2019 SCHA Awards
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Denise Dupré Kozak
Position: Social Worker/Case Manager
Organization: Placentia Linda Hospital
List your nominee's experience in Senior Care.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Denise grew up Levittown, Pennsylvania. She said she felt blessed to have her two grandmothers as a regular part of her life until they passed away in their mid 80’s. She told us she was especially fortunate to serve as one of her grandmother’s medical advocate and partial care-giver for a good five years after she moved here to Southern California.
After graduating from Penn State University in 1974 with a B.A. in Social Work, she eventually worked for a skilled nursing facility as a Social Worker. It was the first job that piqued her interest in the medical field.
In 1980, she and her husband moved to Southern California, and in 1996, she was recruited to work for Placentia Linda Hospital, first as a Discharge Planner and Social Worker under Director Fran Newhouse, and later as a Case Manager -- a role that has grown in challenge and complexity especially over the past decade. Today, her work requires following patients from the time they enter the hospital until the time they leave – completing social assessments; counseling with patients and their families; consulting with the doctors, physical therapists and nurses to ensure that patients’ needs are met; documenting clinical information for insurance companies to ensure patient stays meet criteria and are authorized; and discharge planning to home with home health, equipment, attendant care, or to skilled nursing facilities for rehab. As part of her work, she acts as an advocate for seniors in assisting them to stay in their homes and not only in the hospital setting. In her church, she has become the “go-to” person for attendant care, home health care and hospice options for her church’s growing senior population.
Describe how your Nominee has exceeded his or her Job Description, becoming a hero to you or others. Provide an example or as much detail as possible of the things that they do that go above and beyond their job description.
A co-worker tells us, “Denise is one of the most caring individuals that I've ever met. She not only does her normal job description, but she goes above and beyond to make sure that every senior and their family understands what is happening. She goes as far as making follow up phone calls to make sure that the patients safely arrived home. If they were transferred to a Skilled Nursing Home, she calls and expects an answer from the facility. She is one of the biggest advocates for seniors at the hospital. When I asked the nurses, case managers and social workers who would be the one that should be nominated for the awards this year, every single one of them said Denise.”
Her caring heart is one of the biggest one and there are so many examples that could be listed, but it would require at least 10 pages of stories. Let's not forget all the thank you cards that she has from seniors and families!
She is already a Hero to every patient and family member that she comes in contact with. She had refused to be nominated multiple times, even this year she refused until finally her teammates convinced her to accept the nomination.
She told us, “I have deep admiration and constant compliments for fellow staff members and our doctors at Placentia Linda. My experience in the hospital setting and the community has been invaluable, especially in building empathy and understanding for the care people require as they age. I am inspired every day, and I feel blessed to do what I do.”