May 2, 2017

2017 Tom Lucas TRAIL Blazer Awards Announced

At the department-wide meeting on April 24th we awarded the Tom Lucas TRAIL Blazer Awards: one to recognize a faculty member, one to recognize a non-clinical staff member, and the other to recognize a clinical staff member. 

This award is a way for all of us to recognize our colleagues for the amazing work they do for our patients and our department, but also to recognize their ability to be a compassionate team member who helps themselves and others succeed by striving to take action, take responsibility, and maintain their professionalism in all situations. 

Nominations were based on these standards and traits:

  • Teamwork (pursues a common goal)
  • Respect (recognizes the value and diversity of each team member)
  • Accountability (accepts responsibility for their actions) 
  • Integrity (adheres to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism)
  • Leadership (being involved; willing to take action)

2017 TRAIL Blazer Award for Faculty - Jack Kaufman

  • Jack is a true team player. As an example, she has worked hard with RPN scheduling to cover gaps in coverage, she has a strong record of collaborative research and education—inside and outside the department
  • I am always impressed in her communication how she carefully words an email that others might have worded less professionally, especially when (I know) the subject of the email is an area of stress for her.
  • Jack has a leadership role in PM&R and she has done a wonderful job. She also has shown leadership in developing pediatric programming for children with disabilities.
  • Internally, Jack is one of the most caring clinicians I know of, going out of her way for her patients. Her other internal customers are faculty and staff, for whom she always advocates, as noted above. She is involved in a number of things outside the department. Here are three notable ones that come to mind:
    1. The Rockets hockey team for individuals with disabilities, see the great video on this
    2. Jack worked on a series of videos for kids at Mott related to the hospital experience, addressing issues such as pain
    3. Jack has worked with engineering over the years with a class that innovates technology for individuals with disabilities.

2017 TRAIL Blazer Award for Non-Clinical Staff- Charlotte Koehler


  • Charlotte is a key person on the team at MedRehab. She has always appreciated the importance of having the front end /clerical team as part of our larger multidisciplinary team serving the patients here. She has established great working relationships with the therapy teams and is highly regarded as their “go to” person. She works very hard to train new staff and convey her vast knowledge to them.
  • Charlotte takes on a great deal of responsibility and is always accountable for completing tasks. She accepts not only her own responsibility but takes it many times for her team and tries to improve upon the system. She has definitely been a LEAN champion in our facility.
  • Staff feel that they can ask her to do something and know without question that it will be taken care of. She has incredible composure under highly stressful conditions.
  • She is always looking for ways to improve our systems and processes to make our operations more efficient for our therapists and more satisfying and accurate for our patients. A good example of this was her work with two therapists to devise a way to utilize MBox for coordinated rehab patient scheduling with multiple disciplines. This was a major change for many staff but they have embraced it and it has really improved our process.

2017 TRAIL Blazer Award for Clinical Staff- Jeannette (Jeannie) Kunz


  • Jeannie Kunz exhibits unparalleled teamwork through her involvement wit the STEPS Autism Program. She consistently encourages teamwork between staff, patients, families, and even between providers beyond the STEPS program (physicians, therapists, ABA providers, educators, etc.). She loves to embed teambuilding exercises within weekly meetings and has the perfect sense of humor to bring everyone together in a way that makes each team member feel mportant, respected, and rewarded. For example, when a child has had a particularly challenging situation, Jeannie has modified schedules, changed how a family enters buildings, and brought everyone together to ensure the highest level of teamwork to help a child overcome it.
  • Jeannie has specifically helped empower all of the parents of children in the STEPS program by taking a lot of extra time to listen to them, share their concerns, and provide thoughtful support outside of ‘therapy time.’ She is sensitive to the diverse cultural backgrounds our patients come from for help and is able to bond the families that routinely result in shared tears of joy.
  • Jeannie’s integrity can’t be given justice through words or writing. She routinely pulls the team together to handle challenging and stressful situations. She recognizes the advantages of a team approach while maintaining responsibility and accountability for her role. There are numerous examples of how she will initiate a conversation about a patient or a family concern and then go beyond that to include additional team members, confirm with patients that their needs are being met, and then follow up with them at a later date. It is almost like she has an honorary social work degree!
  • Jeannie spearheaded PM&R’s involvement with the STEPS Autism Program. She has represented PM&R in an area that is not only extremely difficult, but also not the most supported. This is a difficult area to navigate and Jeannie has truly shined in her ability to work with the best interests of everyone involved.
  • Jeannie participates in ongoing provider meetings with the Autism Alliance of Michigan. She has presented at Michigan Occupational Therapy Association and Michigan Speech Hearing Association conferences. She attends Autism Speaks events and has attended a meeting with representatives from the Michigan Departments of Insurance and Financial Services, Health and Human Services, and medical directors from all of the major insurance providers in MI. She also attends all of the Dance Marathon events that STEPS participates in.

Honorable Mentions


Ted Claflin, MD
Claire Kalpakjian, PhD
James Leonard, MD

Clinical Staff:
Linda Miner, Occupational Therapist Clinical Specialist
Kim Erickson, Physical Therapy Clinical Specialist
Karen Lin, Occupational Therapist
Katherine Konosky, Occupational Therapist Clinical Specialist

Non-Clinical Staff:
Julie Warning, Patient Services Assistant, Inpatient
Doria Chege, Administrative Manager

TRAIL Blazer Committee: 

  • Diane DeVoogd, Rehab Counselor, Milestones 
  • Stacey Finch, Clerical Senior Supervisor, RPN
  • Jill Gerber, Clinic Intermediate Manager, PRC
  • Claire Kalpakjian, PhD, Associate Professor
  • Derek Bayer, Rehab Tech, PTOT, IP Acute
  • Joanie Radke, Administrative Assistant Intermediate, BRL
  • Ron Sayre, PT Clinical Specialist, OTPT Acute
  • Carole Dodge, Occupational Therapy Supervisor, OTPT
  • Sabrina Starks, Administrative Manager, MedRehab
  • Courtney Chavez, Administrative Manager, Spine Program
  • Administrative Lead: Vanessa David

About Tom Lucas

Tom Lucas, CFO, was a member of the PM&R UM Orthotics and Prosthetics Acute Care team for over 20 years. Tom was a respected and well revered member of the UMHS team. Tom loved his work and the people he worked with. For those that have worked alongside of Tom, this was evident in his spirit, respect, and compassion he had for his patients and colleagues.

Tom exemplified the traits of the TRAIL Blazer Award:

  • Teamwork: Pursues a common goal – helps others to succeed. Able to work in partnership with people in such a manner as to build group commitments to goals and objectives. Puts the welfare of the group over individual interest.
  • Respect: Recognizes the value and diversity of each team member, demonstrates genuine concern about the well-being, dignity and self-esteem of all colleagues in the organization in a way that develops trust.
  • Accountability: Accepts responsibility for delivering on our commitments. Protects confidential information. Accepts responsibility for actions. Utilizes resources in an efficient and cost effective manner. 
  • Integrity: Adheres to the highest standard of honesty, professionalism and ethical behaviors. Is ethical and reliable in meeting commitments. Demonstrates professionalism under pressure or during stressful situations.
  • Leadership: Being involved, taking action and continuously striving to be the best. Able to take action in problem solving while exhibiting sound judgment and a realistic understanding of the issues.