Words of Wisdom from ARCF Achievement Award Winners

 Published: March 27, 2019

By: Heather Willden


graphic of award banner

Every year the American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF) honors standout members of the profession with Achievement Awards at the AARC Congress.

All seven of these prestigious awards go to people who have demonstrated a career-long commitment to furthering the art and science of respiratory care.

What advice do these award winners have for the rest of us? Four winners from 2018 explain what it takes to rise to the top.

Richard H. Kallet, MS, RRT, FAARC, FCCM: Forrest M. Bird Lifetime Scientific Achievement Award

Photo of Rich Kallet
Richard H. Kallet, MS, RRT, FAARC, FCCM

The two characteristics that I’ve observed both in myself and every successful researcher I’ve had the honor to collaborate with are curiosity and discipline. Curiosity is the delight in discovery. Discovery is the process of learning facts and concepts that slowly grows into comprehension — that wonderful moment when a light bulb goes off and you suddenly view your world in a new way. For that to happen takes discipline — foregoing easy gratification for something much more substantial and rewarding, despite the frustration and fatigue that comes with doing something hard.

Any RT seriously contemplating getting involved in research has to reflect honestly on how they experienced and behaved during their academic training and when they were orienting to their first job. Those who were excited by the experience and worked hard to succeed are the ones who will enjoy research. It’s so much harder than it appears at first. Everyone who has approached research seriously has experienced frustration and “project-fatigue” — it’s an inevitable part of the experience. And those in our profession who have mastered their research interests have been passionately in love with learning, which is what enabled them to find the discipline within themselves to persevere.

Robert M. Kacmarek, PhD, RRT, FAARC: Hector Leon Garza MD Achievement Award for Excellence in International Respiratory Care

photo of Robert Kacmarek
Robert M. Kacmarek, PhD, RRT, FAARC

There are many avenues to become involved with international respiratory care activities. The first would be via your place of employment. Many hospitals have international programs designed to support developing countries and disaster situations in various parts of the world.

The AARC has an active international RC group whose members should be able to assist and provide you directions for getting involved in international activities. Get to know the International Fellows who are invited to each AARC Congress too. Finally, contact international organizations such as the World Health Organization, Physicians Without Boarders, etc., and volunteer your time to provide assistance. The more contact you establish with international groups, the greater the likelihood you will be able to get involved in the development of international respiratory care.

DeDe Gardner, DrPh, RRT, FAARC, FCCP: Mike West MBA RRT Patient Education Achievement Award

Photo of DeDe Gardner
DeDe Gardner, DrPh, RRT, FAARC, FCCP

I believe RTs need to find a few great mentors who can give them input to their decisions about their professional life. I have a few who are experts in different areas. One is an expert on academics. Another is an expert on the profession and seeking out opportunities.

I would also encourage RTs to get out of their comfort zone and take the risk to make a move from the job they are in to something new in respiratory therapy. I think people get in a “rut” and need the push to get out of their comfort zone to apply their skills in a different place or with a different patient population.

Arzu Ari, PhD, RRT, PT, CPFT, FAARC: Mitchell A Baran Achievement Award for Clinical Excellence in Aerosol and Airway Clearance Therapies

photo of Arzu Ari

RTs should believe in themselves and their ideas. Don’t be afraid of failure. The path toward success is not always going to be clear. Still, they must go anyway, with a clear goal, a well-taught plan, and a positive attitude. Plan, prioritize, work hard, evaluate, and delegate. That’s their way to great success.

Learn more

The other three Achievement Awards and their 2018 winners are —

  • Thomas L Petty MD Invacare Award for Excellence in Home Respiratory Care, Brooke Yeager McSwain, MSc, RRT
  • Dr. Charles H Hudson Award for Cardiopulmonary Public Health, Suzan Michelle Collins, BSRT, RRT
  • NBRC Gary A Smith Educational Award for Innovation in Education Achievement: Samantha Davis, MS, RRT, RRT-NPS, AE-C, CHSE

Learn more about the ARCF Achievement Awards.

Email newsroom@aarc.org with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

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