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Southlake Style

Healthcare Heroes

Jan 06, 2017 04:08PM ● By Ashley Pape

By Audrey Sellers

When something isn’t quite right with the body, whether it’s a broken bone, a toothache or a more serious ailment, healthcare professionals come to the rescue. Making things right is what they do. Like superheroes in scrubs, they save the day for their patients, often going above and beyond the call of duty. We caught up with a local orthopedic surgeon, registered nurse and husband-and-wife dental team who don’t just treat patients—they help create a better life for others.

Howard Harris, M.D.

Orthopedic surgeon at Texas Orthopedic Specialists

When patients arrive at Dr. Howard Harris’ office at Texas Orthopedic Specialists, they often just want to get back to their daily lives—working, fishing, golfing. As an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the shoulder, there’s no greater joy for Harris than helping his patients get back to their everyday activities.

“The most rewarding part of being a shoulder specialist is seeing somebody return to an activity they love that they couldn’t do when I first started to take care of them,” he says.

A native of North Texas, Dr. Harris has been a physician with Texas Orthopedic Specialists for more than 13 years. He gravitated toward the shoulder after starting his practice, citing “the mechanical aspect of orthopedic surgery in conjunction with the intellectual part of medicine” as why he chose to pursue his chosen field.

When someone is impaired by a shoulder injury, it’s difficult to perform even simple tasks such as brushing their teeth or washing their hair. And when it comes to sports, a shoulder injury can be devastating—not just to the athlete, but to the entire team.

Dr. Harris is passionate about helping athletes return to their game. He’s the team physician for local schools Euless Trinity and Faith Christian, where his three children are students.

At the start of each school year, Dr. Harris and the physicians at his practice provide physicals for several local high schools including Birdville and Boswell. Students pay a small fee, which goes toward the athletic program to buy whatever is needed, from new equipment to a new ice machine. And on Friday nights during football season, Dr. Harris volunteers at Euless Trinity or Faith Christian, ready to assist the school’s medical trainers if someone gets injured.

“I’ve always loved working with athletes and athletic departments,” he says. “With even a minor injury, there’s an urgency to get a treatment plan so athletes can get back to the sport.”

Volunteering for Dr. Harris doesn’t stop at the sidelines; he’s also involved with several philanthropies, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a global organization that funds Type 1 diabetes research, and the Arthritis Foundation, which aims to raise awareness and reduce the impact of arthritis.

Dr. Harris’ practice supports the Arthritis Foundation from an orthopedic standpoint, serving as a resource for the organization and contributing to its fundraising efforts. The JDRF is especially near to Dr. Harris’ heart; his son is a Type 1 diabetic. Over the past eight years, Dr. Harris has participated in the organization’s annual gala, walk and various fundraising events.

On a local level, whenever there’s a hurt in the community, Dr. Harris doesn’t hesitate to help with the healing. When his friends Greg and Tina Clifton tragically lost their 17-year-old son, Chance, in a car accident, Dr. Harris volunteered his time with their nonprofit, the Chance Clifton LIVE BIG Foundation. He served on the advisory board and participated in numerous events to help bring awareness to the organization, which provides educational scholarships and comfort to families suffering from tragic loss.

For Dr. Harris, getting involved in times of need just comes naturally. “There’s an inherent drive in me to want to help other people,” he says. “It’s an honor getting to help someone and put a smile on their face.”

Hannah Swysgood, R.N.

Registered nurse at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Grapevine

Providing comfort and care: It’s a huge component of Hannah Swysgood’s role as a registered nurse at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Grapevine. But Swysgood doesn’t just make sure patients have their basic needs taken care of. “We try to give patients the absolute best care that we can,” she says. “We care for them like we would our closest family members.”

Swysgood is relatively new to the nursing field—she has been a registered nurse for two years—but she has already taken on a leadership role with her team of nurses in the Progressive Care Unit (PCU). Swysgood is a magnet champion, which means she’s on a mission to make sure the nurses on her floor deliver the best nursing care possible.

“Magnet is globally recognized as the highest level of nursing care. As a magnet champion, I’m focused on making the team stronger,” Swysgood says. “It’s educating them about why we provide the best care 100-percent of the time. It’s getting the team involved and excited.”

