Terry Volsko, director of respiratory care and transport at Akron Children’s, was recently awarded the Jimmy A. Young Medal by the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC). This is the highest honor bestowed by AARC to an individual who has made lasting and sustained contributions to the respiratory care profession. The medal is named in honor of AARC President Jimmy A. Young, who died in 1975 after serving the organization for many years.
Since its inception, 44 people have been awarded the Jimmy A. Young Medal. Terry is one of only 4 women recipients in the award’s history and the only woman to receive the honor who did not serve as president of AARC.
Terry received the national award on Dec. 3 at a virtual award ceremony watch party. Her pre-recorded acceptance speech was broadcast during the event. Additionally, Terry’s professional journey is featured in the Nov. 2020 edition of AARC Times, the professional association’s monthly magazine that is distributed to more than 47,000 members worldwide.
Growing up with the profession
In many ways, Terry grew up with the respiratory care profession. When she graduated from Youngstown State University with an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy, licensure for respiratory therapists didn’t exist. In fact, the profession, which was just starting to be recognized for its vital roles in both medicine and nursing, gained prominence the following year when then-President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Respiratory Care Week.
Over the next 4 decades, Terry’s work in respiratory pediatrics, clinical research and academia helped to advance the profession. By the time she joined Akron Children’s in 2011, she was a well-published author of peer-reviewed manuscripts, abstracts, medical textbook chapters and textbooks. She also had solid mentoring relationships with her students and the many professionals she met through AARC.
When Terry learned the AARC’s president council had nominated and awarded her the Jimmy A. Young Medal, she was stunned. The call came as she and Mary Ellen Michael, nursing director, Akron Children’s neonatal services, were about to join the Ohio Department of Health on-site survey team for a tour of the Akron Children’s NICU at the Aultman Campus.
“I was taken aback,” she said. “I had no inkling. Honestly, my eyes welled up with tears. Afterwards, I don’t think you could smack the smile off my face! Mary Ellen was so happy for me, and I was so excited. It’s not how we typically act on these tours. People couldn’t figure out why we were so happy.”
Family makes the difference
Terry credits her family for their support.
“Achieving this award truly has been a family affair,” she said. “My family has been instrumental in my career, supporting my activities and dealing with my absences. My mom and dad helped me out a lot, especially when I was teaching at Youngstown State. My dad has a big workshop. I told him I needed a cost-effective way to show families how to insert tracheostomy tubes. Low-fidelity training dolls are very expensive and impractical to leave with families to practice. My dad drilled holes in the necks of baby dolls I purchased at a local department store and we used those. In fact, my granddaughter thinks that’s normal and wants all her dolls with holes in their necks!”
Terry’s team still uses baby dolls with patients’ and their families.
“It’s a way for parents to practice at the bedside,” Terry said. “The dolls also help siblings to not be frightened, too. Several children’s hospitals have learned about what we do and adopted the practice.”