Donor family is met with ‘Joy’ from more than 400 miles away

A woman named “Joy” recently traveled from Indiana to Tennessee to meet the family who helped save her life through organ donation.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Her social media posts show a woman holding a guitar in a field of sunflowers, singing as she strums a ukulele, dancing at the Indianapolis Kidney Walk, and balancing a pageant crown as she strolls the boardwalk in Miami.

In every photo Joy Araujo is smiling – even in the photo taken with her mom when she was in a hospital bed at IU Health University Hospital. That photo was taken five years ago after her first kidney transplant. Araujo received her second kidney transplant on April 21, 2021. In the days and months that have followed that life-saving transplant Araujo has focused on promoting the need for organ donation. She writes music and competes in beauty pageants around the country – focusing on positive body image, and encouraging contestants to “be their own kind of beautiful.” In her most recent pageant earlier this month, Araujo won the swimsuit competition. Professionally, she serves as a development specialist with the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana.

Even as she lives every day to the fullest, there was one thing that Araujo still needed to do. She wanted to meet her donor family.

August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month – a collaborative initiative of the National Multicultural Action to save and improve the quality of life of diverse communities. Specifically, the focus is to bring awareness to donation and transplantation in multicultural communities – African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American. According to Donate Life America and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, last year in the United States it is estimated that: Multicultural Communities make up 60 percent of the people awaiting transplantation. Of that percentage, more than 30,000 are African American, 22,000 are Hispanic, 10,000 are Asian/Pacific Islander, 900 are Native American, and 1,200 are Multiracial. Interested donors can learn more at www.registerme.org.

Organ recipients and donor families may opt to send letters to donor/recipient families through the national donor network.

Araujo was diagnosed with Nephrotic syndrome at the age of 10. Overtime, she began dialysis and received her first transplant in 2017. When she received her second transplant four years later, it was important to her that her donor family knew how thankful she was.

“His kidney has done very well,” said Araujo. The kidney she received was from Tyree Corley, 22. After his tragic death, his family made a decision that would save many lives through organ donation. Since his death, Corley’s family has gathered to honor his birthday, July 21, and the day of his death, July 28.

This year, Araujo traveled the six hours to Chattanooga, Tenn. to join Corley’s family. She met his mother, Lydia Murphy, his younger sister, India Corley, and Tyree’s two daughters.

“It was very humbling to meet Tyree’s family and inspired me to continue to live my complete and best life,” said Araujo. “I’m carrying on Tyree’s legacy. I’m living for me and a kidney donor so I have to do things that will make his family proud.”

In Tennessee, Araujo and Corley’s family members participated in a car show to raise awareness for kidney disease and transplant. They joined together for a picnic and games in a local park. They also shared stories about Corley. His family made special orange t-shirts (Corley’s favorite color) each one personalized in his memory. Araujo’s t-shirt included the words: “He gained his wings. She was given life.”

In a social media post Corley’s mom wrote: “Never underestimate the power and precious gift of being an organ donor. When Tyree’s life was terminated we decided to donate some of his organs. God took one life, but He was able to save six lives.”

Araujo is the only recipient the family has met in person.

“It was like a breath of fresh air knowing my brother was still alive through her and it felt so good to know that he gave her new life – that a tragedy turned into something so beautiful. She was so grateful,” said Corley’s sister.

His mother said that her decision about organ donation came from a personal experience. “In 2007, I needed a blood transfusion and if someone hadn’t donated, I would not have gotten the transfusion,” said Murphy. “I was nervous to meet Joy, and she was nervous to meet me but in the end, everything was so natural. It brought me so much joy to know that my son’s blood, his life is flowing through her.”

A sign of hope: Patient receives special gift after appointment

Avon Primary Care Physician Sofia Ligard, MD, and Medical Assistant Katherine Duncan were right where they needed to be when Gina Fisher walked into their office.

By Emma Packard, marketing associate, epackard1@iuhealth.org

When Gina Fisher stepped into an IU Health Physicians Family Medicine office in Avon, she didn’t have an appointment. She had recently started taking a new prescription medication that was making her feel off.

