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Austin Texas Hospice Care

Hospice of the Hills – Our Team of Hospice Care Professionals

Our team of professionals works together to provide holistic hospice care with consistency and continuity. The Austin Hospice of the Hills team applies their expertise and passion to give exceptional end-of-life care. They are dedicated to understanding your needs, offering support and rendering care on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.

Debbie D. Gamble

Co-Founder / Volunteer & Bereavement Facilitator

Debbie’s passion for hospice care stems from personal hospice experiences with both her mother and mother-in-law (See Our Hospice Care Story). Prior to Debbie and her husband Rodney’s decision to create Hospice of the Hills, Debbie’s empathy for people and dedication to compassionate care is evident throughout her career.

As a homebound special education teacher with the Austin Independent School District, Debbie developed student lesson plans to ensure students, who were disabled or terminally ill, were successful in the classroom. While a special education teacher for the Austin State Hospital she worked with children suffering from physical and mental abuse. She further exercised her ability to identify with others and offer the appropriate support through her time at the Mary Lee Foundation.

Here she committed to encouraging emotionally disturbed children to develop a sense of dignity, feeling of self-worth, and skills to socially integrate and contribute to their community.

By working with these people in need throughout her career, she is able to understand others in burdensome situations, offering support on a deeply personal level. Debbie is a member of multiple church, civic, and collegiate organizations.

She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and currently resides in the Lake Travis area with her husband Rodney. They have three grown sons also living in the Austin area.

Rodney Gamble

Co-Founder/
CEO & Director of Business Operations

Rodney’s passion for outstanding hospice care parallels that of his wife Debbie’s (See Our Hospice Care Story). His decision to create Hospice of the Hills with Debbie comes not only from his own hospice care experiences but from an overwhelming desire to help others. Rodney will go out of his way to lend a helping hand. His vision and energy for Hospice of the Hills keeps it operating with impeccable integrity at the highest level of ethical standards. Being native to the Austin-area, Rodney has many deep-rooted relationships in the medical and healthcare community.

Prior to founding Hospice of the Hills, Rodney’s dedication to superior service and care is evident throughout his career. He has listened and helped hundreds of individuals achieve their goals regarding retirement, life, and college planning through his financial and insurance services business.

Before his 20 years as a successful business owner, Rodney acquired his keen business sense and appreciation for teamwork from a handful of management positions.

While Business Manager for Lockheed Missiles and Space Co., Inc., he was responsible for overseeing multimillion-dollar programs involving coordinating with technical managers, contract administrators, project schedulers, and financial analysts. He was a Financial Analyst for Tracor Aerospace, Inc. and worked with the Texas State Department of Highways and Public Transportation as Assistant Supervisor of the Budget Section.

He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Business Administration. Rodney is recognized for his leadership and commitment to excellence, and is a member of multiple church, civic and collegiate organizations.

He and Debbie reside in the Lake Travis area and have three grown sons also in the Austin area.

Dr. Teresa Lyson, MD, PhD

Medical Director

Teresa Lyson, MD, PhD joined the Hospice of the Hills team in January 2012. She is also a physician at Internal Med Solutions.

Dr. Lyson was a research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Biomedical Research, and at Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas within the cardiology division. In addition to her research, Dr. Lyson has been an assistant professor and instructor on cardiology all over the world.

Originally from Poland, Dr. Lyson moved permanently to the United States in 1990 and has practiced medicine in Iowa and Texas. She is a part of the American Physiological Society, American Medical Association and Polish Society of Internal Medicine, and Cardiology.

Dr. Lyson has authored and published 15 medical papers covering a wide range of topics within her field.

Dr. Gerald Hagin, MD, FACP

Associate Medical Director

Dr. Hagin was first introduced to hospice in 1975 during his internship in Santa Clara, California at Kaiser Hospital, one of the first networks to establish a hospice program. He admits it was extremely difficult to see patients with end-of-life diagnoses. “My goals for these patients became about providing the most support for them and their families. Dying was not a failure but something that could be done with dignity – a purpose I could fully commit to,” he said.

