The 2015 Paul Diaz Caring Award

By Maggie Cunningham

102,000 caregivers.

152 nominations

Four finalists. 

One award presented annually to Kindred caregivers who demonstrate an extraordinary level of skill, compassion and empathy while caring for patients and residents. The Paul Diaz Caring Award. 

careaward2015Four outstanding caregivers are awarded a cash prize, a glass Caring Award and certificate, and a special reception in their honor. Additionally, each of the recipients will be honored by having their names engraved on the legacy Paul Diaz Caring Award plaque, which sits in the Kindred Support Center. Their photos and stories will hang on the Caring Awards "Wall of Fame" within the expanded facility.

The awards are presented by the inaugural winner and namesake of the award, former Kindred Chief Executive Officer and current Executive Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, Paul J. Diaz. The presentation of this award takes place at Kindred's annual Clinical Impact Symposium held November 9-11 in Louisville.

"We've received a tsunami of nominations which tells you that out of our 102,000 caregivers, there are many champions of each other," said Diaz. "What we see every day at Kindred are people who go and reach much further into others' lives to help understand our patients and what matters to them and their families."

"I am constantly amazed and humbled by the caring provided by Kindred employees across the country, and hope this award brings both recognition and inspiration to the recipients and their peers," added Benjamin A. Breier, Chief Executive Officer of Kindred Healthcare.

Caregivers being recognized this year include Stephen Hunt, a physical therapist in Fort Mitchell, Ky; Thomas 'Trapper' Denton, physical therapist in Monticello Arkansas; Michelle Shetler, a certified nursing assistant in Greenwood, Indiana, and  Barbara Owings, a social worker in Louisville, Ky.

hunt1Hunt, a physical therapist for 43 years - including 23 years in home health care - was nominated for the award because of his tireless efforts on behalf of his patients, especially those suffering from dementia. Hunt often fixes patient's wheelchairs, obtains equipment for those that can't afford it, helps arrange entertainment at local assisted living facilities, finds homes for his patients' pets, and even works the office admission desk on his day off - all in addition to the daily care he delivers, designed to strengthen patients, build muscle memory and promote their safety. 

"These patients are not just a job for Steve," wrote Julianne Brown, Branch Director at Kindred at Home - Home Health-Ft. Mitchell, in her nomination of Hunt for the award. "He is one of those rare individuals who truly loves his work and loves making a difference in lives. I cannot think of a more fitting person for this important award."

michelle 1Shetler was nominated for the award because of the quality care and consideration she provides to residents at the Greenwood Transitional Care and Nursing facility just south of Indianapolis. In one of the examples cited in her nomination, Shetler redecorated the room of a patient in a Hawaiian Luau theme after that patient - who had planned a trip to Hawaii - was found to have terminal brain cancer and could no longer travel.

"Undoubtedly, Michelle helped make the remaining time that this resident had at our facility very special and memorable," wrote Steven Tanner, Executive Director of Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation-Greenwood, in his nomination of Shetler for the award. "Michelle demonstrates a true caring and compassionate attention to her residents on a daily basis and gives of her own time and talent to enhance the experience of the residents in her care."

owings 1Owings, with Kindred at Home-Louisville, has been a social worker for 37 years - including 27 years working in home health care. She was nominated for the award because of her exceptional efforts helping patients and their families deal with medical, social and emotional challenges.

In examples cited in her nomination, Owings successfully campaigned to obtain donations of food, baby formula, diapers, clothing and gently used toys and strollers for the family of a patient who was injured and unable to work; got a furnace donated and installed for a home health patient last winter and organized a food pantry in the local Kindred at Home office that helps other clinicians easily assist their patients in need.

"Her genuine care for people and their well being is only enhanced by her years of practical social work experience," wrote Tammy Nash, Records Coordinator at Kindred at Home-Louisville, in her nomination of Owings for the award. "She is truly a shining example of compassionate patient care."

denton 1Denton, a physical therapist assistant with Rehabcare at Drew Memorial Hospital, is in just his sixth year as a licensed physical therapist. He was nominated for the award because of his inspirational efforts helping patients achieve their rehabilitation goals, and in turn inspire others.

In one of the examples cited in his nomination, Denton helped a 17-year-old severely injured in an automobile accident return to school by his senior year and even walk again to receive his diploma - with some assistance Denton himself.

paul diaz all 4"The overall positive influence and inspiration he generates around him cannot be expressed in words," wrote Earl Thomas Ashley, Program Director at Rehabcare at Drew Memorial Hospital, in his nomination of Denton for the award. "As his supervisor, I watch it happen every day and he never ceases to impress me."

"The last thing these people are striving for is an award," Breier said, "their lives are built around the care they provide and the lives they engage with."

Ben explained that he had the honor of reading many of the nominations himself, and was easily moved to tears. In a surprise twist for the award's second year of offering, it was awarded to not just one of the finalists, but all four.

"May their presence be shining examples of why we do what we do," Breier finished.


To learn more about Kindred Healthcare, Inc.'s Paul Diaz Caring Awards, visit . To view video profiles of the 2015 Paul Diaz Caring Award winners, go to Kindred's YouTube channel.