“I’d never felt like this. I didn’t feel normal,” she said. “I was just at my wits’ end.”

Fisher was struggling with anxiety and stress, but the medication enhanced those feelings.

Even without an appointment, Dr. Sofia Ligard, a primary care physician, was able to see Fisher, though she had never seen this patient before.

“My manager and I decided to add her to my schedule for the end of the morning as a double book,” Dr. Ligard explained. “Ideally, she would have been connected with emergent integrative behavioral services after talking to me for a few minutes. Both my manager and my medical assistant tried to get the IBT system working, but it wouldn’t. In the end, I ended up seeing Gina over lunch and we both came up with a plan for her care.” 

They spoke about the medication, but Dr. Ligard also asked about any recent stressors in Fisher’s life.

“She sat in front of me and said, ‘I want to know what’s going on in your life right now,’” Fisher recalled. “[Before Dr. Ligard,] I just felt like I wasn’t being heard or people didn’t understand. You get this fear to reach out for help.”

Fisher explained that she had been going through recent stressful personal situations. When Dr. Ligard had to step away for a moment, her medical assistant, Katherine Duncan, stepped in. The two bonded right away.

“My approach to connecting with patients is listening to them and showing interest in their needs and concerns,” Duncan said.

Duncan found out Fisher worked as a jeweler as they discussed her life.

When Dr. Ligard returned, she changed Fisher’s medication and wrapped up the appointment.

After a couple of weeks, Fisher returned for a follow up. When she arrived, Duncan had a special surprise for her. She made a sign that read “World’s Best Jeweler.” Fisher was shocked.

Gina Fisher and Katherine Duncan
Gina Fisher and Katherine Duncan, medical assistant

“The kindness was so over the top and so much more than you would ever expect to get going into a doctor’s office,” she said.

“I was very impressed by Katherine’s kindness by showing care for a patient on something like that certificate,” Dr. Ligard added.

Fisher carries the piece of paper with her every day in a folder she keeps inside her vehicle. She is doing much better on the new medication Dr. Ligard prescribed. She has found her new home with the primary care physician and will continue seeing her as an established patient.

“I feel like God put them [Duncan and Dr. Ligard] them there,” she said.

For Duncan, she tries to bring a little bit of kindness to every patient she sees because she knows the smallest gesture can make a big impact.

“I feel that helping others is a gift. Kindness goes a long way, and a smile can be life changing.”

Nurse, mother of preemies, cancer survivor: ‘I look at patient care through a different lens’

She became a nurse because she wanted to take care of babies. Over the years, Paula Shaner’s life experiences have influenced her professional role with IU Health. Now she is part of team expanding services at IU Health Saxony.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

In a four-person selfie, Paula Shaner is all smiles.

She is joined by Joseph “Michael” Molnar, IU Health’s Executive Director of Design and Construction; Nichole Toole, Director of Maternity and Newborn Health at Riley Hospital for Children; and Nurse Barbara Hidde, who works in Neonatal Well Baby Care. The photo was taken to mark a major milestone in IU Health’s history.

On November 7, the new Riley Maternity Tower welcomed its first 44 patients – moved from IU Health Methodist Hospital. The new facility brings together expert mother-baby care including midwifery, and fetal diagnostic care and medicine. Riley Maternity Tower is home to the state’s largest neonatal intensive care unit, and Indiana’s only OB Emergency and OB Intensive Care Unit. More than 500 employees invested time in planning and resources to see the $142 million facility to fruition.

Paula Shaner and the others in that candid picture were all part of that crew.

Shaner, 51, has a couple of titles behind her name, including: “Nurse, Manager of Clinical Operations Medical Surgical Unit, IU Health Saxony Hospital – Soon to be IU Health Fishers.”

What isn’t part of that title is this: “Cancer survivor;” “Mother to premature twins who spent six months in the NICU;” and “Advocate for community hospital care.”

All of those life experiences have made Shaner the person she is today – personally and professionally.

Shaner attended the University of Cincinnati and became a nurse in 1993. She went on to get her master’s degree in healthcare management.

