Retired Siouxland Nursing Leader to Receive Prestigious Spellman Award
The Mercy Medical Center Foundation has announced that longtime Siouxland nursing leader Verna Welte will be the recipient of the prestigious Dr. George G. Spellman Annual Service Award. The award will be presented to Ms. Welte at the Mercy Foundation’s annual gala on Saturday, November 3 at the Marina Inn and Conference Center in South Sioux City. Welte retired from Mercy Medical Center in 1997 as the Vice-President of Patient Care Services. She was one of Siouxland’s first female health care administrators and paved the way for other women in the industry.
Named after the late Dr. George Spellman, a longtime Sioux City physician, the special award recognizes community members or groups whose generosity with their time, talent and treasure exemplifies the values of Mercy Medical Center. Welte was nominated for the Spellman Award by a number of her former physician and nursing colleagues who worked with her during her forty-two year association with St. Vincent’s Hospital and its successors, Marian Health Center and Mercy Medical Center.
Welte began her nursing career in 1955 after graduating from Briar Cliff College (University) with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. Following her graduation, she went to work for the City of Sioux City’s Public Health Department. She joined St. Vincent’s Hospital in 1957 as an instructor in the St. Vincent School of Nursing. The St. Vincent School of Nursing was the first nursing school in the state of Iowa to offer training in critical care. In 1972, Welte was named the Director of Nursing at St. Vincent’s and from there assumed a variety of leadership roles in hospital administration and emerged as one of Siouxland’s first female health care executives. Her selection
as the 2012 Spellman honoree takes on an added dimension because of her professional relationship with Dr. Spellman. Welte and Dr. Spellman spearheaded the establishment of the second Critical Care Unit in the state of Iowa and she also is responsible, along with former colleague Connie Spain, of creating the city’s first inpatient substance abuse unit at St. Vincent Hospital.
In nominating Ms. Welte for the Spellman award, Mercy physician Dr. Gregg Galloway called the Hopkinton, Iowa native one of Siouxland’s most respected nursing leaders. “Verna Welte was the perfect nurse,” said Dr. Galloway. “She always understood the need to do the very best for every patient that came through our doors. Verna was a great role model for hundreds of nurses who followed her and Mercy is blessed to have had such a long relationship with one of Siouxland’s true nursing icons.”
Verna Welte’s name is also front and center in one of Sioux City’s most historic medical developments. She was one of the key players in the 1977 consolidation of St. Vincent and St. Joseph Hospitals. Even after her retirement from Mercy in 1997, Welte has chosen to stay active in a number of hospital-related entities including the Mercy Medical Center Foundation, the Mercy Gala planning committee, Women’s Night Out, and the Mercy Child Advocacy Center. In recognition of her numerous contributions to Mercy, the hospital established the Verna Welte Lectureship Series for nurses and other healthcare professionals. Every year, a noted national speaker comes to Sioux City to promote the nursing profession to local health care organizations.
In addition to her many professional accomplishments, Welte has always been the epitome of a good citizen of Siouxland. She and her husband Bing are active members of St. Michael’s Church in Sioux City and Verna has served on a number of diocesan boards. The Briar Cliff University alumna has been honored with the school’s Distinguished Leader award and Distinguished Alumni award. She still serves Briar Cliff University as a member of the President’s Leadership Council. Twenty years ago, Welte established the Welte Family Scholarship for BCU nursing students.
In addition to her many contributions to Mercy Medical Center and Siouxland, Welte was recognized as one of Iowa’s most influential leaders. The Iowa Hospital Association chose Welte as its Nurse Administrator of the Year in 1980 and she also served on many national and state boards, including the Iowa Nurses Association, the Governor’s Council on Disabilities, the National Nurses Association, American Lung Association, American Heart and Stroke Association and a charter member of the Siouxland Council on Alcoholism.
Mercy President and CEO Bob Peebles says he is thankful that Welte continues to be engaged with Mercy even after her retirement. “It’s not uncommon to see Verna at Mercy at various times throughout the year,” said Peebles. “From her volunteer work for the Mercy Foundation to her involvement with the Child Advocacy Center, she continues to make great contributions to Mercy. Verna Welte is part of the rich legacy of Mercy and her role in the growth of our organization cannot be understated.”
Welte’s former colleague Martha Burchard provided a fitting summation on her nomination of Verna for the Spellman award. “Verna’s unique wisdom is the insight of being a humble servant professed through her dedication to her faith, community and the inclusiveness of her Catholic faith,” said Burchard. “Dr. Spellman would be honored that the award that bears his name is being given to such an inspiring and dedicated person like Verna Welte.”
Verna and Bing Welte are parents of eight children – Mark, Kevin, Doug, Rick, Lori Dougherty, Donna Hirsch, Paula Olerking and David. They have twenty-two grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.
The Spellman Award is now in its tenth year and was created by the Mercy Medical Center Foundation in recognition of Dr. George Spellman, one of Sioux City’s pioneering physicians who established a reputation as an advocate for the poor and underserved. Dr. Spellman passed away in 2002 and he and his wife Carol were the recipients of the first award named in his honor. Subsequent honorees included Martha Burchard, Russ and Marilyn Christiansen, Hospice of Siouxland, Jack and Barbara Aalfs, Dr. Ted Roman, Eldon and Regina Roth, Dr. Michael Jung, Dr. Jack Michalak and Dr. Gary Carlton.
Foundation Board President Dave Smetter said the selection of Verna Welte was an easy decision to make. “Anyone connected to healthcare in Siouxland is aware of the role Verna Welte has played in this community,” said Smetter. “Nurses aspire to follow in the footsteps of Verna. The legacy she created at Mercy and in Siouxland is one that is sure to endure. She is a true servant-leader and the Mercy Foundation is honored to recognize her as this year’s recipient of the George Spellman Service Award.”
The 2012 Mercy Foundation Fall Gala will feature an elegant dinner and dance and is being led by chairpersons Dr. Jim and Carol Case. To reserve tickets to the Mercy Medical Center Foundation Gala on November 3, call the Mercy Foundation office at 712-279-2475.
For more information, contact:
Jim Wharton, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development (712) 279-2732
Dianne Krier, Mercy Marketing and Communications Coordinator (712) 279-5682