Nurses to receive Wellspring Award for professional, volunteer work

Two Lawrence nurses will be honored at this year’s Betsy Beisecker Memorial Tea, a celebration of women’s health sponsored by Breast Cancer Action Inc.

The tea and fashion show will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday in the fellowship hall at First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway.

Pam Brown, a nurse with Lawrence Surgery Associates, P.A., will receive the Wellspring Award for outstanding health care professional.

Dianna Swatsenbarg, a nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, will receive the Wellspring Award for outstanding volunteer.

Brown has worked on behalf of women as a nurse and through her contributions to a breast cancer support group. She graduated in 1980 from Northern Montana College with an associate’s degree in nursing. She moved with her family to Lawrence in 1984.

Her first 10 years of nursing were in the areas of intensive care and emergency room. In 1987-1988, she was clinical coordinator of the emergency department at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. She has been working for 11 1/2 years with Drs. Mark Praeger and Marilee McGinness at Lawrence Surgery Associates. She is a past executive board member of Breast Cancer Action.

Through her work, Brown said she has direct contact with women being tested for or diagnosed with breast cancer. Part of her job is to make patients feel at ease, to provide information and to answer questions they might have.

“We see an average of three to five (women) a month that end up having breast cancer,” she said.

Brown feels honored to be receiving the Wellspring Award.

“It’s not something I really thought about or planned about. But it helps reinforce to me that what I do really makes a difference. Â I feel like the many individuals and the patients I work with (share) a part in this award, too.”

Swatsenbarg, who came to work at LMH 11 years ago, initiated the first Stepping Out Against Breast Cancer dance to raise money for the LMH Foundation. Under her leadership, the dance has grown into a major fund-raiser for the hospital, Breast Cancer Action and other organizations, such as the resource library at the hospital’s oncology center.

“We raised $11,000 last year,” she said.

The fund-raiser’s origin lies with a walk 10 years ago in Buford M. Watson Jr. Park to heighten awareness of breast cancer. Eventually, the event moved indoors and evolved into the dance.

“It’s taken on a life of its own,” she said. “It’s become a communitywide event.”

Swatsenbarg, an operating room nurse, attended nursing school at Tulsa Community College. She has bachelor’s degrees in health care management from Ottawa University and communications from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami.

Before coming to LMH, she worked at Stormont-Vail Medical Center in Topeka and St. Francis Medical Center in Tulsa. She has served on Breast Cancer Action’s advisory board and helped with the tea in past years.

Swatsenbarg, who works with breast cancer patients having surgery, has held a longtime interest in women’s health care.

“I feel strongly about it,” she said. “I have many friends and family who have been affected by (breast cancer). One in eight women will experience this disease. When you get to talking to others, it’s amazing how many people have been touched by the disease.”

Breast Cancer Action was established seven years ago by several Lawrence women who saw a need to create support for breast cancer survivors and for education regarding early detection of breast cancer. In 1996 Drs. Betsy Beisecker and Marilee McGinness were the presenters at the first Breast Cancer Awareness Month education event sponsored by Breast Cancer Action. When Beisecker died of breast cancer, the group decided to celebrate women’s health and her memory with the annual tea.

The Bosom Buddies, a breast cancer support group in Lawrence, provides baked goods for the tea and models clothes from local retailers.

Money raised by the event will go toward paying for mammograms for uninsured women, providing educational materials and presenting programs on breast cancer awareness.