“I wanted to be a pediatrician all my life but in the end I realized I just wanted to take care of sick babies,” said Shaner. She joined IU Health North Hospital the year it opened its doors to the public in 2005. She and her husband, Scott, became parents to twins – a boy and a girl – nineteen years ago, and for the first six months, the preemies remained in NICU. They recently graduated from high school and are starting their own college journeys.

“I felt at the time that I could improve patient care and that’s why I wanted to become a manager. Ten years ago, she was diagnosed with chronic leukemia and was treated at IU Health North Hospital where she was in the care of Dr. Anne Greist. “Remission is five to 15 years and I’m at 12 years. She anticipates it will come back so it’s important that I have a place where I am comfortable with my care,” said Shaner.

Her role with the Riley Maternity Tower came about as a way to support staff training. Now, she’s playing a similar role in the new Fishers development. The expansion of IU Health Saxony Hospital will include additional inpatient beds, expanded Obstetrics & Gynecology, Ear, Nose & Throat, Nephrology, Neurology, and Pulmonology, along with growth in specialty areas such as cardiovascular, gastroenterology, general medicine and surgery, orthopedics, and adult and pediatric primary care and urology. The project is expected to be completed by 2025.

What does that mean for Shaner?

“My role is to make sure the processes and policies are in place so that nurses have the right equipment and proper room set up,” said Shaner.

But her role goes way beyond securing a safe and functional environment. Shaner is laser focused on training staff members in the personal aspects of patient care.

“When we opened Riley Maternity Tower I was the eye and voice of the nurse to ensure that every nurse who worked in the space was properly trained. It was an honor to support other teams. Now with the Saxony project, this is my own team,” said Shaner.

“I’ve been treated at IU Health, my kids have been treated at IU Health, my family members have been treated at IU Health. I look at patient care through a different lens. I look at it through the lens of a patient and the footprint we’re going to leave is going to be here for a long time,” said Shaner. “I’ve been on the other side of the bed. I’ve been an advocate for patients and I’ve had people be an advocate for me. I know how patients hang onto every word. I want to make sure nurses understand that too, and that patients and families receive the best information and the best care.”

Nurse was on a flight when she heard the request: ‘Medical assistance needed’

Nursing is a second career for Janice Rhinehart. Years of raising a family and volunteering to serve others, helped prepare her for a profession that extends beyond IU Health.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Janice Rhinehart explains her marriage and family life like this: “We see a need, and we find ways to help.” Some of those needs come from circumstances; some of those needs come from sickness.

Take for example the time Rhinehart was at her hairdresser’s. Her stylist was feeling weak and talked about making a trip to immediate care the night before, complaining of a sciatic nerve. During that Saturday morning hair appointment, Rhinehart could feel the woman losing strength on one side. She took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a stroke. She has since recovered.

More recently, Rhinehart and her husband were on a return flight from Seattle to Indianapolis when an attendant came over the intercom asking for medical assistance.

“At first, I was uncomfortable. I sat for a minute and when no one else came forward I pushed my call light,” said Rhinehart. “I didn’t know it at the time but my husband, who was sitting in another row, was praying for me to get up.”

Rhinehart and her husband, Walter, met at church. They were married 43 years ago. Together, they raised four boys and two girls – ranging in age from 30 to 42. They also have two grandchildren.

“My husband is still my boyfriend. We still date and he knows me well,” said Rhinehart. He even knew she would think before she leaped into action.

After she pushed her call button, Rhinehart learned that a woman in the front of the plane had passed out. When she got to the passenger, she was sitting up, drinking juice. A respiratory therapist joined Rhinehart as she asked the woman several questions to assess the situation: “Did she have a history of high or low blood pressure, hypoglycemia or diabetes?” She also asked when the woman had last eaten. Rhinehart checked her pulse and blood pressure. Medical professionals were contacted on the ground to offer additional guidance. In a short time, the woman appeared to be stable, and Rhinehart helped her to her seat. She had also learned that the woman recently had rotator cuff surgery so she knew to take special care in lifting her upper body. Rhinehart suggested the woman follow up with her primary physician when she got home.

As she recently sat in her office at IU Heath Physicians Digestive and Liver Disorders, and relived the experience, Rhinehart also offered insight into her calling.

