Benson Hospital’s Jason Zibart is Arizona’s 2020 Community Star recipient awarded by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health. With so much focus on our urban hospitals, honoring those who staff our rural medical facilities is vital during this pandemic.
Arizona’s rural hospitals are the front line of defense, lowering their communities’ level of COVID-19 cases and minimize transfers to already overburdened Tucson’s intensive care units. Zibart, Benson Hospital’s community development specialist, COVID-19 prevention has become one of his many duties, educating residents and businesses about coronavirus safety protocols.
“While some of this work is done by the hospital alone, being the liaison with our city’s programs and coalitions grows in importance to keep our community safe,” he said. “I believe deeply that a collective impact approach is the key to not only keeping COVID-19 infections to a low level, we’re here to improve rural health overall. Simply put, we are stronger together than alone.”
Community education is not Zibart’s original health care career path. About 10 years ago, he was a patient care tech at a hospital planning to become a nurse, but one patient shifted his entire career plan. It was a night in July, monsoon rains flooding Tucson when he admitted a young patient with elevated blood sugar and a necrotic (badly infected) toe. The man had no idea he had diabetes, nor did he understand he needed urgent medical and surgical intervention. What Zibart realized was that community education was needed to prevent the disease and keep patients with preventable diseases out of a crisis and out of a hospital.
For Zibart, this experience was the beginning of a new career path and the start of a benefit to Benson’s residents. He entered a public health curriculum, determined to be someone who helps his community address the contributing causes of disease and illness instead of the guy taking care of patients in need of extreme medical intervention.
While traditional community education includes information about healthy lifestyle choices, Zibart will continue to keep up his work to keep the COVID-19 infection rate low. With vaccines on the way, he hopes that 2021 will return to more traditional community preventative health education, the core of his studies at Ohio’s Kent State.
“Being able to work for Benson Hospital, an organization so dedicated to community health and preventative care, continues to be an amazing experience,” Zibart said. “It is also fantastic and humbling that the folks at NOSORH have taken notice of the work we are doing here.”