During his first three years of medical school, Dr. Hagin was at the University of Zaragoza in Spain. Since this opportunity he is extremely grateful for, he holds a very special place in his heart for the Spanish and those speaking the language. Dr. Hagin is fluent in Spanish and has dedicated his career to aid the Hispanic population both here in the states and abroad. He has served as a missionary doctor in Honduras and Peru. During his time abroad, his love for the United States continued to grow and influenced his career path greatly.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Hagan has served as medical director for two other hospice agencies, been a clinical professor, instructor, and had his own private practice. His specialty is Medical Oncology, and Hematology where every day patients are given a terminal-illness diagnosis. With over 30 years in medicine and caring for terminally ill patients, Dr. Hagin has an excellent framework to treat and manage pain.

When it comes to hospice care, a team approach is necessary. Dr. Hagain said he realized early on that not one person can provide for all a patient’s needs. Another important concept he learned was when to refer patients to hospice. “I have seen the gamut, those who are referred with just a few days to live and those who are referred with months to live. The importance of truthful discussion of goals with families in a caring way is of utmost importance to assure they recognize why hospice is a good option,” he said. “Often times, there is fear of abandonment, or denial or family dynamics, making hospice enrollment more difficult. We must always recognize the families’ own time frame and be supportive.”

Dr. Hagin has had his own personal experience with hospice when his mother died of pancreatic cancer. He said this event is another reason he believes strongly in early enrollment of hospice. “Throughout her course, my family was blessed with great care and understanding. The staff is an accepted part of a patient’s family and has time to develop a level of comfort, unattainable with just a few-days course.”

Joining the Hospice of the Hills team for Dr. Hagin was about becoming a part of a team that shares his passion and devotion to hospice care and the gift it is to patients and their families.

Dr. Hagin received Honors in Medicine and Psychiatry from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He completed his Internal Medicine Residency at Kaiser Medical Center and Fellowship Hematology/Oncology at the University of Arizona Health and Science Center in Tucson. He is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and Specialty Boards – Oncology. He served two years of active duty with the National Health Service Corps, a branch of the Public Health service, and 22 years in the United States Navy Reserve, retiring in 2002 as a Navy Captain. 

Dr. Hagin lives in Lakeway with his wife Carol, whom he met through hospice care. She was the administrator at Quality Life Styles Hospice where he was Medical Director. Because technically she was his boss, they had to wait until she moved on to something else before they started dating and got married. “Hospice has truly blessed me, including giving me my loving wife,” he said. Dr. Hagin has two Children, Lea Meredith and Joshua Keola.

  

 

Heidi Kook-Willis, RN, BSN, CHPN

Community Nurse Liaison

Heidi joined the Hospice of the Hills team because of the team’s shared devotion to help each patient and family member have the ideal hospice experience. It was a perfect fit for her desire to use her extensive hospice background in educating the community about their treatment options and the benefits of quality end-of-life care.

After receiving her nursing degree with Honors, Heidi worked in cardiac telemetry and ICU before entering into hospice care as an admissions nurse. She decided to pursue hospice nursing after a personal experience she had with her father, who died of pancreatic cancer at age fifty-two. After witnessing her father refuse hospice care and suffer the devastating side effects of radiation treatment and extreme pain for several months before dying on a ventilator in a hospital ICU, Heidi wanted better for other terminally ill patients and their families.

On the administrative side, Heidi supervised the care of over eighty hospice patients and their families at one time, conducted clinical training of hospice staff, developing training manuals and collaborated with clinical supervisors on how to incorporate evidence-based practices that improve hospice care. In addition chairing multiple Performance Improvement committees, she has taught End-of-Life issues at Austin Community College. Heidi says whether it’s clinical, administrative or educational, each position has had the common goal of providing safe, compassionate, quality hospice care.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a hospice nurse, Heidi says, is the opportunity she has to get to know patients and their families during such a sacred time in their lives, “…helping someone transition comfortably and peacefully from this life to whatever they believe is next for them is extraordinary.”

Heidi lives in Dripping Springs with her husband Rich. They have two children Garrett, a UT freshman, and teenage daughter, Haley.