“Before I left my seat, the gentleman sitting next to me barely spoke to me. After the incident, he helped me get situated in my seat and said, ‘Wow, you’re a nurse.’ It speaks of how people respect the profession,” she said.

It’s a profession that Rhinehart, 65, grew into over the course of her life.

“From a young girl I remember being interested in medicine. My mom, who raised us by herself got me a chemistry set when I was about 10. That was so important in laying a foundation for me,” said Rhinehart. She is the middle child of seven. The chemistry set wasn’t the only gift her mother gave her.

“My mother taught us early that no matter how much you have, you always have something to give back. She’d be driving down the road, with all of us riding along and wondering if our own car would even make it to where we were going and if mom saw someone broken down on the side of the road, she’d stop and help them,” said Rhinehart, who enjoys spending time with her mom, age 87.

Rhinehart graduated from George Washington High School and pursued a career in laboratory science. Her husband, a US Marine Corps Vietnam War Veteran and Double Purple Heart recipient worked as a letter carrier until his retirement.

When she decided to return to school to get a nursing degree, Rhinehart was working full time and raising her family. She worked at IU Health North as a laboratory technologist while pursuing her nursing degree.

“In retrospect, I wonder how I did it. I had three children under the age of six and then I had a daughter born right before Easter. I remember coming home from the hospital and sewing their Easter outfits,” said Rhinehart. She was 57 when she received her nursing degree and launched her career working in med/surgery at IU Health North.

Even when her children were younger, Rhinehart followed her mother’s advice – teaching them the importance of giving back to others. She and her husband volunteer for various causes, most recently with prison ministry serving at Rockville and Pendleton Correctional Facilities, and Indiana Women’s Prison.

Their children have continued that circle of volunteering and serving.

And where had they traveled when Rhinehart was able to come to the aid of a fellow passenger mid-flight?

They were returning from Seattle where their oldest son was honored for his years of service in the US Navy and promoted to Senior Enlisted Rank. The senior enlisted rank requires months of commitment, along with high performance evaluations and peer recommendations.

Rhinehart expresses joy at attending the milestone event where her husband had the honor of pinning and “placing cover” on his son. As she recounts the event, her mind goes back to the hours-long plane ride home. She pauses and thinks about the passenger she helped and says, “My only regret is that I didn’t get her phone number to check on her.”

LifeCare marks 30 years offering HIV services; Nurse reflects on history

As IU Health’s LifeCare celebrates three decades, one long-time nurse practitioner talks about the changes in testing, education, and medical care related to HIV.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

She still wears her original IU Health employee badge from 15 years ago. For Martha “Marti” Greenwald, it’s a badge of honor. Over the years, she has come to know many of her patients and sees some of them more often than others.

“It’s not unusual to ask: ‘How’s the family? How’s your dog,’” said Greenwald.

She began working with IU Health in 1977 at University Hospital in Renal and pulmonary ICU. She also has experience working in hematology/oncology, and home care. She worked at Riley Hospital for a time and after completing her master’s degree, she learned of an opening in the HIV Research Department.

“I would come to LifeCare and look for patients who would fit our research studies, Throughout the five years I was there I would review patient histories,” said Greenwald. Over time, she felt she could be more comprehensive in her scope of care working alongside patients. At the time she joined LifeCare, she was one of three nurse practitioners, serving about 300 patients. Now the team includes five nurse practitioners serving about 1600 patients, making it one the largest HIV medical providers in the state.

Located in IU Health Methodist Hospital, LifeCare staff includes nurses, infectious disease physicians, licensed social workers, clinical pharmacists, psychiatrists and other support staff. Together they offer confidential HIV testing, health assessments and physical exams, comprehensive treatment plans, lab work, immunizations and vaccinations, and access to specialty and community referrals. LifeCare also offers HIV prevention services like pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary, LifeCare team members have set a goal to raise $30,000 for the 2022 AIDS Walk, September 25.

Over the years, those team members have extended services to family members, caregivers, spouses and domestic partners. The care has expanded from end-of-life care to focus on testing and preventing the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A primary focus has evolved from coping with a diagnosis to living with a diagnosis.

