Buena Vista Regional Medical Center honored Jewell and Dr. Ron Dierwechter of Storm Lake Tuesday as recipients of the Iowa Hospital Association Hospital Heroes Award for their care-giving contributions.
Two hundred people - former co-workers, friends and even other care providers proud to share the same profession as the couple - came to greet them.
The couple, he a surgeon and she a nurse, have not only served the community, but have for much of their lives traveled the world as medical missionaries, serving those who needed them the most.
"Iowa Hospital Association wanted to honor health care professionals who had gone above and beyond their profession in life to impact their hospital and community," shared BVRMC's Ann Mackrill Wilson. "The Dierwechters' reach went beyond that and has created a better world."
In her nomination, Mackrill-Wilson said, "Both Dr. Dierwechter and Jewell are humble medical professionals with peaceful hearts and unlimited determination. They have a long history of tireless devotion to servant leadership using their skills and expertise to create a healthier community and world."
Their story began in Liberia in the 1960s where a young surgeon and a young nurse were already making an impact on a world that needed them.
Their mission began in an Algerian village, high in the Atlas Mountains. While there, Ron supervised and labored to build the first hospital in the region and Jewell trained the nurses. "This hospital still operates - a profound testament to its humanitarian contribution." Mackrill-Wilson said.
Their children were born in Africa and raised while their parents worked for 20 years in Storm Lake.
"Ron's surgical practice and Jewell's nursing career are respected by everyone," the nomination information revealed. "Their efforts in the community are wide-spread and well-known, including their most recent generosity and work with the United Community Health Center which focuses on those who are uninsured and underserved."
The Dierwechters returned to global/humanitarian work in the 1990s and spent 10 years on missions with the people of Africa including a UN Sudanese refugee camp, Darfur, twice in Somalia, during the famine and civil war; and in Goma, dealing with the spillover from Rwandan genocide. The people of Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands were also the recipients of their unselfish service.
During this time of international work, they always return to Storm Lake and Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, serving the citizens of the region with skill and compassion.
"Ron and Jewell (and she is so aptly named) are genuinely happy people who saw needs and filled them. They are outstanding examples of hospital heroes," Mackrill-Wilson went on, "working tirelessly to give their time, talent and energy for the betterment of BVRMC, Storm Lake, and literally ... the world."
The Dierwechters are pleased to accept the award but find the giving easier to swallow than the receiving.
"We had no idea we had been nominated," said Jewell. "It's easy to be generous and give but we find it uncomfortable to be gracious receivers. So many people came (to the reception) and it was such a nice afternoon. The hardest part was there was so little time to talk with people."
Jewell wanted to tell everyone thank you for taking time from their day to be with them - so like her.
Being defined as heroes is something else the Dierwechters are finding difficult to accept.
"What is a hero? It depends on your definition. We've always done what we've wanted to do," she said, explaining that caring about and for people is their priority.
The couple has been called for another mission and will leave Monday for the Solomon Islands - a place they have been many times and are always welcomed.
"It's an awfully good feeling knowing you belong and above all having the feeling of being loved."
They plan to return to Storm Lake in the spring - though if time runs short and their mission is not complete and people continue to need them, they will stay longer, they say. And while in their 70s now, the couple is grateful that they are able to continue the work they love with and for the people they love.