Four honored at St. Mary’s ceremony Monday night

The Foundation of St. Mary’s Healthcare gave its top awards to, from left, Linda Carter, caregiver associate of the year; Dr. Emily T. Etzkorn, healthcare leader of the year; Dr. Michael J. Hardies, medical professional of the year; and Frank VanWormer, support associate of the year, at the foundation’s annual dinner meeting Monday at the Holiday Inn in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

JOHNSTOWN — Two doctors, a substance abuse counselor and a member of the security department at St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam were honored with top awards Monday at the Foundation of St. Mary’s Healthcare annual dinner meeting at the Holiday Inn.

Amsterdam native Michael J. Hardies, an internal and occupational health physician and healthcare entrepreneur, was honored as the medical professional of the year.

He was introduced by Albert Turo, a retired St. Mary’s vice president for planning and development, who praised Hardies’ personal caring and attentiveness both as his physician and his late father’s.

Hardies began as an orderly at St. Mary’s, once worked as an electrician, and then earned his medical degree from Albany Medical College.

He told the audience he learned the science of medicine at the college but the art of medicine practicing in Amsterdam. One of his mentoring physicians advised him about the art of being a doctor: “You need to listen to your patients. They’ll tell you what’s wrong with them.”

Besides his work with patients, he was a healthcare innovator who founded four corporations, including Corporate Health Dimensions and later CHD Meridian Health Care, a multifaceted organization offering a range of healthcare management and delivery alternatives for corporate clients.

He said he was happy to have returned to St. Mary’s whose “noble” work is to aid the injured, ill, frightened and lonely.

Etzkorn, chairman of the St. Mary’s Healthcare board of trustees, was honored as healthcare leader of the year. She was introduced by Dr. Mohammad R. Ghazi-Moghadam as “capable, skilled and accommodating.”

“She has rewritten the book on responsibility,” he said.

She graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing and later Albany Medical College. Her practice specialty is pediatrics, including neonates, infants and adolescents.

Ghazi-Moghadam said Etzkorn is not only “a symbol of excellence” as a doctor but has been a Good Samaritan, helping a choking person and aiding people in distress in church and on airline flights.

Linda Carter, a substance abuse counselor in the Personalized Recovery Oriented Services Program at the Amsterdam Memorial Campus, was honored as the caregiver associate of the year. She was introduced by her supervisor, Mercedes Ramirez, who said Carter “loves people, and her love goes beyond words and translates into action.”

“Her selfless acts of charity and benevolence have touched the hearts of many, motivated the souls of the hopeless,” Ramirez said.

Frank VanWormer, a 41-year employee and member of the security department, was named support associate of the year. He began there as a painter and carpenter and has filled in as a truck driver, groundskeeper and boiler room operator.

Transferring to security, VanWormer became “the first face of St. Mary’s that many of our patients, families and visitors see” when he greets them at the guard booth, said his son Chris, who introduced him.

Chris then hugged his father, saying, “I love you, Dad.”

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