UVM Health Network

ECH Expands Eligibility for Dr. Herbert Savel Education Fund

Program now open to per diem employees, including high school students

Image of Austin Morris, Elizabethtown Community Hospital employee

Elizabethtown, New York (February 14, 2022)  – For Registered Nurse Austin Morris, the decision to pursue a career in health care was almost a no-brainer.

Working at UVM Health Network – Elizabethtown Community Hospital (ECH) part-time as both a high school senior and during summer breaks while pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Utica College in Utica, N.Y., had given Morris a taste for how rewarding working at a community hospital could be.

“When I first started working at Elizabethtown as a high school student, I liked how close the staff were,” said Morris. “I liked that I knew some of the people from the community who were on staff. The experience affirmed my decision to pursue a career in health care.”

So in 2019, when Morris, who had been searching for an opportunity to enter the college’s Physician Assistant program, decided to return to Utica College and pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, it wasn’t motivation or inspiration he needed – it was a way to ease the financial burden that often comes with pursuing a health care-related degree in higher education.

“Going through my undergraduate studies, I knew I wanted to be in the health care field – possibly as a Physician Assistant,” said Morris. “But after seeing the flexibility and opportunities for growth that nursing offers I decided to go for it.”

For Morris, the only question remaining was the one facing nearly everyone preparing for life as a student in higher education: how to foot the bill.

Investment and Enrichment

Enter ECH’s Dr. Herbert Savel Education Fund – an endowment launched by the hospital in 2018   and aimed at providing financial and tuition assistance to ECH employees who have decided to pursue advanced degrees and health care-related certifications. The fund was created through a significant financial gift by Dr. Herbert Savel, an internist and longtime attending physician at ECH. Recipients are selected by a multidisciplinary committee and applications are accepted throughout the year. The fund has provided financial assistance to nearly 20 individuals since its launch.

Michelle Meachem, director of Human Resources at ECH, called the fund an important foundational tool for the hospital as it seeks innovative solutions to longstanding employee recruitment, retention and professional enrichment challenges that are facing hospitals throughout the region and across the country.

“There’s pride and a deep sense of satisfaction when we see our employees investing in their future – because their future is our future as a community hospital,” said Meachem.

And because ECH has seen the fund’s use grow over the years — it has provided tens of thousands of dollars in financial assistance and support to nurses, medical coders, EMTs, and health care administrators at ECH — the organization has moved to expand its reach and impact.

Expansion and Innovation

The decision to open eligibility for the Savel Fund to high school students who meet hourly requirements for per diem work at ECH and are interested in pursuing careers in health care is a critical piece of the organization’s approach to the investment and development of their workforce, said ECH President Bob Ortmyer.

“Supporting the talented and dedicated health care professionals who care for our community every day is one of the best ways to address the longstanding recruitment and retention challenges facing hospitals serving small, rural communities,” said Ortmyer. The hospital’s Paramedic Education Program, developed to address a shortage of local paramedic education opportunities, has helped more than 40 students gain the experience needed to provide life-saving pre-hospital care.  “The Savel Fund, which now extends that support and investment to young people at a critical time in their career, is another way we are working to develop solutions that serve both our hospitals and our communities.”

Morris, who learned about the Savel Fund through local news reports and from co-workers who had applied for awards, said that knowing that support was available gave him the motivation to move forward with his decision to pursue nursing school.

“I knew that I wanted to grow and learn, and that ECH was willing to support me,” he said. “The positive impact that had on my decision-making and my ability to invest in my own future has been huge.”

For more information on scholarships available through ECH, please visit: Elizabethtown Community Hospital | Benefits (ech.org).