Clients come to LifeCare from all walks of life – all genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities.

“Over the years our patients would come readily because their perceptions were that they might be stigmatized by other providers who didn’t understand the disease process so we were providing a lot of primary care,” said Greenwald. “We will continue to do that if there is no other means of primary care, but we’re now seeing more and more clients who are finding connections with primary care providers.” A third of LifeCare’s clients are 18-35 years old, she said. “Then there is a hefty middle age population which is wonderful because at one point, they didn’t expect to live that long.”

Greenwald credits advances in research and science with that longevity. Instead of taking 25-30 tablets around the clock to manage the virus, patients can take one co-formulated dose daily. Last year, the FDA approved a monthly injectable drug, Cabenuva, to treat adults 18 and older. In February 2022, the FDA expanded the label for the medication to allow for bi-monthly administration. Patients now have an alternative option to daily antiretroviral therapy.

“The scope of care has changed. I often tell patients, ‘it’s not HIV that will be your demise. It may be smoking, diabetes, or high blood pressure.’ That’s where the holistic care comes in,” said Greenwald. Another change over the years has been insurance coverage for prophylaxis treatment. “If you’re in a high risk group, you can take a daily tablet to reduce your chance of transmission by about 96 percent,” said Greenwald.

A few other advancements include:

  • Early 1990s: IU Health created an AIDS Task Force to address specific patient needs.
  • Mid-1990: LifeCare received funding from the Indiana State Department of Health for Care Coordination and began weekly testing at Arsenal Technical Teen Clinic.
  • Early 2000: LifeCare received its first Direct Emergency Financial Assistance funding from the AIDS Fund.
  • 2016: A health equity program called Prevention Access Campaign (PAC) launched “U=U” (undetectable=untransmittable). The action has united HIV advocates, activists, and researchers with the common message: “People living with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load – achieved by taking prescribed medication – cannot sexually transmit the virus to others. In 2017, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially supported the research that resulted in the widespread “U=U” campaign.
  • Five years ago: LifeCare received a $1.1 million grant from the Indiana State Department of Health to allow for expanded behavioral health treatment, outpatient substance abuse treatment and medical case management.
  • 2019: The US Preventive Task Force Services recommended clinicians screen pregnant persons and adolescents and adults ages 15 to 65 for HIV infection.

“We continue to face the challenge of health disparities including social, cultural, and ethnic and I continue to hope that will improve,” said Greenwald. “The group that is the number one new patient population is younger African American males, ages 25-34. That is 30 percent of new infections. At that age, people typically don’t go to the doctor unless they are sick or face trauma and end up in the ER. Health literacy is important across all demographics and ages.”

Greenwald said she was driven to nursing by the advice of her grandmother: ‘If you have health you have everything – you have to care for yourself first and maximize your own health.’

“I have adopted that as my mantra and I want to instill that in all of my patients,” said Greenwald. “I let them know we are all human and whatever we can do to make progress, is progress.”

Infectious disease expert offers important info as Indiana monkeypox cases increase

The World Health Organization and the White House have declared monkeypox to be a global, public health emergency. Cases are rising across the U.S., including here in Indiana. Dr. Geeta Karnik Mantravadi is an infectious disease physician who is trying to raise awareness among Hoosiers about the viral disease. “There are various modes of transmission [for monkeypox] and no one is immune.”

Changing lives with equine therapy

Growing up with horses and a passion for helping others, Darcy Lash, a hospitalist at IU Health Arnett Hospital, knew she wanted to combine these interests to positively impact the youth community.

“I’ve always had horses when I could. They’ve always been a part of my daily life,” she says.

Lash earned a master’s degree in industrial chemistry and worked in the industrial field for 12 years. During this time, she rescued 13 horses and opened a boarding barn where she could provide the horses care and nutrition before adopting them out to homes.

After selling the boarding barn, Lash completed her medical degree. She graduated medical school in 2015 and began her residency in Terre Haute, Indiana. While there, she became aware of a concern within the youth population.

