May 21, 2024

Our award-winning volunteers make communities better

Meet the winners of our 2023 David Lawrence Community Service Award. Their generous efforts embody Kaiser Permanente’s values locally and globally.

The 2023 award honors 13 individuals and one team of employees who improve health and well-being in our communities.

Volunteers are the heart of our communities. They embody the spirit of kindness and generosity. They bring people together. 

The winners of our 2023 David Lawrence Community Service Award are great examples. Their tireless efforts embody the essence of Kaiser Permanente’s values, inspiring us all to strive for a healthier, brighter future for our communities.

“There is no better way to uphold the spirit of our mission than through volunteerism and each of these award winners deeply inspires me,” said Bechara Choucair, MD, executive vice president and chief health officer at Kaiser Permanente. “Their dedication not only enriches Kaiser Permanente and the communities we serve, but also symbolizes a commitment to total health beyond words.”

Since 2003, we’ve presented the award to recognize outstanding community service efforts of employees, doctors, dentists, and teams.

The award is named in honor of David M. Lawrence, MD, a former chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente and a lifelong advocate for improving health. Kaiser Permanente makes a $10,000 charitable contribution on behalf of each winner to the nonprofit of their choice.

Meet the winners of the 2023 David Lawrence Community Service Award.

Joann Ahaneku

Registered Diet Technician

Joann Ahaneku started volunteering in her community at 7 years old. She comes from a family that always gave back. In 1960, her father founded the Sacred Heart School in Nigeria. In 2012, she started the Eze Cyprian Ahaneku Foundation, a nonprofit that supports communities in Nigeria. The foundation provides food and other essentials to people in need. It also supports the education of children, helping them earn school scholarships.

In 2016, a series of storms destroyed the Sacred Heart School, which she and her siblings attended when they were young. Ahaneku led the effort to rebuild. In 2022, the school reopened with modern facilities, including a well-stocked library that delivers the state’s required curriculum. It now provides secondary education to 150 students.

Traci Aoki-Tan

Child Life Specialist

Traci Aoki-Tan feels lucky that she’s united 2 of her passions: kids and injury prevention.

She works in pediatrics and the intensive care unit at our Roseville Medical Center in Roseville, California. Since 2012, she’s served as the president of the Safe Kids Greater Sacramento nonprofit, which aims to protect children from injuries. She’s worked as a car seat technician, completing car seat safety checks for families. She’s also 1 of only 2 certified car seat instructors in Northern California for families with children who have disabilities.

Currently, she’s working to establish a car seat safety program at Kaiser Permanente. She’s also putting together a car seat basics class for nurses.

Prioritizing safety for kids is her ultimate goal. Doing so helps keep kids off her ICU floor and doing what they’re supposed to be doing: being kids.

Pamella Charles-Pryce, MD

Lead Physician, Adult Medicine

Pamella Charles-Pryce, MD, has volunteered for over 40 years.

In Gwinnett County, Georgia, she saw a great need to make high-quality food available to more people. So, she partnered with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Volunteer Gwinnett.

She set up mobile food pantries at the Kaiser Permanente Gwinnett Comprehensive Medical Center in Duluth, Georgia, and organized employee volunteers to distribute food to Kaiser Permanente members and other people in the community. Her efforts resulted in 6,473 people receiving 47,607 pounds of food in 2023.

Dr. Charles-Pryce volunteers in other ways, too. She mentors new clinicians, helping them learn work-life balance. And she mentors young people through her church.

Michael Detwiler

Director, IT Consulting

In 2016, Detwiler and the information technology team he leads got involved in a project to donate used computers to Robert Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore. Through the process, Detwiler and his team saw more ways to help the school and students.

A high number of students at Robert Coleman Elementary are from families with low incomes. Some students who attend are homeless. Every day, students receive free breakfast and lunch. During the COVID-19 pandemic, education moved to a virtual environment. Detwiler recruited his IT colleagues to provide technical support to transition the school’s students to remote learning. With his team, he has led back-to-school supply drives and holiday coat drives.

Detwiler and his team’s years of giving back to the school have brought them closer together. And, they’ve strengthened their partnership with the community. These days, Detwiler gives his time by consulting with the school to help address problems like low attendance.

Melissa Fisher

Senior Strategic Marketing Consultant

Since 2019, Melissa Fisher has volunteered as an Oregon ambassador for the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. In this role, she helps caregivers, family members, and people who experience the disease. She teaches people experiencing FTD about the disease and how to find resources that are available to them.

Frontotemporal degeneration is a form of dementia that develops mostly in people under the age of 60. Fisher began volunteering with the association after her father was diagnosed with the disease.

Fisher wanted to help her mom care for her dad. But, she found there was limited information on the disease. That’s how her passion turned into a purpose to help with her father and others.

Trenton James, MD


Trenton James, MD, is passionate about helping communities of color get the mental health support they need. Dr. James began volunteering with TMI (Transformational Ministries International) in 2021. TMI is a community-based outreach organization that offers programs for foster children, families, and communities. Its goal is to improve the health of its communities. For TMI, Dr. James helps people of color with their mental health needs, like depression and anxiety. He supports and promotes equity in mental health care, particularly in marginalized communities.

In the state of Washington, where Dr. James lives, he has seen communities without resources to address mental health needs. So, in 2023 Dr. James worked with TMI to run a community mental health conference. During the event, leaders and members of the community learned about the mental health resources available to them.

He hopes to create more opportunities for community leaders — such as clergy, teachers, members of law enforcement, coaches — to recognize what to look for and when to refer community members to mental health services.

