Volunteer Spotlight: Maureen Ritho, Medical Laboratory Consultant

Assorted laboratory equipment

Maureen Ritho is an instrumental volunteer for Heart to Heart International’s laboratory program. Volunteers with HHI support laboratories through consultation and training, and Maureen supports four laboratories in the Kansas City area. She has been volunteering her time and talent for six years, and we are truly grateful for her work and support. Here is her story.

“In the same month, I graduated from college, got married, moved to a new city and started a new job. Here I was now, violently ill, or so I thought. My health insurance had not yet kicked in, so the HR director gave me an address for a free clinic: “Have them check to ensure it’s nothing serious.”

That evening, my husband and I drove to someplace in Kansas City I wouldn’t have known to get to by myself. We were treated with dignity and respect. The immediately available lab results showed I was not ill, but it was seriously good news – we were going to be first time parents.

My blessed life took over and I completely forgot.

Years later, a two page spread on the 435 – now Kansas City Magazine tugged at me. It was about a non-profit headquartered within Kansas City – Heart to Heart International. Their mission of improving healthcare access resonated with me because I had seen first-hand the impact of that kind of work internationally.

The day I showed up at the HHI headquarters to volunteer. I had brought my resume, just in case someone wanted to see my level of education. It was at the reception that Carla [Orner], the laboratory services director at the time, found me. “Did you just say – laboratory professional?” She took my hand and led me to her office. I had not even known HHI had a laboratory department. We agreed to meet later at a HHI supported lab in Kansas City.

When I walked through the JayDoc’s doors, I had an immediate flashback: scared, afraid, then dignity, respect and great news – I knew this place. I had randomly picked a place to volunteer from a magazine, and ended up here. It was a calling. I was going to volunteer and give the absolute very best of me. The given was going to become the giver.

My permanent assignment was the Turner House Clinic. With a grant from our generous donors, we supplied the clinic with lab equipment, lab supplies for a year, crafted standard operating procedures and helped the Clinic get certified as a CLIA waived lab for point of care testing.

The standards were set high from the beginning. The first training session, included every medical professional in the office: Doctors, Nurses and Medical Assistants. Everyone had to be versed in the correct way of doing things in the lab.

Through HHI, I returned every month to support, fill knowledge gaps through trainings, for quality assurance, to ensure proper documentation and continued quality control of the lab results.

It was my belief that the patients who couldn’t pay then, were all future: Volunteers, Big bucks donors, Mayors of Kansas City, Governors of Kansas, Presidents of the United States… nothing but the highest of world class standards would do.

The one clinic and lab became two, then three, then four… as Turner House became Vibrant Health Clinics and my returning months became six years. We grew, we adopted and best of all, we innovated to meet the changing and unique challenges of non-profit working with underserved and vulnerable communities.

When a pandemic hit the globe, the Vibrant Health Clinics stepped up with boldness to help the community. They were CLIA waived, equipped with working labs and trained staff who knew how to do things the correct way.

Our innovation, born of adaptation and necessity was just right. The labs could already receive volunteer guidance and assistance from a distance.

You see, all of my life, I have been hoisted by grace, and all my nudges end up being revelations of even more grace.

Truly honored and blessed to be of service,

Maureen Ritho

Medical Laboratory Consultant

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