Even without the challenges of the pandemic, Ronael Eckman, MD – recipient of the 2021 Excellence in Healthcare Award from the Prescott Chamber of Commerce – has an extraordinarily busy professional life.

Dr. Eckman serves as the Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC). She also cares for newborns and children at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Group, Ponderosa Pediatrics.

How does Dr. Eckman feel about these demanding dual roles?

“I enjoy the balance,” she says. “My doctor time with my pediatric patients and newborns is very fulfilling. It ties me to the core of why I entered the medical profession. My role as YRMC’s CMIO allows me to interact with colleagues across all medical specialties and the hospital’s administrative leadership. I enjoy working with computer technology to optimize and manage how we care for patients.”

Innovative solutions during COVID-19

Enter 2020 and COVID-19, and Dr. Eckman’s knowledge of medicine, computer technology and data analysis became even more essential to YRMC. She participated in important planning sessions during which YRMC decision makers strategized ways to care for COVID-19 patients.

“From the beginning of COVID-19, Dr. Eckman was immersed in YRMC’s response to the pandemic,” says Ken Boush, Director of Marketing and Communications at Dignity Health, YRMC. “She was at the center of every innovative response developed to care for the people of our community. Her passion and dedication make her the best choice for the 2021 Prescott Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Healthcare Award.”

Those innovative responses, which tapped technology to care for COVID-19 patients, include:

  • Remote monitoring and collaboration with community partners – This allows COVID-19 patients experiencing fewer symptoms to go home with support instead of being hospitalized. These patients have 24/7 access to registered nurses via an app and home visits as needed from a paramedic as part of the Community Health Partners collaboration with Central Arizona Fire & Medical Authority. More than 1,500 COVID-19 patients have been served by this program. (Patients without a smartphone were provided a tablet in order to participate.)
  • Community vaccination – From January 20 – May 15, 2021, 48,000 vaccines were administered at the site of the vacant Sears building in Prescott. This effort – overseen by Dr. Eckman – included a team of over 500 volunteers.
  • Monoclonal antibody therapy – People 65-years-old and older, and those in fragile health, receive this COVID-19 treatment at YRMC’s Infusion Center and Emergency Department, thanks to Dr. Eckman’s efforts.

“I have a calling that drove me to help battle the pandemic in our community,” says Dr. Eckman. “I’m fortunate to work for an organization with colleagues who share my passion for battling the pandemic. This ensured YRMC’s ability to care for the community and afforded me the latitude and resources to pursue innovative ways to do so.”

Coming home

Dr. Eckman – whose family has called Yavapai County home for generations – returned to the community in 2010 to join YRMG, Ponderosa Pediatrics.

“This is such an amazing and beautiful community,” she says. “My husband and I are grateful to raise our children here and for my work at YRMG, Ponderosa Pediatrics and YRMC.”