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Health Care

Health Care Heroes: Health Care Professional

By Staff Reports, posted Oct 16, 2020

Honors any health care providers other than physicians or nurses whose performance is considered exemplary by patients, peers and other health care providers. 


Janet Axelson

Title: Medical social worker 

Organization: Well Care Health 

What the nominator said: “Janet Axelson has been a medical social worker for 17 years, and she has been a respected member of the Well Care Home Health team for over seven years. 

“She has experienced the incredible benefits of social work firsthand. ‘Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money, and we frequently needed public assistance. I met many social workers when I was a child, and they were always so helpful to us,’ said Janet. ‘That’s when I knew I wanted to be a social worker.’ 

“Janet was a single mother of two and recently divorced when she decided to finish her education and finally realize her dream of helping others. ‘I worked as a waitress on weekends and went to school during the week. It was not easy, but my experiences as a child motivated me to work hard and keep going. I knew I wanted to become a social worker and help others who were in the same situation I faced,’ she said. 

“Janet graduated with her bachelor’s degree in social work from UNCW and is now also a certified victim advocate … 

“Words from one of Janet’s co-workers: ‘Janet goes above and beyond in caring for our patients. ...’” 

- Zac Long, CEO 


LuAnn Barwick

Title: Respiratory therapist 

Organization: Dosher Memorial Hospital 

What the nominator said: “LuAnn Barwick is a shining example of a healthcare hero. She has worked at Dosher Hospital for well over 35 years and continues to go above and beyond on a daily basis. 

“LuAnn has always been an avid supporter of Dosher Hospital and the surrounding community … In the most recent months, since the onset of COVID-19, she has surpassed expectations and gone the extra miles for her co-workers and patients.” 

She was one of the first employees to get on board with the wearing of face masks, even before the recommendation came from the CDC. LuAnn has gone out of her way to encourage and train others in the proper use of PPE. She keeps up with the ever changing CDC recommendations, and passes them on to others. 

“In addition to all of this, her bedside manner with her patients is caring, compassionate and understanding. LuAnn is sensitive to each patient’s physical, mental and emotional needs. 

“If you happen to walk by and see LuAnn treating or interacting with a patient, your heart will be warmed by the kindness and respect that she gives to each patient. ...” 

- Lisa Narron, colleague 


Nova Swanstrom

Title: Therapist 

Organization: Delta Behavioral Health 

What the nominator said: “When I first met Nova and shared my interest in providing transgender medical care, little did I know that she really was THE only local gender therapist at the time, nor did I grasp just how many referrals would come my way. I have no doubt that the local transgender community gained better entrée into our healthcare system over the past few years, in large part due to Nova’s work. 

“Her vast years of experience and certification through the World Professional Association of Transgender Health have made her a real trailblazer, in normalizing patients’ and families’ experiences, and steadily guiding them to affirming and appropriate health care. She created the local free transgender support groups here in Wilmington, and she has trained multiple other therapists in gender issues to help broaden workforce competence. She serves patients from all over Southeast NC and Northeast SC. She also maintains and shares a list of trans friendly and other affirming health-related resources with other providers across the medical profession. 

“Perhaps most impressive is her professional outreach to other healthcare providers on behalf of mutual patients/ clients. ...” 

- Karen Isaacs, physician 


Read more about all of the 2020 Health Care Heroes finalists here.

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