  

 

Cheryl Parchman, BSN, RN

Administrator / Director of Nurses

Cheryl brings a long career of nursing to the Hospice of the Hills team. She has been a consultant, manager, and director for hospitals and hospice care agencies across the State, bringing over thirty years of experience to the team.

Since receiving her nursing degree in 1979, she has cared for patients and their families in various settings; including, critical care, palliative and hospice care.

Cheryl also has an administrative background in nursing management and education. She joined the Hospice of the Hills team because she was drawn to owners Rodney and Debbie’s personal stories with hospice. Their dedication to provide the very best hospice care and ensuring the best quality of life possible to their patients and loved-ones aligns with her philosophy. Cheryl also joined because she wants to help Hospice of the Hills grow in providing this sort of care to as many people as possible within the community.

Cheryl moved into the management/director-side of nursing during her career because it gave her authority to make adjustments that would improve patient care – “I saw changes that needed to be made and decided I could help exceed the current care patients and their families were receiving.” Throughout her nursing and management career, she moved between the acute or hospital setting to a palliative, hospice setting.

Her skills translated well between the two because she was able to assist critically ill patients who wanted to leave the hospital setting for end-of-life care. She has seen how hospice care benefits the entire family. A hospice agency has the interdisciplinary team to assist in all aspects of end-of-life care; including, physical, emotional, spiritual and logistical support. “We are able to empower patients and their loved-ones, making an enormous impact at the end-of-life.”

She also has a personal history when her father entered hospice care with lung cancer. “I believe when you walk with a loved one going through the end-of-life journey, it gives you a transformed perspective. I have a better understanding and appreciation for what our patients and families are experiencing.”

Cheryl and her husband Robert are from New Braunfels, Texas and now call the Austin area home.

Kathleen Floyd, RN, CHPN

Alternate Administrator / Alternate Director of Nurses

Since 1995, Kathleen Floyd has been blessed with caring for terminally ill patients.  She says the most rewarding aspect of her nursing career is helping patients and their families achieve comfort and peace during such a difficult time. “It’s truly an honor and privilege to be with them and something I don’t take for granted,” says Kathleen.

Kathleen has also experienced hospice personally when her mother passed away from breast cancer. She says she can really relate to the families, “Even though I was a hospice nurse, I felt like I didn’t know what to do because it was my mom and it was so emotional.” She adds, “Having hospice assist with my mom’s care allowed   me to be her daughter rather than her nurse.”

Regardless of the diagnosis, hospice offers hope of a peaceful journey from this life where patients are surrounded by their loved ones and are provided with the necessary support. “It’s not just about the patient – It’s about the family too,” says Kathleen. Kathleen joined the Hospice of the Hills team because of their mission and values towards exceptional end-of-life care.

She received her nursing degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston in 1992 and went on to work at Houston’s Ben Taub General Hospital in the surgical intensive care unit for three years. She found her love of hospice care in 1995 and has never looked back.

Kathleen lives in the Austin area with her two amazing children and big, lovable dog named Mac.

Irene McGuire, RN

Field Nurse

Irene considers hospice care her calling. It doesn’t feel like a job to her because she enjoys it so much, getting back as much as she gives.

She was working for a hospice care agency in the Austin area up until the end of 2012 and enjoyed the work so much she allowed the hours to get away from her. Consequently, she took a more administrative side to nursing and began working in the family practice department at Austin Diagnostic Clinic. However, she missed the contact and interaction with patients and their families. Deciding to use her gifts and talents, Irene began searching for other opportunities and found Hospice of the Hills, which was a perfect fit.

She joined the Hospice of the Hills team because they believed in the same things she did about quality, compassionate hospice care. She also appreciates the teamwork aspect they have towards hospice care, working together for the patient and their family with the same goal and mission.

Irene is naturally a nurturing person and enjoys helping out where she can. She has a unique understanding of the natural stages a patient and their family experience during the end-of-life journey. She also has personal experience that gives her another level of empathy. Her husband passed away from brain cancer 17 years ago when her children were ages three and eight. Afterwards, she decided to become a nurse – it was through this she developed her calling. She also says the hospice experience she had with her husband left such a positive impact she wanted to give back what had been given to her.

