Infection Control Today - 11/2003: Perspectives

A Revolutionary Opportunity

By Patti Costello

More than 450 healthcare environmental service professionals who were looking for access to the top resources in education, products and services and people definitely found them at the 18th annual conference and technical exhibition of the American Society for Healthcare Environmental Services (ASHES) held in Philadelphia Sept. 21- 25, 2003.

Educational sessions provided powerful take-home tools and critical information about hot issues that included staffing and productivity, infection control, disaster readiness, waste recycling, JCAHO issues and much more.

With a sold-out exhibit hall, this conference was certainly the most successful in recent memory, stated Weston Thiss, CHESP, president of ASHES. The energy level and excitement was felt throughout the hotel, with even other guests asking what the buzz was all about.

Interactions with fellow attendees from across the country were key to integrating knowledge, expanding horizons and supporting implementation of the revolutionary ideas germinated at the conference. By request, ASHES resurrected the Circles of Excellence, a peerto- peer sharing of ideas and best practices during breakfast and lunch. Attendees heard how others have successfully dealt with reducing costs, labor/union relations, cleaning critical areas, recruitment and retention and other hot button topics Attendees circulated among the tables every 15 minutes for the topic of their choice.

The top speakers at the conference included Stephen M. Gower, CSP, who shared his strategies for refining how others perceive you and Joe Tye, president of Paradox 21 Inc., who discussed the Twelve Core Action Values for building leadership skills. Both keynoters were very well received. General sessions included presentations by Laura Gaunder of The Ritz-Carlton on legendary service; Tony Schifano, president of Antos Environmental, on adding sizzle to your career; Mary Brockman, RN of Brachman & Associates on Infection Control: Narrowing the Gap Between Science Regulation and Practice; Laura Brannen of Hospitals for Healthy Environment on changing the way environmental services does business; and ASHES member Bob Hodnik on productivity standards, work assignments and benchmarking.

The social activities also took the spotlight, highlighted by the welcome reception and tour aboard the USS New Jersey, the U.S. Navys most decorated battleship. Sponsored by Waste Management and ARAMARK ServiceMaster Facility Services, the venue and the weather could not have been more perfect. Being on this enormous battleship and hearing and seeing first hand its amazing accomplishments at sea, was captivating. Entertainment provided by Western Pest Services consisted of a Mummers band that kept the crowd on their toes most of the evening. The conference also featured several other social events, including attendance at one of the Philadelphia Phillies last games played at Veterans Stadium with a special Field of Memories fan appreciation game, the new member, first time attendee reception, and the ASHES Annual Awards Banquet.

The awards segment of the banquet lead off with the Partners for Change Awards presented by Hospitals for Healthy Environment (H2E). With over 27 facilities being recognized for their efforts to make healthcare environmentally friendly, it was clear the H2E and ASHES endeavors have been successful in drawing considerable interest and participation.

ASHES also bestowed the societys highest honor, the Phoenix Award, to Edward Barr, manager of support services at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. The Phoenix Award recognizes an individual who has made a lasting impact through outstanding contributions to the growth and professionalism of the Society and to the field of healthcare environmental services and textile care. Other awards presented as part of the program included:

  • James Wolffbrandt Award: Martin Shafer, manager of operations at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, Iowa. This award is presented to one who, without compensation or personal gain, actively mentors, educates and guides environmental services or textile care professionals.
  • J. Owen Flynn Memorial Award: John Fitzgerald, CHESP, acting associate director of administration and support services at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System in Los Angeles. Similarly, this award is presented to one who, without compensation or personal gain, actively performed a service or services to the benefit of their hospital, community, state or country.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Wayne Warren, CHESP, retired director of environmental program service, US Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. Warren was nominated for the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of 42 years of outstanding service to the environmental service profession, his superior knowledge and exceptional skills as a leader, educator and mentor and his whole-hearted involvement in ASHES.
  • Environmental Stewardship Award: Martha Meister, manager of support functions at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt.
  • Innovator Award: J. Douglas Roill, CHESP, general manager at Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix.
  • Recognition Award: Jerold Wiley, director of environmental services at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, W. Va.
  • Excellence in Communication Award: Greater Philadelphia ASHES chapter, Ed Barr, president, Philadelphia.
  • Excellence in Education Award: (two presented) ยก Rocky Mountain Society for Healthcare Environmental Services, Danny Tolar, president, Ft. Collins, Colo.
  • South Carolina Society for Healthcare Environmental Services, Bill Thomashitis, president, Greenwood, S.C.
  • Networking for Professionalism Award: Greater Midwest Chapter of ASHES, Marty Shafer, president, Iowa City, Iowa.

ASHES, of the American Hospital Association, is the premier professional organization for environmental services, housekeeping, waste management and textile care professionals in the healthcare industry. ASHES provides educational programs, opportunities to network with peers on a national level, recognition for personal and professional achievements, as well as affiliation and collaboration with the American Hospital Association on public policy and advocacy issues related to environmental services, waste initiatives and infection control. See for more information.

Patti Costello is executive director of ASHES.

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