“There was a lot of teenage pregnancy and drugs and alcohol. I thought if I could start something, I could keep the youth community out of trouble and use that opportunity to educate them. Maybe they would be interested in the horses and provided a goal or path that is different from what they’re used to,” she shares.

During her residency, one of her attending physicians handed her a newspaper article about equine assisted activity and the benefits of equine therapy.

Inspired by her medical background and prior knowledge of horses, Lash sought to develop a community equine facility that provides equine therapy to assist the at-risk youth population.

In 2020, Lash built Borrowed Time, a non-for-profit 501(c)(3) equine facility in Benton County, Indiana. The facility focuses on providing guidance and working with the youth population to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol. Borrowed Time welcomes everyone to connect with horses and nature in a therapeutic environment.

Lash established Borrowed Time all by herself right as the pandemic emerged, she says.

“I started this project right when COVID-19 broke out. Everything just stopped, from grant writing to funding. I just built it myself from the ground up.”

She recruited friends and people living in the community who she thought could help advance the project, including an Arnett physician who made a generous financial contribution. As of today, the facility has 10 horses.

“Horses are expensive. Unless your family has them, you’re not exposed to this whole other side of life that kids don’t normally get to be part of.”

Working with horses helps a person become self-aware and better understand their emotions and actions in a natural environment, rather than in a standard therapy group.

“You don’t concentrate on the therapy, like when you’re one on one in a room. Silent pauses are most of the horse interaction because they’re nonverbal. You watch their body language and they’re more concentrated on the horse until something changes. If the horse doesn’t interact appropriately, then it switches to them. It’s not a constant one-on-one, and the horse serves as a medium for self-reflection. There’s something therapeutic about a 1,000-pound animal being nice to you,” she says.

The success of the program confirms Lash’s feelings that it’s working well so far. She sees a variety of ages, mainly 14-16 years old teenage girls, visiting the facility. Some also work there.

When asked how Lash connects her medical knowledge with the project, she shares that Borrowed Time hosts educational sessions that talk about nutrition, substance abuse and anxiety—all of which she uses her medical background for.

Every service provided at Borrowed Time relates to the horses, Lash shares.

“The community has a local retirement group home for people that have special needs and are high-functioning, but can’t live on their own. They don’t have much outdoor activity, so they come by the facility once a month. I planted a garden with them, so when they visit, they help with that. Some like horses and some like being outside.”

Additionally, the facility offers kids camps for ages 8-14 once a month in the summer. The activities involve the horses and outdoor activities, as well as going off-site to local fairs, Fair Oak Farms and Willow Slough to see the wild buffalos, or participating in craft projects that are reviewed by a professional artist and friend of Lash.

The facility also hosts a presentation with Camp Mariposa, a mentor program for children in families that are recovering from substance abuse. In October, the facility has scheduled a session to educate students at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine who are majoring in equine or small animal studies and want more exposure to horses before completing their equine rotations.

As Borrowed Time continues to grow, Lash shares her hope to include psychotherapy services, start Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings and reach more emerging adults to reinforce education on addiction, anxiety and other emotional issues that can potentially lead to substance use.

“My personal theory says anxiety and the lack of knowledge regarding the impact of addiction can lead to the initiation of substance use. I think, if they can’t control the anxiety or you don’t learn how to deal with it, kids and young adults will look for an answer, and the answer isn’t always a healthy one.”

A Lafayette legacy to last centuries

A beloved and thoughtful pediatrician, Wendell Riggs, MD, dedicated his career seeking out ways to serve those in need.

Before retiring from his practice in 1999, Riggs forever changed both the Pediatric department at Arnett Clinic and the Greater Lafayette community health landscape.

The road to Arnett

Riggs’ medical career began in 1954 when he served as a medical officer lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserves in Bainbridge, Maryland. Additionally, he had a rotating internship at Washington D.C. General Hospital. These roles provided Riggs experience as a diagnostician, specializing in various health issues.

After graduating from Indiana University Medical School in 1958, Riggs completed his residency at Riley Hospital for Children. While there, he became friends with Robert Hannemann, a young pediatrician who would soon start the Pediatric department at Arnett Clinic and convince Riggs to join him.