Sandra Kennington

Clinical Medical Education Specialist

To Sandy Kennington, there’s nothing more rewarding than giving time and talent to help others. Her volunteer work has focused on 2 issues: hunger and infertility services.

Since 2004, she’s volunteered with St. Vincent de Paul, a nonprofit focused on helping its neighbors meet their basic needs and removing barriers to stability in housing and health. She’s planned, organized, and managed many community food drives throughout Georgia. She’s also trained staff and volunteers on how to plan and execute food drives.

She serves as a board member for RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association. Her work with RESOLVE has helped thousands of couples through infertility support groups and seminars. It’s also allowed her to connect her fellow clinicians with infertility specialists.

Felicitas Livaudais, MD

Pediatrician and Medical Director for Medicaid

Since 2007, Felicitas Livaudais, MD, has dedicated 300 hours a year to various causes on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

Dr. Livaudais serves on the board of the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center, which helps children in foster care and children who have experienced abuse. Dr. Livaudais provides resources like donated cell phones and glasses to children in need.

She’s also a board member of Imua Family Services, which helps families with children who have disabilities, and she’s on the board for the Hawaii chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Maui. She dedicates time and expertise as a mentor to new and training doctors at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii.

She volunteers with other organizations that focus on educating social workers and helping homeless people. Her fundraising efforts helped build a home for young adults aging out of foster care.

Melissa Manandic

Claims Manager

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Melissa Manandic found a passion in connecting and bonding with her dog, Koji. Two years of dog training led Manandic to pursue dog therapy and volunteering.

After completing the required obedience and therapy training, Manandic and Koji began their work offering moments of joy and comfort to people in distress. In 2023, they spent more than 272 hours volunteering at 110 events.

They volunteer to help people who are in hospitals, in the military service, at the airport, in nursing homes and schools — anywhere a therapy or comfort dog is needed.

In September 2023, Manandic certified her second dog, Makana, to volunteer at events. Manandic and Makana have volunteered 15 times for a total of 40 hours.

Millicent Mucheru, RN

Quality Coordinator

During a trip to visit family members in Kenya, Millicent Mucheru saw that many people there could not get basic medical care. To help, she founded Medical Missions Kenya.

The nonprofit conducts annual medical missions to remote villages in Kenya. Teams of doctors, pharmacists, and nurses provide care to thousands of patients during each trip. Some people travel up to 80 miles for care. For many of them, it’s their first time ever receiving medical care.

The organization also provides medical equipment and medications to local clinicians.

Mucheru plans each mission, often recruiting Kaiser Permanente doctors to join her.

Eugene Nicholson, MD


Eugene Nicholson, MD, has volunteered since 2011 as the in-house camp doctor for Gales Creek Camp in Gales Creek, Oregon. The camp is the largest in the Pacific Northwest for kids with type 1 diabetes.

As camp doctor, he monitors kids’ insulin levels. Providing nutritious meals for the kids is important, so he works with the camp nutritionist and chef. When needed, he provides first aid and emergency care.

His work at the camp each summer has shifted his perspective on medical practice. He focuses on a strength-based approach. This approach allows people to see themselves as strong, self-determined, and capable of meeting their needs.

Raj Sundar, MD

District Medical Director

Raj Sundar, MD, is driven by a passion for health equity and social justice. In his work and service, he seeks to understand the needs of patients and the people he serves. He volunteers 200 hours per year.

In 2022, he created the Healthcare for Humans podcast to educate professionals about culturally responsive care. He leads a team for Kaiser Permanente in Washington that includes staff and community members who take action to improve health equity.

Dr. Sundar volunteers with the Women’s Housing Equality and Enhancement League, which helps women who don’t have housing. He also serves on the board of the Matt Griffin YMCA in SeaTac, Washington. This allows him to connect his patients to community resources to support their health.

Dr. Sundar enjoys volunteering because he can help even more people than he does in the clinic. And, he develops meaningful relationships while giving back to his community.

Melanie Shim, MD

Pediatric Endocrinologist

Melanie Shim, MD, has volunteered on average over 200 hours per year since 1999. She helps children with diabetes live happier, healthier lives.

Dr. Shim partnered with the American Diabetes Association in Hawaii to establish Camp He Ola Ke Keiki. It’s the state’s only in-person summer camp for children and teens with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

For 4 days and 3 nights on Oahu’s North Shore, campers develop self-confidence. They learn to manage diabetes. They make lifelong friends.

In addition, Dr. Shim works with local farms to advocate healthy eating for people who have diabetes. She also volunteers with the Olympics and Girl Scouts of America.

Orthopedic Surgical Team

Sandra Baltazar, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Haidie Griffin, Certified Surgical Technician
Audra Kennedy, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
John Kumar, MD, Orthopedic Surgery
Danila Ragasa, Registered Nurse First Assistant
Hasana Sos, Registered Nurse
Julius Veloso, Registered Nurse

The orthopedic surgical team at our Downey Medical Center in Downey, California, is healing beyond borders.

Through Operation Walk, the team traveled to Guatemala and Cuba in 2022 to provide free hip and knee replacement surgeries to people in need. During these trips, the team performed approximately 54 joint replacements in 4 days in each country.

The work requires a lot of coordination and planning. Team members connect with local hospitals to prescreen patients. Then, they discuss plans and resource needs with local clinics. The team’s efforts allow people to walk with newfound mobility.

Beyond performing surgeries, the orthopedic team teaches local health care workers and doctors surgery techniques. This work further improves health care quality internationally.