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January 21, 2009 > Washington Hospital Pulmonary Rehabilitation Coordinator Receives Prestigious Award From Her Peers

Washington Hospital Pulmonary Rehabilitation Coordinator Receives Prestigious Award From Her Peers

Washington Hospital's Pulmonary Rehabilitation program offers hope by teaching people with lung disease how to better manage their disease, improve their breathing and build up the strength and stamina needed for everyday life.

Since 1973, Margaret Chaika, respiratory therapist (RT) and Washington Hospital's pulmonary rehabilitation coordinator has dedicated her life and professional career to treating patients with chronic lung disease through pulmonary rehabilitation and asthma education.

Chaika's career accomplishments were recently recognized when she was honored as the American Association for Respiratory Care's (AARC) 2008 Continuing Care and Rehabilitation Section Specialty Practitioner of the Year. Singled out from more than 100,000 practicing RT's, Chaika was part of an exclusive group of nine therapist honored nationwide and the only person from California to receive this distinguished accolade.

"Receiving a prestigious award from colleagues in the field of pulmonary rehabilitation is a great honor," Chaika says. "I've always been passionate about helping patients and giving back to the community. That's what Washington Hospital stands for."

The award, which was presented last month at the AARC's 54th International Respiratory Congress in Anaheim, CA, is bestowed annually on a section member who best exemplifies qualities and characteristics of excellence in providing respiratory care services to patients in need of pulmonary rehabilitation and asthma education.

"Over the last 35 years, Margaret has dedicated her life and professional care to treating patients and she has earned the respect of physicians and admiration from her peers. Margaret simply loves pulmonary rehabilitation, and it shows," says Kent Joraanstad, Chief of Rehabilitation and Education Services at Washington Hospital. "In her coordinator role, Margaret has expanded and improved the practice of pulmonary rehabilitation for both professionals and patients."

Never satisfied with just knowing the basic facts for her patient, she has strived to learn new information and share her expertise with her patients.

"I like to go to health conferences and listen to my colleagues and find out what they are doing so that I can take information back to our community and tailor it to my patients needs," Chaika says.

Over the years, Chaika has directed the Hospital's pulmonary rehabilitation program and pulmonary function laboratory. She's also implemented several diagnostic studies including a high altitude study for air travel patients with Chronic Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Chaika often helps patients recognize high altitude symptoms and teaches them how to use oxygen tanks while flying.

Better Breathers Support Group

Chaika says that one her greatest accomplishments during her tenure at Washington Hospital has been the success of the Better Breathers Club support group. For more than 25 years, Chaika has coordinated this support group that provides ongoing education and support for people with COPD. More than 70 people regularly attend the monthly meetings to hear from guest speakers that discuss techniques and share tips on how to better manage their disease.

"The doctors in our community have supported this group and have given their time and expertise which has really made a difference," Chaika says. "The meetings have given members the opportunity to discuss their struggles with people who understand as well as help each other by sharing their expertise."

Washington Hospital's pulmonary rehabilitation program is facilitated by an expert group of respiratory therapists, physical therapists and occupational therapists who work together to help patients develop the tools they need to better manage their disease.

"I have received a lot of support along the way," Chaika adds. "Washington Hospital's team of respiratory therapists do a fantastic job and I'm grateful to the Hospital's Board of Directors and our Administration for supporting the pulmonary rehabilitation program for so many years."

Work Inspires Scholarship

Chaika loves her work and she has regularly gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that her patients receive the best possible care. In recognition of Chaika's commitment and dedication, the family of one her former patients started a scholarship in 2003 for students in the respiratory therapy program at Ohlone College.

"The LeRoy F. Hack Scholarship has allowed Ohlone College and Washington Hospital to complete the circle of support needed to help keep well-trained respiratory therapists in the Tri-City area," says Chaika. "This endowment showed how important pulmonary rehabilitation was to Mr. Hack's family and I'm glad that I made a lasting impression."

Chaika says that's she very proud that she has stayed at Washington Hospital for more than 35 years.

"With everything that I have achieved on this journey in the pulmonary rehabilitation field, I feel that I have paid my dues and my work has really paid off. This award is my recognition and I'm glad that I could make a positive impact in our community."

To learn more about Washington Hospital's Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, call (510) 494-7025 or visit, click on "Services & Programs" and select "Pulmonary Rehabilitation" from the drop-down menu.

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