Family practice physician named Francis Award recipient

Dr. James Gehant

For the first time since the Francis Award was initiated in 1982, a physician has been chosen to receive the award which honors a Unity Family Healthcare employee.

James Gehant, MD, was selected for the 2011 Francis Award at the annual Unity Family Healthcare (UFH) Employee Recognition Dinner held Feb. 16 at the Falls Ballroom. Gehant is a family practice physician with St. Gabriel’s Hospital and Family Medical Center. He came to Little Falls in 1975, after earlier spending some time in the community as part of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine’s Rural Physician Associate Program.

The Francis Award is presented each year to a UFH employee “who goes beyond the call of duty, serving the community and the organization with heart and hands.” It recognizes employees for the way they exemplify the mission and values and for their commitment to the community and the organization. Gehant was nominated in January (2011). He was described as exhibiting all four of the UFH core values — reverence, integrity, compassion and excellence — and for his leadership in achieving important milestones in the organization, such as the merger of two medical practices — Family Clinic, PA, and Medical Center, PA — into the Family Medical Center and for his role in establishing satellite clinics in Pierz and Randall.

“I wholeheartedly support the mission, vision and values of Unity Family Healthcare,” Gehant said. “My success as a physician is the result of the team of doctors, nurses and staff that support me. After all these years, I still think the greatest job is serving others and that’s what all of us (at UFH) do. I want to thank all of the people I have worked with over the years, especially my nurse Gladys (Freudenrich), my wife Deanna, and all the other UFH ‘old-timers.’”

UFH president/CEO Chad Cooper said the recognition is well-deserved.

“The Mission and Values committee has the difficult task of being able to select only one of the twelve very worthy nominees for the Francis Award,” Cooper said. “That fact alone is evidence of how well-deserving Dr. Gehant is of this honor. His passion to serve and commitment to his patients make him an excellent choice for the 2011 Francis Award. All the nominees are to be commended for their commitment to our mission and for making a difference to all those whom we serve.”

The other 11 nominees for the award included Jane Smalley (February); Lenin Perez (March), Jennifer Neu (April), Nancy Kunkel (May), Sharon Thilquist (June), Marilyn Jelinski (July), Sharon Sanderson (August), Jim Rakow (September), Kim Dedomines (October), Patty Foss (November) and Linda Gates (December). Nominees come from one of UFH’s Little Falls-based facilities—St. Gabriel’s Hospital, Family Medical Center, Little Falls Orthopedics, St. Camillus Place, Alverna Apartments, Community Medical Center in Pierz, Randall Lakes Area Clinic and St. Gabriel’s Home Health and Hospice.

Last year’s recipient, Deb Collis, announced the award, which was accepted on behalf of Gehant by his long-time nurse, Gladys Freudenrich. Gehant was out of town and unable to attend the event.

In addition to the Francis Award, 54 other UFH employees received awards for five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years of service at the event.