Inyo Hospital has bid farewell to six retirees who served from 12-36 years in positions ranging from leadership to rank and file.
According to NIH Chief Performance Excellence Officer Maria Sirois, the following snapshots of the retirees’ careers and retirement plans are courtesy of the retirees and their coworkers and supervisors.
Medical/Surgical Registered Nurse Louise Gaul was with NIH for more than 13 years. She will be enjoying her retirement by spending time with her children and grandchildren. Gaul also “loves to spend time outdoors, including kayaking, hiking and climbing.”
With 32 years of service under his belt, Maintenance Carpenter Joe Zappia retired on May 15. Zappia “ was available to assist whenever anyone asked for his help … Joe is a true craftsman and always took pride in his work with many of his oak creations still being used and admired at NIH.”
Zappia’s father, John, also worked in maintenance and his mother Ginny in nursing. Several of Zappia’s family members still work for NIH: his wife Betty is a physical therapist and his son, Joey, and daughter-in-law, Amy, are both nurses.
 “Family is very important to Joe and now he is able to enjoy his family, including his kids and grandchildren.”
Patricia Ramirez started her 22-year NIH nursing career as a medical/surgical nurse and retired on May 30, as a Patient After Care Unit/Infusion registered nurse. Ramirez also founded the Eastern Sierra Breast Cancer Alliance to help patients receiving radiation treatment with transportation, wigs and scarves. Now, Ramirez is “embarking on a new adventure with plans to study early childhood education and become a preschool teacher.”
Respiratory Care Supervisor Grant Schumacher retired on July 3, ending a 36-year career of working “closely with great staff and physicians over the years (and) was on first name basis with many physicians, staff and patients.”
Schumacher enjoyed watching as the new hospital facility was being built and “having the opportunity to work in it and enjoy working with the Paragon Electronic Health Record.”
Schumacher advises new and existing staff, “Do your job and do it better than anyone else and keep doing your job well.” Still actively doing his best in retirement, he is climbing, hiking, skiing, kayaking and cycling.
Clinical Laboratory Scientist Robert Chilson ended his 12-plus year career with NIH on July 17. “Bob has consistently shown acts of kindness to patients and staff (and) started each work day a half hour early with visitation rounds to hospital staff and patients, expressing his witty humor.” Medical staff found that his comedy added “a little flair to their day.” Chilson consulted with clinicians to provide quick lab-result turnaround times. Now, “Bob is very dedicated to his children and plans to spend plenty of time with them in his retirement.”
After more than 12 years of leadership, NIH said goodbye to Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer John Halfen, who retired on July 20. Halfen served as CFO under then CEO Herman Spencer for several years before he took on the additional mantel of CEO in August 2002 when Spencer retired.
Spencer said that after he interviewed Halfen in 2002, he told the Board of Directors, “Look no further.” Last year, Spencer described Halfen as a hard worker with “obvious knowledge of hospital finance (and) getting the bond approved to build the new hospital speaks highly of his organizational skills. No administrator can make everybody happy. It’s the nature of the job. It appears John has had a successful reign at Northern Inyo Hospital.”
This March, NIH Board of Directors Vice President Denise Hayden said, “We are saying goodbye to an old friend and opening our arms to a new friend. Without his brilliant financial leadership and smart investments,” the new NIH facility would not have been built, especially, added Board Director Dr. John Ungersma, “in the midst of a depression.”
Halfen’s other accomplishment range from guiding NIH through its federally-mandated participation in the Accountable Care Organization managed care system to implementation of a massive new diagnostic code system and initiation of an electronic medical records system to acquisition of cutting-edge equipment such as the Automated Breast Ultrasound System.
Hayden said, “He has done a tremendous job. We wouldn’t be where we are today without him.”

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