County of Santa Cruz

Employee Recognition Awards Winners - 2021

Health Services

Walter Espinoza

Walter Espinoza
Walter Espinoza is the Clinic Manager for the Watsonville Health Center, which serves the most ill and at-risk residents of Watsonville. During the constant challenges and safety concerns over the last 2 years, Walter successfully led his team in adapting to rapidly changing infection precautions so as to not compromise the safety of the staff and yet still serve a community that was being heavily impacted by COVID-19. Walter worked heroically to coordinate resources for the Watsonville Heath Center’s mass vaccination program and found solutions to get the job done despite enormous obstacles. Whether it be organizing, finding volunteers, or logistical planning, Walter is 100% committed to the Watsonville Health Center, and goes above and beyond to ensure that patients get the quality care they need and deserve.

Michael O'Connor

Providing consistent psychiatric services at the Homeless Persons Health Project has always been an important goal of the Health Service Agency, and when Michael O’Connor was hired in the Integrated Behavioral Health program as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, he proactively voiced interest in the Homeless Persons Health Project. Michael’s uncanny flexibility and can-do attitude has allowed him to see many walk-in behavioral health patients, in addition to having a busy clinical schedule of his own. Michael also participates in the Street Medicine Outreach Program where he is able to prescribe protective medications for people with substance use disorders and psychotropic medications for those with incapacitating mental illness. Driven by a genuine love for the work and clients he serves, one of Michael’s priorities is reconnecting behavioral health patients who have become “lost to follow-up” with County services and support.

Third award tied between:
Homeless Persons' Health Project AND Microbiology Lab Team

Homeless Persons Health Project Mobile Medical Team

Victor Yanez, Lilie Pham, RayeAnn Jimenez, Suzanne Samson, Maribel Gomez, Marie DelRosario, Benjamin Ramsden Stein

The Homeless Persons Health Project (HPHP) created the Mobile Medical Team with the goal of bringing medical services, compassionate support, and coordinate care to members of our community that are experiencing homelessness. This team provides food, water, wound care, basic blood work, vaccines, STI testing, education, and connects people to clinical care, benefit services, Medication-Assisted Treatment services, and integrated behavioral health services. The Mobile Medical Team builds relationships with people in an extraordinary way, knowing the names of almost every person to whom they give care, and show up without judgement, working every day to assure that each individual gets the care, attention, and trauma-informed services they need. These dedicated team members work amongst the most vulnerable people in our community, and they do so with passion, dedication, and a commitment to upholding the dignity of everyone they serve.

Microbiology Lab Team

Diane Dymesich, Gerrod Murai

Diane Dymesich, Gerrod Murai
At the start of the pandemic Gerrod Murai quickly took the lead to advocate testing for COVID-19 at the Health Services Agency lab which led to a greater capacity for testing in our County. It was Gerrod’s endless advocacy that kept his peers and community informed and safe from potential outbreaks. The Microbiology Lab Team went above and beyond by developing workflows for testing and purchasing equipment, and they were also the first team in the County to test first responders. Together, Diane and Gerrod worked long hours, including weekends, to get testing kits and test results to our community partners quickly. Gerrod and Diane also coordinated with the Homeless Persons Health Project to test patients experiencing homelessness, responded to outbreaks at shelters, and collaborated with the Public Health Department to perform testing at elder care facilities which housed some of our community’s most vulnerable residents.