July 11, 2018

Compassion, advocacy for patients with visual impairment put Eye Institute employee Janet Lemonis in the spotlight

“She is the most awesome God-sent person — she filled my heart. I had a hole in it and Janet filled it.”

Janet Lemonis is a credo award winner.

Photo by Susan Urmy

Janet Lemonis goes above and beyond to accommodate and advocate for all those with whom she comes in contact, especially her visually impaired patients at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute (VEI).

Lemonis, lead ophthalmic technician at VEI, worked at a private neuro-ophthalmology office for 18 years prior to coming to Vanderbilt in January 2015.

“Janet is able to be a patient and physician advocate at the same time. She coordinates care for patients struggling with practical matters such as work, life at home and adjustments to loss of vision, better than anyone,” said Reid A. Longmuir, MD, assistant professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences. “She is not satisfied until everyone has what they need medically, psychologically and personally. This is true for patients, the clinic staff and physicians.”

Her caring heart and compassion are a few of the many reasons that Lemonis was named a Credo Award recipient at the Leadership Assembly in May.

Lemonis is humbled by the acknowledgement.

“I enjoy working with the patients, especially my newly diagnosed, low-vision patients who are facing overwhelming challenges. The best days are when I offer them our low- vision resources and I can tell it gives them new hope,” Lemonis said.

Those who work alongside her notice the care she gives the patients.

“She shows compassion towards everyone no matter who they are, where they come from or how much money they make,” said John Bond, MD, assistant professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences. “Patients come here scared and confused about what is wrong with them. They are worried and frustrated. Janet will sit down and talk with them and listen. (She) truly gets to know the patients she cares for. She takes the time to set their mind at ease. She is not bound by a ‘script’ but goes out of her way to see things that need to get done actually get done. She truly loves her patients and she treats them as if they are family.”

This compassion for patients, staff and physicians extends outside of the office. She frequently escorts patients to their destination, visits hospitalized patients and helps obtain additional resources for visually impaired or legally blind patients.

“She is the most awesome God-sent person — she filled my heart. I had a hole in it and Janet filled it.”

According to the Credo Award nomination letter, Lemonis daily visited a blind, frightened, inpatient with few resources or family who could visit. She brought her a CD player so she could listen to music, took her clothes home to do her laundry and served as an advocate for the patient when speaking with the nursing staff about the patient’s needs.

“She is the most awesome God-sent person — she filled my heart. I had a hole in it and Janet filled it,” the patient told VEI leadership, according to the nomination letter.

“I consider being a Credo recipient a great honor, and yet at the same time I feel unworthy,” Lemonis said. “I work with an amazing group of technicians, physicians and staff that work hard every day to care for our patients. At VEI it truly takes a team effort.”

To place a nomination for an Elevate Credo Award, Five Pillar Leader Award, or Team Award, visit the Elevate website to fill out a nomination form. Employees demonstrate credo behaviors when: they make those they serve the highest priority; respect privacy and confidentiality; communicate effectively; conduct themselves professionally; have a sense of ownership; and are committed to their colleagues. Elevate award nominations are accepted year round. If a nomination is received after the cutoff for quarterly award selection, the nomination will be considered for the next quarter. VUMC Voice will post stories on each of the award winners in the weeks following their announcement.