Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s social work recognition awards!
- Sharon Blackledge, LISW-S, for the Denis Hessoun Award for Professional Growth and Development
- Heather Lanfranchi, LISW, for the Vicki Allan Award for Social Work Services
- Cindy King, LISW-S, for the Mary Frances Ahern Award for Social Work Dedication
According to Shelley Walker, director of social work, the 3 women were selected from a record number of nominations from social work supervisors, department colleagues and hospital staff. She noted their nomination forms included comments like:
- caring and ethical
- compassionate and dedicated to the success of families with difficult needs
- accepting without bias and judgment
- a leader, motivated to teach
- demonstrates a keen interest in professional growth of self and others
- an advocate and problem solver
- goes above and beyond
- stellar work even in the midst of personal adversity
All 3 women say their awards are meaningful and validating because they were given by their peers.
“I am extremely proud of Cindy, Sharon and Heather as our 2018 social work department award recipients,” said Shelley. “Each of them represents the best of social work practice and they model social work values every day in their interactions with patients, families and staff. As their director it is an honor to have them as members of our team.”
Sharon Blackledge, LISW-S, for the Denis Hessoun Award for Professional Growth and Development
Sharon Blackledge joined Akron Children’s in 2011 – first working with adult pulmonary cystic fibrosis patients and now as social work clinical coordinator on 8100 (Inpatient Psychiatry). Sharon says she knew she wanted to be a mental health therapist and thought social work offered a broader range of possible roles in addition to therapy.
“As a social worker I’ve almost always worked with families and children, particularly adolescents,” she said. “I seem to gravitate toward work that ultimately helps me better understand my own children. And, my experiences with my own children help me to better understand my work. My heart goes out to people who are struggling and hurting, especially kids, and that just makes you want to do something to help.
“I am fascinated by the ways in which the larger world affects our immediate world and vice versa. Since this is constantly changing, there’s always something to better understand and learn,” she added.
Heather Lanfranchi, LISW, for the Vicki Allan Award for Social Work Services
Heather Lanfranchi, medical social worker for hematology/oncology, has worked at the hospital for 7 years. Working with children diagnosed with cancer, brain tumors, and those undergoing stem cell transplant, she provides general support to caregivers and describes herself as a “resource broker” trying to identify barriers to care and outside stressors with the goal of removing as many as possible.
“I help coordinate family support programming which includes weekly yoga, massage and parent support snack hour,” she said. “In addition, we host a monthly family dinner inviting parents, caregivers and siblings to join us and other families for a meal.”
Heather says she couldn’t do what she does without the support of her co-workers.
“I work with an exceptional multi-disciplinary team,” she said. “We provide outstanding care to our patients and families on a daily basis. We face very difficult and, sometimes, heartbreaking situations and I could not continue to do this work without their support.”
Cindy King, LISW-S, for the Mary Frances Ahern Award for Social Work Dedication
Cindy, who is currently coordinator of the Down syndrome clinic and social worker for the Myelodysplasia Clinic and developmental pediatrics, has worked at Akron Children’s for 25 years. She says she chose pediatrics because it was a way to work with entire families.
“In previous jobs I had worked with adults and rarely got to see the family as a whole,” she said. “Children can be challenging, but they also provide a certain honesty and way of looking at things differently. Children have taught me a lot about life. They laugh a lot which is something adults probably need to do more of.”
Cindy says she stays passionate about her work through the opportunities she has to continue to grow and learn.
“Social work is not an easy job. I don’t always have all the answers, but I strive to learn the most I can about people and their situations,” she said. “My favorite part of the job is the connection I have with families, sometimes even before their child is born when they are prenatally diagnosed. Some children I have known for 25 years and it’s incredible to see how they have grown.”