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Spirit of Excellence Award 2018

Meet the Spirit of Excellence 2018 winners and read about their remarkable contributions to stroke care.
Angels team 14 August 2018

Not all heroes wear capes, and not all angels flaunt their wings. Amidst all the progress and achievements in stroke care all around Europe, sometimes it is easy to forget there are brilliant, brave and tireless individuals behind everything. 

The ESO Angels Spirit of Excellence award is given to those who embody "excellence in stroke care", in their dealings with patients, other members of the hospital team and those who strive to raise the standard of excellence not only in their hospital but also in their wider community.

This year, we are proud to highlight five heroes from the Angels community, who have gone far above and beyond in advancing stroke care. 

“It was very encouraging to see this year’s nominations. Every single nominee has done something impressive, I wish we could recognize more than five winners,” said Angels Project Lead Thomas Fischer, who personally handed the awards in a ceremony during European Stroke Organization Conference 2018 in Gothenburg, Sweden. 

Below is a summary of the Spirit of Excellence winners’ profiles, and their remarkable contributions:

Prof. Dr. Juan Francisco Arenillas Lara 

Dr. Arenillas is the Head of Neurology Department at Hospital Clínico Universitario de Valladolid in Spain. Friendly and articulate, he carries a contagious enthusiasm for improving care quality and constantly motivates his environment to do the same. 

As the comprehensive center for seven other hospitals in the region, his hospital has seen massive improvements since Dr. Arenillas took charge; reducing DTN by more than 50% and treating around 50% stroke patients with recanalization therapies. 

Always going the extra mile, Dr. Arenillas is actively working to create more stroke ready hospitals in Spain’s Castilla y León region – a testament of his dedication and spirit for giving stroke patients a second chance in life. 

Dr. Anna Vakarchuk

Currently the Head of Emergency Neurology Department of Chernivtsi Regional Emergency Hospital, Dr. Anna is arguably Ukraine’s strongest influencer in pushing for better stroke care. 

Within one short year, after visiting all of Chernivtsi region’s districts herself, Dr. Anna had developed a normative stroke pathway document for all medical institutions in her region – defining clinical route and functional duties, introducing pre-notification system with emergency services, establishing a regional map of stroke-ready hospitals, and more. In fact, her willingness to support and empower doctors have resulted in the first thrombolysis performed in Chernivtsi City Hospital.

Dr. Anna’s efforts have attracted public attention on the need for better preparedness and funding in treating stroke patients. It would not be a surprise if her work in Chernivtsi region will serve as a model for the whole Ukraine. 

Prof. Zuzana Gdovinová

Progressive, innovative and committed to continuous improvement of stroke care in Slovakia, Zuzana Gdovinová is the Head of the Department of Neurology at the Faculty of Medicine, P.J. Šafárik University and University Hospital L. Pasteur in Košice, Slovakia.

As Slovakia’s coordinator of the Angels Initiative and President of Slovak Neurology Society, Prof. Gdovinová worked tirelessly to improve not only stroke care but also stroke awareness. Her support of patient awareness campaign “Time is Brain” and patient organization “Second for Life” significantly improved patient recognition of stroke symptoms.

Amongst all the activities at hospital level, teaching new generation of neurologists and giving important speeches in national / international conferences, she was also actively involved on governmental level in updating and optimizing National Stroke Guidelines and very uniquely implementing national stroke card, which is based on Angels Emergency Response Card, for ambulance systems via mobile application.  

She also helped revolutionized the use of Slovakia’s National registry by facilitating its integration with the ResQ registry. This allowed more continuous stroke care quality improvements to be made and turned all Slovakian hospitals eligible for the ESO Angels awards.

With 13 hospitals from Slovakia receiving awards during the past year in the ESO Angels awards program we can all agree that Prof. Gdovinová is a worthy recipient for this prestigious award.

Dr. Antonella Urso

Labeled by her peers as a passionate and extremely enthusiastic person, Dr. Antonella is a nurse in the Medical Directorate of San Camillo Forlanini Hospital in Rome, Italy. 

Together with her director and the doctors of the stroke unit, she wanted to improve the quality of care for ischemic stroke patients through network collaboration. Throughout the year, Dr. Antonella and her colleagues worked on promoting integrated multidisciplinary team work, building collaboration among professionals, implementing education and training programs and performing audits. 

Since her work began, the number of patients receiving recanalization therapy in the region coordinated by San Camillo Forlanini Hospital (about 1.8 million people – a quarter of  the region’s population) has almost doubled, improving the quality of care and reducing inequalities.

Working closely with Angels, she is currently responsible for implementing new nurse protocols for post-acute care of stroke patients in Italy.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Cristina Tiu

Dr. Cristina Tiu is an Associate Professor at the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, and the Head of Stroke Unit in the University Hospital Bucharest, one of the largest hospitals in Romania. 

She has been involved in organizing stroke care in Romania since 2011 and helped develop the PA-stroke which became a reality in 2015 – saving countless stroke patients in the process. She also pioneered and manages Romania’s Registry for Interventional treatment in acute stroke, based on the SITS – MOTS registry model. 

Described by her tenacious team as a natural leader with strong determination, it is safe to say that Dr. Cristina is the iconic figure of stroke care in Romania. 

Do you know someone deserving of next year’s Spirit of Excellence recognition? Nominate them at

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