About mid-morning Donna Hefner, President and CEO of Sierra View Medical Center came walking into the shady and welcoming courtyard of the hospital, and was completely surprised and “teared-up” by the large gathering of hospital staff, hospital foundation members, and local dignitaries, and her family, when Dr. Jeffery Hudson-Covolo, Chief Nursing Executive, and MC, started introducing people at the ceremony for “District 26 Woman of the Year.”
Hudson-Covolo, introduced Porterville Mayor Martha Flores, Vice-Mayor Kellie Carrillo, Assemblyman Devon Mathis, Sierra View board members, Sierra View Foundation board member Janice Castle and others.
He spoke about Mathis growing up in the area, his service in the military, and receiving the Purple Heart from being wounded in action in 2008, before returning home, his recovery and college studies, and being elected to office in 2014.
Amid great applause Mathis gave Hefner a warm hug, and said to the audience gathered, “Thank you all for keeping this quiet.” He said keeping anything under the radar from Hefner at the hospital was pretty difficult.
Every year he chooses a woman from District 26 to honor, and with the past couple of years of COVID, he said he couldn’t think of anybody other than Hefner who he works with on regular basis, that works with the community and who goes out of their way and makes not just the community of Porterville better, but who works with the whole county.
Mathis said how proud he was to recognize Hefner as “Woman of the Year for District 26,” and spoke about her being elected as Sierra View CEO in 2013, and how she had been a leader in rural health care and committed to improving health care not just in Porterville but surrounding communities in the whole county. And how during the pandemic she has been flexible and forward thinking. Her ability to pivot and keep on her feet has allowed her to lead the way in helping the Sierra View align with and keep up with quickly changing federal regulations, Mathis said. Mathis called Hefner a transformational leader who places an emphasis on growing relationships, praising her and Sierra View for as of February 2022 delivering care for more than 3,000 COVID patients.
Mathis said, “It is my great honor to award you 2022 Woman of the Year.”
Porterville Mayor Martha A. Flores hugged and congratulated Hefner, saying she remembered Hefner when she was a hospital employee and they were in many many meetings together, when Flores was on the hospital board in 2008.
“I got to see your potential first hand. She was very instrumental with all the paperwork, and going through the audits.”
Flores announced, “It is an honor to present you with a certificate in recognition District 26 Woman of the Year for improving the lives of the residents of Southeastern Tulare County through a variety of healthcare services and know that your work did not go unnoticed with the collaboration of the City and hospital for these last couple of years. You are a Trailblazer for the City of Porterville. Congratulations.
“Donna, it is truly an honor to stand with you.”
“I want to thank you so much,” said Hefner, “I am completely surprised, and I am shaking right now. I came around the back and saw some of you. You have a very special place in my heart, all of you who are here.
“All of the things we’ve been through, we couldn’t have done it without some amazing teamwork. We have some amazing people here, who are so committed to serving the community.
“I want to thank each and everyone of you today.
“This is so special and it’s an honor I’ve never received in my lifetime. And I want to thank all of you who have made this possible.
“I hope we never have to go through a pandemic again in our lifetime.
But I have to say I couldn’t have done it without the teamwork we have here and all the support. There are so many lessons we’ve learned along the way. The barriers we’ve broken down, and the lines of communication that have opened. We’ve worked in the city and the state, and we’ve touched so many lives. And provided much needed healthcare. And all of you continued to show up. And I never want to forget how we all worked together. Closing out March 31, Jeff and I reflected on the appreciation we got from the state and the local government. Everyone here has been so responsive. Thank you for all your help and support. I can’t thank you enough for this.”
“This is a very special award, and Donna certainly deserves it,” Castle said. “She is very hard working and dedicated.”
Hefner’s whole family was at the award ceremony, and her mother, Shirley Warden, hugged her afterward, and said, “I’m the luckiest mom in the world.”