Wendell Riggs, MD

In 1963, Riggs took his profession to Arnett Clinic. Although he only saw five patients during his first week, within four years his practice was thriving—but that was only the beginning.

Over the next 30+ years, Riggs would leave an enduring mark on Greater Lafayette and his Arnett colleagues that would last well beyond his time.

Caring for others

Guided by his Christian faith, Riggs knew he was meant to be a doctor. He led his practice with humility and kindness to ensure all patients were treated equally. He was known for taking time to ask a child’s mother how she was doing. Sometimes those words would bring a woman to tears because she was struggling, and no one had reached out.

During his early years as a pediatrician, Riggs volunteered to serve as a medical officer and consultant to Wabash Center for the Developmentally Disabled. In this role, he organized a protocol for medical screening and regular healthcare.

Riggs began a healthcare effort with volunteer nurses to visit homeless shelters and jail inmates. He also provided free school physicals at the South Side Community Center, which evolved into the Lafayette Health Referral program that provides physicians the opportunity to help families in need.

Throughout his career, Riggs held numerous leadership positions with important community organizations. From 1970-1987, he served as the physician for the Tippecanoe School Corporation and was elected president of the Tippecanoe County Board of Health in 1975. He was the vice president of Arnett Clinic and chief of pediatrics at Home Hospital and St. Elizabeth Hospital. In 1987, Riggs was named the Tippecanoe County Health Officer, a role he held for nearly two decades.

His son, Steven Riggs, shared with the Journal and Courier on December 21, 2013, “He always said to be the very best person you could be because you could be the only Bible that person knows.”

Supporting the community

His leadership roles partnered with a strong vision for helping others motivated Riggs to invest in the community and act on their needs.

In 1984, Riggs introduced Tippecanoe County’s first Special Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) for women, infants, and children—a program now known as WIC. Alongside pediatrician Glen Cartwright, Riggs created a neonatal intensive care unit at Home Hospital.

In 1991, he requested to the Tippecanoe County Commissioners that a special clinic for AIDs patients and families be installed. The clinic opened at St. Elizabeth Hospital Medical Center.

Quoted in the Lafayette Leader in January 1992, Riggs said, “We need to bring both science and compassion to the scene. These people’s (AIDS patients) lives are shattered. They are living a time-bomb, and they are lonely and frightened.”

A legacy that lives on

In 1988 Riggs and other healthcare professionals founded the free Community Health Center in a 900-square-foot apartment that was formerly home to St. Elizabeth Hospital interns. The Community Health Center became a United Way agency that provides medical and dental care to those without insurance. The health center treated 240 patients in its first year.

In 1997 Arnett Clinic donated $300,000 to the Community Health Center Capital Campaign to construct a new facility at 1716 Hartford Street. The Wendell A. Riggs Pediatric department opened there in 2004.

Ten years later, the Community Health Center, having grown to multiple locations, was renamed Riggs Community Health Center in the doctor’s honor. It has now been in business for 34 years and saw 17,278 patients in 2021 alone.

Riggs Community Health Center

Before Riggs died in 2013, Dr. Jeremy Adler was hired as the new Health Officer for the Tippecanoe County Health Department. Adler took after his childhood pediatrician, Riggs, when he assumed the position.

Riggs’ legacy lives on at IU Health and within the community through the programs he established and the many lives he touched.

Wendell Riggs, MD

Together in love, together in shape

Getting in shape can be challenging, which is why IU Health team member Abigail Freeman, CMA, and her husband Joel Freeman knew they had to have each other’s back to get the weight off for good. The third member of their team was Ideal Protein.

In ten months, the two lost a combined 150 pounds by following the Ideal Protein program.

The program consists of three phases (Weight Loss, Stabilization, and Maintenance) designed to help participants set, reach and maintain their weight loss goals. During the weight loss phase, individuals limit their carbohydrate intake and can pick from a selection of Ideal Protein foods for healthier alternatives. For Abigail Freeman, a certified medical assistant at IU Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Bloomington, having these options made following the program simple.

“Once I got the hang of it, it was surprisingly easy because I’m a really picky eater,” she said. “I found the foods I liked, and that’s what I ate.”

