Vicksburg Area Resident Wins Burton Upjohn Award


By Sue Moore

Patti Ruggles Lewis, a 1982 Vicksburg High School graduate, is one of five recipients of the Burton H. Upjohn Merit award given annually by Borgess Hospital to recognize associates for their dedication in serving others.

The award was created by Burton H. Upjohn, a long-time dialysis patient and Chair of the Borgess Board of Trustees, 1970-1977, who established a trust fund to provide special recognition to outstanding associates on the night-shift at Borgess Medical Center (BMC). With the support of Betty Upjohn Mason, eligibility for the award was extended to those working on all shifts at BMC and Borgess Gardens. Each recipient who is recognized for exceptional performance also receives a cash award.

As a quality care coordinator, Lewis’ job is to help bariatric patients prepare for surgery and then navigate the steps toward living a healthier life. She will even follow them though their post-surgery with advice and counsel.

She uses her own weight loss journey as she helps patients and once they know what she’s been through, they know they have to keep trying to get better.

Lewis, who once weighed 250 lbs. herself when she began to work with her specialist,  Doctor Versaman, said that she didn’t much like exercising.

“It’s what you put in your mouth, that causes the weight gain,” she tells each patient noting her trim 165 pound frame.

Besides keeping fit herself, Lewis also has to contend with multiple sclerosis which she was diagnosed with in 2002. In August, 2009, 12 active lesions were found on her brain which left her left side completely numb. This was serious enough for her to qualify for a special study and drug regimen at the University of Michigan.

Since then, the symptoms have actually improved, she said. A year after taking the drug, Lewis was well enough to ride in an 80-mile bike hike with Wes Bittenbender, assistant pastor, and others of the Nazarene Church. She and her family live at the Nazarene Campgrounds at Indian Lake.

While her undergraduate degree is Mid American Nazarene University in business administration. Lewis sort of fell into the Borgess job in 2008. She truly loves touching people’s lives to help make them healthy.

“I just connect with my patients, as they can see there is hope for them too,” she said.

She transfers that hope to her own son Elijah, 12, who has a kidney disease called Alports which causes him to lose his hearing among other things.

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