Annual ambassador program recognizes champions of Sanford

‘You don’t have to work here for years and years’ before making a difference, ambassador says

A group of Sanford Health brand ambassadors pose in front of a "Greetings from Austin" wall mural.

There’s a group of Sanford employees who were recognized for going above and beyond in the work they do as caregivers.

They’re called Sanford Brand Ambassadors and, according to the program’s description, they embody the spirit of the brand and what the organization is all about: health, healing and serving patients and residents, communities and each other.

The annual program selects 20 employees each year and is now in its second year.

Watch: 2022 Brand Ambassadors travel to Austin, Texas

Sanford Health News caught up with a few of the very first brand ambassadors to learn more about what it means to be a part of this group.

What it means to be a Sanford Brand Ambassador

Felix Nyangamoi, one of the inaugural ambassadors, said one of his favorite memories was meeting the other ambassadors from across the region.

The first group of 20 embarked on a surprise trip to Nashville in February 2021. The 2022 brand ambassadors took a surprise trip to Austin, Texas.

Watch: ‘Lady A’ produces a song inspired by Sanford health care workers in 2021

“Becoming a brand ambassador made me feel like I am part of this organization, I’m part of this great enterprise, and I can help to advance the mission and the values by interacting with people every day,” Nyangamoi told Sanford Health News.

Irosha Banagala shares that sentiment.

She moved to the United States from Sri Lanka and is grateful to have found a home within Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota.

“We dream about going to college, graduating, getting a great job but this was something I never expected,” Banagala said. “Being an ambassador to represent this large organization is something I will never forget in my life.”

As a learning and development specialist, Banagala helps new employees during orientation. It’s a position that fits her passion and pride.

“I’m a very small person within this big organization, but the level of support and gratitude I received from the people I work with and from the leadership for my dedication and commitment to this organization is second to none,” she said. “Working here at Sanford Health means so much to me because I feel appreciated. I feel I’m valued. My voice matters regardless of my job title. I feel I belong to this organization, but most importantly, the work I do is so meaningful. That’s why I always take an unmatched pride of what I do here at Sanford.”

Turning pride into purpose

As a caregiver in Bemidji, Minnesota, Heather Czywczynski, NP, the concept is simple. She thinks about each patient as if they were her own family member, neighbor or friend.

“I make sure I do what’s best for them,” Czywczynski said.

“We are the gatekeeper to their experience within our facility and working in oncology, it’s a privilege to be able to take care of these patients in probably a time that they’re at their most vulnerable. So, number one, we always have to put the patient first. We have to think about their experience from the time they step into our door to the time that they leave and making sure that we give them the best care possible.”

Specializing in oncology now, she treats blood disorders and all types of cancers.

Examples of what that brand ambassador looks like in action include a few extra minutes in the exam room, smiling, helping patients in the hallway. Many of her patients come to her at their most raw moments.

“Everybody from start to finish can make a difference in how the patient has an interaction that day,” she explained. “And so I think that’s like one of the most important things we can all focus on is the patient experience from their time they enter our facility to the time that they leave and truly that’s what this job is about in health care.”

From the clinic to the offices, Nyangamoi, who is a learning and development specialist in Sioux Falls, says his team knows him as a Sanford Brand Ambassador.

“We have to respect each other. We have to help each other. We have to assess each other teamwork,” Nyangamoi said.

Sanford Ambassadors not only act as ongoing brand advocates inside and outside of offices, clinics and hospitals, but they are also champions and will serve as advisors, giving voice to our story as an organization throughout the year.

“It was just something that made me feel like I am part of this organization. I’m part of this great enterprise. I can help advance the mission and the values of this organization by interacting with people every day, whether it’s my co-workers here or people in my department.”

Setting an example for others

Czywczynski had only worked at Sanford Health in Bemidji for three months before she was nominated for her work, then in COVID-19 outpatient infusion.

“You don’t have to work here for years and years and years to be recognized for the things that you do and make a difference in the eyes of the employees around you,” she said.

Helping new employees in Fargo, Banagala encourages them to set the bar.

“You don’t have to speak perfect English to be a role model,” she said. “I always tell them to make that positive influence. I always tell them to go extra mile to help someone and most importantly do the right thing when no one is watching over you.”

Nyangamoi says doing the right thing impacts not only our co-workers but our patients and residents who get their care at Sanford Health.

“For anyone who comes here, they will see that this is a good place to be,” he said. “They see how we treat them and also how we treat each other as co-workers. It has become my passion. I just love doing it.”

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Posted In Company News, People & Culture, Sanford Stories