Dr. Erika Brandenstein saw an increase in babies born to mothers misusing substances at Reid Health, and decided to change the situation. Her efforts helped create The NEST, a maternal treatment program for which she’s the medical director.
That desire to help others, to live a life of faith and service and to study the world around her, led Brandenstein to become the 43rd recipient of Reid’s Paul S. Rhoads Humanity in Medicine Award, according to a news release.
“Dr. Brandenstein is deserving of this award because of her leadership, because of her creativity, because of her ability to create a new niche for services that wasn’t there before,” said Craig Kinyon, the president and CEO of Reid Health. “Those things are what brings forward candidates for this prestigious recognition.”
The award is named after Rhoads, the first Humanity in Medicine Award winner in 1983. He helped organize Reid’s hospice program and the Wayne County adult clinic for the indigent.
“I’m so humbled and honored and just surprised at being chosen for this award,” Brandenstein said. “I’ve always looked up to a lot of the physicians who have won it in the past. I’ve admired them and their commitment to the community. I’ve really strived for that, to be fully invested in Richmond.”
Brandenstein said The NEST has “completely transformed my experience and my career.” She’s able to watch patients get sober, show their true personalities and find a better path.
“Just being able to see a woman who’s trapped in addiction, sometimes homeless, very unstable living conditions, no finances, their life is literally a complete mess, to see that person walk through the door, get help, have their baby, they’re working in society, they have homes, they’re parenting their children now, and they’re being the woman they want to be,” Brandenstein said. “For me, that’s been especially rewarding and wonderful to see. Just to be a small part of something so amazing is special to me.”
Reid Health Community Benefit has funded 16 Challenge Day workshops for eighth graders in four Indiana counties.
The program will reach about 1,400 students in 12 school districts across Wayne, Fayette, Randolph and Union counties with 400 adult volunteers, according to a news release. Challenge Day aims to increase self-esteem, shift peer pressure to peer support, and reduce teasing, oppression and all forms of violence. It is packed with activities, games, and challenges to connect with peers and adults.
Jessica Przbysz, director of community benefit and engagement at Reid, volunteered for Challenge Days at Connersville and Dennis middle schools and Centerville Junior High.
“Change starts on Challenge Day, but the impact goes so much further than one day,” Przybysz said. “I entered Challenge Day thinking how impactful it would be cultivating positive changes with the kids. However, by the end, I realized the experience is just as important for the adults.”
By attending Challenge Day, students develop empathy and learn ways to help and support each other, said Keith Morey, assistant principal at Connersville Middle School.
“I think the biggest impact Challenge Day has on students is it helps students recognize that they are not alone and we never know what someone else is going through,” he said.
A version of this article appeared in the October 4 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.