Outstanding performance, innovation, enthusiasm and dedication to their job has paid off for two employees of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Arthur Lupkowski, human resources assistant III, and Misty Ottman, R.N, program manager – research, McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Department of Emergency Medicine, recently received the UT System Regents’ Outstanding Employee Award, which recognizes full-time, non-faculty employees based on the impact they have made on their job and their institution. The pair represented UTHealth among 30 winners from across all 14 UT System institutions at a luncheon hosted by UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven and the Board of Regents on May 14 in Austin.
The consummate customer service professional
Lupkowski joined UTHealth in 2010 after a career as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines. He works at the front desk for the human resources office where he interacts with hundreds of employees and visitors every year. He is often the first UTHealth employee that new employees meet as they work to complete the pre-employment process.
He has been credited with transforming the culture and the work in human resources. Early in his tenure, Lupkowski recognized that the university’s paper intensive onboarding process was not only wasteful but not a good customer service experience. He transformed the process by implementing an online I-9, employment eligibility verification portal and streamlining the background check process. To increase the office’s effectiveness and assist new employees in quickly getting the information they need, he began to track common questions to create a FAQ section on the human resources webpage.
“Receiving the Regents’ Outstanding Employee Award has been a remarkable experience,” Lupkowski said. “I love my job and I love what I do, so to be honored for doing my job is quite humbling. It feels good to know that my knowledge and skills are recognized by my peers as an asset to the university.”
Here’s what some of Lupkowski’s nominees had to say:
“When I joined UTHealth as vice president and chief human resources officer, one of my first initiatives was to explore ways to make the experience for new hires more representative of the supportive and collaborative culture here. Real change started to take place in the new hire experience when Art was hired. Art transformed the front office into a place where new employees were reaffirmed that they had made the right choice to join UTHealth.” – Eric Fernette, vice president and chief human resources officer
“As the director of executive and faculty recruiting, I observe firsthand Art’s impact on our visitors and on us, the staff. One of the most demanding aspects of Art’s position is the responsibility to greet and assist the international faculty, students and employees who visit the office daily. He empathizes with them and ensures they know exactly what to do – even escorting them to other offices they need to visit. If there is a language barrier, he is patient, kind and always makes them feel welcomed.” – Kay Williamson, director, human resources
A willingness to go above and beyond
Ottman has been a research nurse in the Department of Emergency Medicine since 2007. She is the senior research nurse in charge of the UTHealth site of the Neurologic Emergency Treatment Trials network, which conducts Phase 3 clinical trials involving neurological conditions in the emergency department and intensive care unit. Under Ottman’s leadership, the department has consistently ranked in the top six in enrollment for the seven large trials that have been conducted.
She is credited with enhancing the reputation of McGovern Medical School’s emergency medicine program to become one of the elite academic emergency management programs in the country. Because of her leadership expertise and willingness to go above and beyond, UTHealth is commonly singled out on conference calls for enrollment success. The team has won multiple awards including the Subject Enrollment Award and Most Valiant Patient Follow-up Efforts Award at the ProTECT Investigator’s Meeting. They also won the Top Enrolling New NETT Site and Overall Efficiency and Quality awards for the ATACH-II study.
“I take my job to heart and treat my patients with the respect and attention that I would want my family member to receive,” said Ottman. “To be recognized for doing what comes natural to me is humbling. I am proud to be part of the university and this award means a great deal to me.”
Here’s what some of Ottman’s nominees had to say:
“One of the real barriers and challenges in emergency research is patient follow-up. The patients who we treat come from a widespread region. Her dedication to her patients and the research program was key to ensuring that every patient completed the primary end point of their study. Beyond study completion, the patients develop a personal connection with Ms. Ottman. There are countless examples of patients leaning on her for assistance with things that have nothing to do with the trial they are involved in.” – James J. McCarthy, M.D. staff physician and former chair, Department of Emergency Medicine
“Ms. Ottman provides outstanding customer service to our research patients. When getting consent she takes the time to ensure the patient fully understands the study. She visits every research patient in the hospital every day and helps them with questions about their care. She acts as a liaison to the care team and helps the patient arrange follow-up care. This attention to the patient is rewarding to her personally and it serves to advance our research and ethical goals as well.” – Elizabeth Jones, M.D., associate professor of emergency medicine
Lupkowski and Ottman were among 23 UTHealth nominees. The nominations were initially reviewed by UTHealth’s Regents’ Outstanding Employee Award Review Committee, which consisted of Employee Advisory Council and University Classified Staff Council members. Nominees were scored by a rating matrix based on reference letters. Winners were selected by the UT System Chancellor’s Committee.