Swysgood also keeps the concerns of her nursing team at the forefront by serving as chair of the Shared Governance Council. “Shared Governance takes the issues of each individual and the whole unit and brings them to the forefront to drive the condition of the unit,” she says. “It can be challenging because everyone comes to me with their complaints. But I get to be part of making a big difference.”

When nurses became fatigued, Swysgood had chaplains talk to the staff about managing burnout. The chaplains suggested doing something as a team outside the unit, so the nurses went out for a team dinner together. And when blood pressure monitors weren’t working properly, the council wrote a letter to upper-level management. Nurses got the equipment they needed.

Helping her fellow nurses is a major source of pride for Swysgood. “I’m so proud to be part of the PCU team,” she says. “I work with nurses who are always willing to go the extra mile—the extra 10 miles. If there’s anything they can do to help me, they will do it, even if their load is as heavy as mine.”

Not only do her colleagues inspire Swysgood to go to work each day; her patients and their families do, too. Swysgood is an advocate for her patients, helping them understand the next step in their care. “It’s funny and entertaining at times,” she says, “and at other times, it’s heart-wrenching when I have to explain a hard diagnosis or provide end-of-life care.”

It’s in those moments, when she mourns with a family who has just lost a loved one, that Swysgood feels the magnitude of her job.

“I’ve had family members come back to the floor and give us a box of cookies because they were so thankful we made the transition for their loved one to pass away a little smoother,” she says. “The family saw it was peaceful and that they weren’t struggling anymore.”

Knowing she’s making a difference—in the lives of her patients and their families—inspires her to provide the best care every day, just as she encourages her colleagues to do.  

“It’s not just a job. It’s a huge, life-changing position that I get to hold,” Swysgood says. “It’s really, truly the best job in the world.”

Jonathan Angwin, D.D.S., and Kristen Angwin, D.D.S.

Dentists at Just For Grins

Drs. Jonathan and Kristen Angwin, dentists at Just For Grins in Keller, live their lives guided by the familiar mantra: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

The husband-and-wife team brightens smiles for their patients and for those in need—in the local community and around the world. Each year, the Angwins sponsor a “Smiles for Life” campaign, offering teeth whitening in their office to raise money for seriously ill, disabled or underprivileged children in the community. They also partner with Milestone Church in Keller to provide dental exams, X-rays and cleanings to single moms in the community.

“Our goal is to live each day with purpose and constantly strive to improve the lives of those around us,” says Jonathan.

Their outreach is far-reaching; the Angwins are actively involved in global mission work. They’ve traveled with the organization Crown Council, an alliance of leading-edge dentists around the world, to provide dental care to hundreds of poverty stricken patients in Honduras and Dominican Republic. This summer, they’ll travel to Nicaragua with their church for 1 Nation 1 Day, a worldwide missions trip.

The need for dental care in third-world countries is staggering. “Many of these individuals have never seen a dentist,” Kristen says. “Most came because of severe pain and infection or because they were concerned with the aesthetics of their front teeth.”

Jonathan adds, “What stood out to me was the overall excitement to receive dental care. With a smile on their faces, our patients would wait all day in the hot sun to have a dental exam and whatever treatment we could perform.”

Kristen recalls meeting a woman on one of the mission trips who broke her two front teeth due to extreme decay. “She refused to smile, her self-esteem was so low,” says Kristen. After root canals and restoring the front teeth with white fillings, she says the woman “walked away with the biggest smile and kept wanting us to take pictures on our phones so she could see her teeth.”

While many organizations help provide food, clean water and life-saving medicine to those in need in under-developed nations, dental care is often considered a luxury. The Angwins are doing their part to provide a service that isn’t considered essential but is so desperately needed.

“I wanted to go into the medical field because I wanted to care for those in need,” Kristen says. “I truly love providing a service to others that not only puts a smile on their faces but also can provide relief to pain they’ve been experiencing for years.”

Since opening Just For Grins in 2008, the Angwins have received numerous awards and accolades, including the Crown Council Practice of the Month and the Keller Citizen Best of the Best Dentist Award. The best reward, though, is seeing patients flash their pearly whites.

“I work with kids all day, so the more smiles and giggles, the better,” says Kristen. “My goal is to not only create an environment that kids are comfortable in, but to make Just For Grins an office they want to visit.”

Whether they’re in their office in Keller or traveling the globe on a mission trip, the Angwins are thankful to be able to spread smiles. “Every day is a gift,” says Jonathan, “and we are grateful for the opportunity to influence so many lives around us.” SS