Serving up Kindness

Circle of Care program honors culinary services director

By Susie Steckner

For Kip MacKenzie, director of culinary services at Banner Boswell Medical Center, each day is a bit of a juggling act. He might be overseeing the hundreds of meals being prepared for patients or managing a catered event or ensuring that operations are running smoothly in the hospital’s cafeteria.

One moment he’s slipping on his well-worn apron to mentor staff in the kitchen, and the next he’s stepping into a patient’s room to enhance their stay.

It would be enough for Kip to focus solely on culinary services at the busy Boswell hospital. But he sees a larger role for himself: brightening a patient’s day whenever – and however — he can.

That’s how he came to know patient Robert Soohoo, striking up a conversation over their shared military service and interest in Westerns. For Robert, those friendly visits helped keep loneliness at bay as he remained hospitalized. The act also spoke volumes, as Robert was surprised that someone at the director level within the hospital would take such a personal interest.

Touched by the kindness, Robert made a contribution in Kip’s honor to the Circle of Care program at Sun Health Foundation.

The program provides patients at Banner Del E. Webb or Boswell medical centers the opportunity to say “thank you” to caring staff members. These tax-deductible gifts support a wide range of programs and services, benefiting the entire community.

“He put a human face behind the care I was given at the hospital,” Robert says. “I think the money is going to a good place to keep good people like Kip around.”

A grateful Kip says he felt a “bond” with Robert.

“Sometimes I feel as an employee of Banner your role expands, and it doesn’t just have to do with food,” he says.

Kip has enjoyed a long career in the food services field, with the past 43 years as a member of the Sun Health and Banner families. At Boswell, he oversees a large staff and a non-stop operation in which meals are going out day and night, whether to a patient ready for breakfast or a visitor grabbing a late-night snack.

The best part of the job, he says, is working with his valued staff and making a patient’s stay more comfortable. “If I can make a difference, I will,” he says.

Robert says the visits from Kip truly buoyed his spirits; Kip said the men became fast friends. As a Circle of Care honoree, Kip received a certificate and lapel pin to celebrate Robert’s thoughtfulness, which was presented to Kip at a special recognition event held in his honor.

Patients appreciate the opportunity to show their gratitude in a special way.

“A gift through Circle of Care is a wonderful way to honor and thank the nurses, physicians and other hospital team members for the care you received,” says Wendy Nelson, the Foundation’s director of Development.

For Kip, the honor is one of the highlights of his career.

“You do these things throughout your career, and you try to make it part of the norm,” he says. “A lot of times they go unnoticed and that’s okay. But when you get that type of recognition, you say, ‘Gosh darn it, that’s really special!’ ”

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