Fifty pounds lighter, Abigail Freeman is now in the maintenance phase, while Joel has dropped 100 pounds. It’s made a huge difference in their family life.

“Before the program, my husband would get winded just walking to the bathroom in our house, and now he can walk around to go shopping, and he can play football with our son and not get winded after several minutes,” she said.

While the Ideal Protein program is open to all, there are special benefits for IU Health team members. These include reduced pricing and Healthy Results points for participation.

Call 812.355.6943 to learn more about the Ideal Protein program at 550 S. Landmark Ave.

To reach coach Lisa Prickel at IU Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, 2605 E. Creek’s Edge Dr, call 812.355.4974 or email lprickel@iuhealth.org.

Midwives bring personal touch and more birthing options to Greater Lafayette families

As one of 10 children, Sherah Albright, certified nurse midwife, has been familiar with maternity care from a young age.

“I have seven younger siblings, so my mom was pregnant or nursing for a lot of my childhood. I was always fascinated with the whole process and would ask my mom to let me be there for her labor and birth. When I was 12, I was able to be present for my youngest sister’s birth and it changed my life. It was truly amazing to witness, and I decided I wanted to be involved in that in some way.”

Prior to pursuing a career as a midwife, Albright planned to go to medical school. While attending a conference for prospective medical students, she attended a workshop devoted to midwifery and instantly knew this was the path she wanted to pursue.

Albright made the switch to nursing school and completed both her undergraduate (BSN) and graduate (MSN) degrees at the University of Indianapolis. Following graduation in December 2014, she took her state board exams in March 2015.

Her journey at IU Health began when she assisted with the birth of her older sister’s child at Arnett Hospital in Lafayette in October 2014, just before her graduation. Her sister’s midwife, Anne Mishler, saw that Albright was a natural at midwifery and suggested that she apply to Arnett upon graduation. Seeing how important this practice is to the community and that IU Health’s values toward birth matched up with hers in many ways, Albright knew this was the place she wanted to be and joined the midwifery team at Arnett in 2015.

Sherah Albright, CNM
Sherah Albright, CNM

Early days of midwifery at Arnett

The midwife program at Arnett would not be what it is without Sharon Smith. In October 2009, Smith, a certified nurse midwife, joined the Clarian Arnett (as IU Health Arnett was previously known) Obstetrics and Gynecology team as one of the first midwives at Clarian and the only nurse midwife in the area to be licensed to deliver babies in a hospital.

Smith came to Arnett to provide women choices in their birthing experience. She built the practice from the ground up, working solo for the first 15 months, being on call 24/7 year-round. She retired in fall 2021, but not before playing a significant role in the growth and sustainability of the hospital’s midwifery program.

Sharon Smith, certified nurse midwife
Sharon Smith, CNM

Moving forward with care

Today, there are four full-time midwives on the Arnett staff, as well as several pro re nata (PRN) staff who work on a temporary/as-needed basis, and the program is searching for more midwives, shares Albright.

“Our hope is to have five full-time midwives. Recruitment has been a little difficult, especially with Covid. It’s made it difficult to get the candidates we’re looking for.”

Albright believes that five full-time midwives would allow IU Health Arnett to offer services to more women and reach the team’s goal of delivering over 300 babies each year.

Sherah Albright and CNM Hilda Torres Urista
Sherah Albright and Hilda Torres Urista, CNM

This fall, the team will celebrate 12 years since it was established, and the Arnett midwifery program has a lot to celebrate. In addition to providing more labor and birth options for women seeking fewer interventions, the practice has facilitated low c-section rates, high rates of success for Vaginal Births after Cesarean (VBACs), and an overall increase in the number of babies delivered per year.

When asked how impactful this program is for women, Albright shares, “This practice is important to the community because we give women more options for labor and birth including support during natural childbirth and water birth. We also have the time to really get to know the women and spend more time with them in labor. We often feel that we get to become a part of their family as we walk along the journey of pregnancy and birth with them.”

Albright herself has delivered over 500 babies in this community, and she’s getting ready to deliver her most significant baby yet: Her miracle IVF baby is due in August 2022, conceived after a nine-year struggle with infertility.