A quiet legacy

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Ginger Seaman is retiring after many years of service at Heritage Health. (Courtesy photo)

Ginger Seaman is retiring.

Her quiet, unassuming nature is a hallmark of her long career, which spans two decades.

“I am going to miss my patients and the friends I work with,” said Ginger, the longtime coordinator of the Medication Assistance Program. “The time spent here has been such a blessing!”

Ginger is beloved by her patients and she is respected by her colleagues, who praise her work ethic, selflessness, and professionalism.

“Ginger is the sweetest, most unassuming patient advocate I know,” said Cathy Fisicaro, medical assistant supervisor at the Coeur d’Alene clinic. “She takes the time to sit down with each patient. She has developed long-lasting relationships with them.”

“Ginger has been with Heritage Health from the beginning, so in that respect, she is one of the people in the organization who reminds us of how far we have come,” said Dr. Anthony Rehil-Crest. “She has spent most of her time here helping patients get treatments and medications they would not be able to afford otherwise and in that sense, she embodies the original mission of this clinic, which is to provide medical care to the uninsured.”

“Ginger provides an invaluable service to patients who have been failed by our current health care system and cannot afford the medications needed to keep them healthy,” said Jolie Jantz, Heritage Health’s Pharmacist.

“Ginger is very focused on the patients and they love her,” said Paula Dahlen, Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistant. “She is so professional about her job.”

“Ginger is a phenomenal person and it has been a joy to work with her for the last 26 years,” said Dr. Leanne Rousseau. “She is a quiet, solid but persistent advocate for patients and a priceless help to providers. She will be sorely missed. We wish her a wonderful retirement. It is well deserved.”

Ginger has worn multiple hats over her 20-year career. In her role as the coordinator of the Medication Assistance Program, she makes sure patients get the life-saving medicines they need.

“Helping people in difficult situations puts my own life in perspective,” Ginger said. “And when you get to see how your work impacts people it’s very rewarding.”

Cathy Fisicaro, who is expected to take over Ginger’s responsibilities in 2019, said there is no doubt Ginger has made a difference.

“The medications Ginger has been able to find through various assistance programs have certainly been life-changing,” Fisicaro said. “Patients suffering from depression or COPD have been able to get medications they otherwise couldn’t afford. She has gotten life-saving high blood pressure medications or diabetic medicines for people whose diseases would have spun out of control without those medications, creating potential life-threatening situations.”

Ginger also has helped Heritage Health patients save millions of dollars by securing free or heavily discounted medications for those who can’t afford to pay for costly prescriptions. Since Jan. 1, 2017, she has secured medications valued at $5.4 million for about 1,200 patients.

“Those are huge numbers,” said Jolie Jantz. “So many of our Medicare patients fall into the coverage gap part way through the year and suddenly can no longer afford their medications despite paying high Medicare premiums.”

Ginger’s departure at the end of the year has already hit some patients hard.

“One of her patients had tears in her eyes when Ginger told her she was retiring,” Fisicaro said. “She said, ‘I don’t know where I would be without you all these years.’”

Heritage Health will be holding a retirement party for Ginger from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 at the Innovation Den in Coeur d’Alene. The public is invited to attend.

Ginger has been a fixture with Heritage Health and is one of the few remaining employees who has been here from the beginning. She knew Lidwin Dirne personally and worked tirelessly to embrace Heritage Health’s founder’s mission to provide healthcare to those who couldn’t afford it.

“People sometimes feel as though they are invisible and forgotten,” Ginger said. “We discovered how big the need was. It still amazes me.”

Ginger recalls back in the late 1990s when Heritage Health, then known as the Dirne Clinic, was staffed by volunteers who provided care to the community a few nights per week out of the basement of a building on Ironwood Drive. She remembers patients lined up – outside the door and around the block for these health care services. At that time, she was the executive director of the Dirne Clinic.

“Ginger and I go way back,” said Crystal Rounds, the medical assistant supervisor at the Heritage Health Post Falls Clinic. “Ginger always had a smile on her face and made sure the patients got the care they needed. We have seen a lot of changes and challenges over the years together, which makes me feel we share a special bond. I appreciate her compassion, kindness and understanding as we faced all the challenges that came with so much change in a short amount of time because of the much-needed growth for our community health center.”

Heritage Health continued to grow, and in 2003 Dirne received federal funding. The next year, the clinic opened its doors as a full-time community health center. Today, Heritage Health serves 30,000 patients annually.

“Ginger is amazing,” said CEO Mike Baker. “She has seen this organization grow from a volunteer clinic to a vibrant community health center. People like Ginger are the unsung heroes of healthcare. Our community is a better place because of her work with us. It has been an honor and a privilege working with her.”

Ginger said she hopes to spend more time with her family after she retires. She also wants to find more volunteer opportunities. “I am not sure what my future will bring,” Ginger said. “I think how blessed I am to have been here and be able to help in so many ways with so many.”

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