Two West Virginia University professors are being honored for service to the community and state.
Rebecca Schmidt, a professor of medicine in the School of Medicine, and Ann Richards, an associate professor of special education at the College of Human Resources and Education, are recipients of this years Ethel and Gerry Heebink Awards for Distinguished State Service.
Schmidt is being honored for her work to bring better treatment to West Virginians suffering from chronic kidney disease. A lifelong commitment to Special Olympics is the reason for Richardsrecognition.
The Heebink Award for extended service will go to Schmidt, and Richardsaward is for beginning service. Both will pick up their awards at 7 p.m. Friday, April 20, during WVU s annual Weekend of Honors ceremonies in the Mountainlairs Gold and Blue Ballrooms.
Professors Schmidt and Richards exemplify the commitment to service that the Heebink awards celebrate,said C.B. Wilson, associate provost for academic personnel.Service is one of WVU s primary missions.
In the professional lives of Schmidt and Richards, thats a missionaccomplished.
Schmidt joined the faculty of WVU s School of Medicine in 1993. She became the Section Chief of Nephrology (the branch of internal medicine dealing with kidney function and diseases of the kidney) in 2001 and a full professor in 2006.
Her public service focuses on confronting the epidemics of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in West Virginia and its lack of public knowledge and recognition.
I am honored and humbled to receive an award for doing what I believe is my calling in addition to my job,Schmidt said.My reward is the patients and the hope that the efforts of everyone in the section of kidney disease to provide screening, education and outreach care result in better outcomes for patients with kidney disease in our state.
Schmidt has been devoted to enhancing CKD awareness among the public and medical community. Under her leadership, the West Virginia Rural Nephrology Initiative, in collaboration with the National Kidney Foundation of the Alleghenies, conducted 17 community-based free kidney screenings for more than a thousand West Virginians during the last year.
Schmidt was instrumental in setting up eight rural outreach clinics in the north-central and eastern counties of West Virginia, bringing much needed and accessible specialist care to peoples doorstep in their own community.
Upon arriving here from downtown Detroit in 1993, I was stunned to learn that my first patient had driven two hours to see the nephrologist,Schmidt said.It became my goal to go to the patients and see them in their own environment. It took years to get this going, but now nearly 40 percent of all of our patient visits are at one of our rural clinics.
Schmidt has delivered numerous traveling continuing medical education (CME) programs tailored to primary care physicians throughout West Virginia. She has organized and chaired six annual Rural Nephrology Conferences, bringing up-to-date diagnostic and treatment tools of chronic kidney disease to primary care physicians and allied healthcare workers in rural communities.
In 2005, Schmidt received the WVU School of Medicine Deans Award for Excellence in Community Service. In 2006, she was honored as a Local Legend among WVU Women Who Made a Difference.
Schmidt is a graduate of the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences. She completed her residency in internal medicine and fellowship in nephrology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American Society of Nephrology.
Richards joined WVU in 2000 as a special education professor, and she quickly let it be known that a big part of her mission was going to be undertaken well outside the classroom walls of Allen Hall, the home base for the College of Human Resources and Education.
Thats why she wants to dedicate her award to the athletes, coaches and volunteers who make up the Special Olympics experience in Monongalia County and across West Virginia.
Shes a lifelong volunteer and supporter of Special Olympics, so it wasnt surprising that she gravitated toward Monongalia Countys chapter during her first days here seven years ago.
Her first summer here was marked by the hosting of Summer Games by Morgantown and WVU , and it was she who led the countys delegation of 40 athletes and 15 coaches to the proceedings on the Evansdale campus.
And students in her classes at Allen Hall happy found themselves asbuddyvolunteers for the athletes. Those students, she said, learned things that summer about their careers, and their character, that they wouldnt have, otherwise. The city and University hosted the Games for several years.
For me, its always been about the athletes,Richards said.Special Olympics is such a pure experience. The athletes are out there, working to their fullest potential. And theyre achieving. They cheer each other on. And its always so rewarding and heartening to see WVU students become lifelong friends of Special Olympics.
That approach has long impressed John Corbett, the chief executive officer of Special Olympics West Virginia.
Rather than teach solely on the writings and theories of others, she also pursues her own teaching methods and lessons through her personal experiences with Special Olympics West Virginia,Corbett said.Thus, her students are introduced to real life experiences and a teaching environment that is credible and enjoyable.
Richards, who has talked up Special Olympics to Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., says that experience is a passing grade that will take her students farther than any grade transcript.
All you have to do is volunteer one time,Richards said.Thats usually all it takes. One of our first-time volunteers was so moved after one of the Summer Games here that she kept saying, �€~All I see out here is pure love. Pure love.And thats it. Thats what it is. She couldnt have said it any better.
Richards earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Bryant College and the College of New Rochelle. She earned a doctorate in special education from the University of Arizona.
The late David Heebink created the Heebink Awards in memory of his parents: Ethel Heebink was a long-time WVU English professor. Gerry Heebink was an Extension dairyman in the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences from 1935-56. WVU presents the $3,000 award for extended service every year and the $2,000 award for beginning service every two years.