She doesn’t know how people get through the passing of a loved one without a positive hospice experience. It prepares them and provides a level of knowledge that helps to understand the end-of-life journey. Irene says people are always so incredibly grateful afterwards and want to maintain contact because you are going through such a significant time with them – she can’t imagine doing anything else.

Irene has been in the South Austin area since 1990. Both her children are now grown and also living in the area.

LeeAnn Swanson

Office Manager

LeeAnn says her greatest role being Hospice of the Hills’s office manager is how she is the one taking care of the people who take care of people. While she doesn’t usually see the patients and their families, she is busy supporting the frontline team behind the scenes.

After a career in retail and merchandising management, then for a property management company and bookkeeper for an insurance company, LeeAnn made the shift into hospice care. The catalyst was after a personal hospice experience with her mother who passed away in 2004 from pancreatic cancer. LeeAnn said the hospice  team was a lifeline for her and her family as they were dealing with end-of-life   issues. She also developed a longing to have a job that was close to her heart, working for more than just a paycheck.

LeeAnn began in hospice as an admissions specialist where her personal history with hospice gave her an unique understanding of what patients and families endure. Following, she became Business Manager and Director of Operations at Hope Hospice in Checotah, OK. LeeAnn joined the Hospice of the Hills team because owners, Rodney and Debbie’s personal hospice stories and reasons for opening Hospice of the Hills touched her deeply.

At first, death and dying on a daily basis was difficult for LeeAnn. But with each passing from this life to the next, there was great joy amidst the sadness. Knowing everything was done to the best of the hospice team’s ability, prepared both the patient and their family. She knows how valuable hospice can be for a family in terms of support and care, being a huge resource where each discipline within the team offers a gifted service.

When she’s not working tirelessly at this job she loves, LeeAnn does stand-up comedy. She says she gets a lot of crazy looks when she tells people what she does, but her humor within the hospice office is an asset in a field that can be as challenging as it is rewarding. LeeAnn is the go-to person when things get heavy and lightens the load for staff, having an unique ability to make co-workers smile and laugh, relieving their stress.

LeeAnn grew up in Texas and was happy to return home where she lives in Austin with her husband Joe. She has two sons, Andy in Oklahoma, and Chris who lives with his wife, also in Austin.

 

Rebecca Homminga, RN, BSN, WOCN

Wound Care Specialist

It is because of hospice care that Rebecca Homminga returned to nursing school. She says hospice provides her the opportunity to give such sweet, tender care to her patients while using every skill she has learned as a nurse.

She joined the Hospice of the Hills team because they shared her same values and mission toward hospice care. Becky has been working in hospice care since 1996 and says her experience has helped her prioritize what is most important in life. She believes of all of the things we spend most of our life chasing after, most end up not making much of a difference toward the end of this life – What matters most is simply yourself and those you care about.

With her background, Becky has seen hospice care benefit patients and families because of it holistic approach by providing care that encompasses the whole family.

She has witnessed hospice care bring people closer together by helping them understand the dying process, reminding people that it is a normal, very important part of life that deserves to be honored and treated with utmost respect. Becky has had her own personal hospice care experiences with her late husband and stepfather.

Becky graduated cum laude from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and is a graduate of the Wound Ostomy, Continence Nursing Education (WOCNCB) Program at M.D. Anderson Center. She is also WOCNCB board certified in foot and nail care.

Becky lives in Austin with her very big and happy family.

Kayleigh Cunningham, LMSW

Social Worker

Kayleigh joined the Hospice of the Hills Team because of the obvious respect each member has for one another and the holistic approach they take in caring for their patients. She had been looking for an agency that shared her beliefs towards care, sincerely loving and serving their patients.

While receiving her Masters in Social Work from Baylor University, Kayleigh realized her passion for hospice. She says it was when one of her most challenging, and favorite professors shared several entries from her journal about her hospice work. Kayleigh said she saw a glimpse of how social work fit into hospice care and it matched perfectly with her love of the elderly and desire to work with entire families.

