Schwartz ‘is always a team player’ both with colleagues and patients

rachel schwartzIf there’s one thing Rachel Schwartz has learned in more than seven years at UAB, it’s the importance of teamwork. As a supervisor in the Department of Mechanical Circulatory Support, she said everything she does involves a team that can work together as a unit.

“In the operating room or in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, without a team we would not be able to accomplish the amazing things we do here at UAB,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz works in a unit that performs a procedure known as ECMO — extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. It is a temporary mechanical support system that handles the function of the heart and/or lungs in patients with cardiac or respiratory difficulties. It is most commonly used with patients recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, awaiting a transplant or heart-assistance device such as pacemakers or battling respiratory issues such as COPD.

A key aspect of teamwork within her area is Schwartz herself. Her calm demeanor and caring attitude keep things running smoothly, even in a stressful area such as the mechanical circulatory support department, Schwartz’s colleagues say. For these and other reasons, she was nominated for and selected UAB’s Employee of the Month for July.

“Working together is something she excels at,” said Robert Reed, senior director of perioperative services and perfusion. “She brings a consistency to the team that others appreciate.”

“I have always enjoyed helping others, and I get to do that every day.” 

Schwartz is well-known in her area for fostering a team environment even in social activities. According to Peggy Blood, manager of the ventricular assist device (VAD) and ECMO programs, Schwartz has coordinated two baby showers and a retirement party in the past six months ­— responsibilities Schwartz said she enjoys taking on, because she likes making people feel special.

“The birth of a child and the retirement from a job are blessings that should be celebrated,” she said. “Not everyone has the opportunity to celebrate those milestones, and I think we should be grateful when we are able to do so.”

Schwartz’s co-workers praise her ability to lead, interact well with patients and go above and beyond her normal job duties. Blood said she admires Schwartz’s integrity, focus and passion for knowledge, and Keith Wille, M.D., medical director of the Adult EMCO Program and Advanced Lung Diseases, admires Schwartz’s work ethic and positive attitude.

“I have always found her to be conscientious, hard-working, inquisitive, compassionate and attentive to detail,” Dr. Wille said. “In short, she always does right and is always a team player.”

Each month, UAB recognizes an outstanding employee for their dedication, hard work and contributions to the university’s success. If you know of a great employee, you can learn how to nominate them for this recognition at uab.edu/humanresources.

While Schwartz is consistently noted by her colleagues for inspiring a team mentality within the department, she also enjoys bringing patients and their families together. In July 2015, she and co-workers arranged to take the ECMO patients to the fifth-floor crosswalk between the North Pavilion and Women and Infants Center to watch the Independence Day fireworks show atop Red Mountain.

“The patients and their family members were so appreciative and thoroughly enjoyed the fireworks display,” Schwartz said. “It is such a wonderful memory for me, and one I will never forget.”

Schwartz said the secret to staying positive and being a team leader is remembering that everyone has a passion and encouraging them to pursue it.

“When you are able to do what you love, everything else seems to come a little bit easier,” she said. “I have always enjoyed helping others, and I get to do that every day. I may be providing a patient medical support, or I may be helping solve an interdepartmental issue. Either way, I am hopefully making someone’s day a little better.”