Her first experience with hospice care was a personal one when her grandfather was dying of throat cancer. She says she remembered how thankful her dad was that her grandfather was not in pain during his last few weeks of this life.

Before connecting with the Hospice of the Hills team, Kayleigh was Director of Social Services at Wesley Woods HealthCare Center in Waco, Texas. Here she managed a caseload of over one hundred residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. She developed strong bonds with its residents and their families.

Often times, Kayleigh says she recommended hospice to help comfort families in the disease and dying process by encouraging families that hospice was extra hands, eyes and ears for their loved ones. Kayleigh also has an understanding of the importance people have for independent living where they can have dignity and quality of life through her internship at Friends for Life, a non-profit striving to help elderly and people with disabilities maintain their independence.

Kayleigh lives in Bee Cave with her husband Craig and “sweet” dog Riley.

Ron Kelling, BS, MDiv, CPE

Director of Pastoral Care

Chaplain Kelling comes to the Hospice of the Hills Team from the area’s Lakeway Church and is also a retired Air Force chaplain. He served as a chaplain for 28 years, giving him the opportunity to work alongside people of all ethnic and spiritual backgrounds through unexpected tragedy, trauma and grief.

He joined the Hospice of the Hills team because of his deep desire to serve patients and their families during the latter stages of a loved-ones life. Chaplain Kelling also appreciates the strong commitment owners Rodney and Debbie Gamble have to ensure every client and family member is served with a genuinely caring spirit.

Chaplain Kelling has extensive experience helping both patients and families during the uncertain and emotionally stressful times of a serious illness and death. He served as a hospital chaplain after receiving his clinical pastoral education and certification through the Trinity Medical Center in Minot, North Dakota.

Chaplain Kelling says end-of-life issues are medically, emotionally and spiritually difficult times for both the patient and their family. Quality, compassionate hospice care provides the much-needed support patients and family members require during this stressful time. He and the entire Hospice of the Hills team lovingly and sensitively address each of these needs as dedicated professional caregivers for both the patient and their family. Chaplain Kelling has witnessed how much this type of care offers the best quality-of-life possible for everyone involved and is honored to be a part of it.

He and his wife Carol have been a part of the Lakeway community since 2006 and have a daughter and grandchildren in Cedar Park.

Bonita Griffith, RN, MA, BCC

Chaplain

Bonita joined the Hospice of the Hills team because she is passionate about helping those with a terminal illness and their families think through the issues surrounding the end of this life. Bonita officially retired in 2005. However, she says she has plenty of remaining energy. She is fueled by her desire to help others confront and process dying so they are able to have a more conscious, peaceful end-of-life journey.

Bonita has been a Hospice Chaplain since 1990. This role combined with a nursing background in the Army Nurse Corps gives her a unique ability to offer families and their loved ones a holistic approach to hospice care. Not only does Bonita have extensive professional experience in ushering others through the end-of-life journey, she has been through it herself with her late husband, father, mother and son.

She says there is nothing like personal experience to identify with other’s feelings. The greatest thing she says she’s learned is not what you say but how you are – It’s your presence that is so important. You don’t need words. They have their own answers. Bonita says she just helps others find answers within themselves. A level of comfort with death is important when you are going to be with the dying, she says. People can sense discomfort and she doesn’t think death is the worst thing.

Using her professional and personal experience, Bonita teaches classes about a conscious response to death and dying at the UT Social Work department and various civic and church communities. Bonita and her husband David live in the Hills of Lakeway.

Additional Staff:

Vicki Mastrodicasa, RN – On-Call Nurse

Melissa Godina & Theresa Bates – CNAs

Stacy Schmitt – Chaplain & Hospice Massage Therapist

Amy Ecklund – Speech Therapist

Ruth Cummings – Physical Therapist

Gemma Cercone – Occupational Therapist

Leslie Bagby, RD, LD, CNSD – Dietician

Dede Sparks – Social Work Consultant

Beverly McCune, Music-Thanatologist (harp)