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WOOSTER -- Her Dutch is a little rusty, but Marilyn Walters is practicing every day to better serve the Amish community in her new role as Amish liaison at Wooster Community Hospital.
The new position will serve as a one-stop shop for the hospital's Amish patrons, and Walters will help them with everything from financial concerns to what specialist to seek out for their particular ailments.
The hospital found Walters, who previously served in case management and clinical support, best suited for the position given her family's background. Her parents grew up Amish but left the community shortly before getting married. They never lost contact with their family members, though, and Walters is depending on them to strengthen her Dutch dialect.
"I was with my mom and aunt a couple days ago and I said, 'Today, we can only talk Dutch,'" she said, laughing. "I really need to practice. I can understand a lot of it and I think there's a certain dialect that you need to have. I've been away from it long enough that my dialect is not there and I don't want to sound uneducated to them."
In meetings with Wooster Community Hospital, Amish leadership had requested a person of Marilyn's background who could guide their community through the health-care system.
"They wanted a resource that spoke their language, understood their culture and could really be an interface with an entity like Wooster Community Hospital," the hospital's CFO Scott Boyes said.
Boyes cited the arrival of hospital CEO and president Bill Sheron in 1994 as one of the first major attempts by the hospital to reach out to the Amish community, establishing regular meetings between the hospital and the Amish leadership. More recently, the hospital has tried to make a greater effort to provide better service for their Amish customers.
"We have tried to do a better job serving the community in the last 5-8 years, whether that is developing more extensive package pricing or actually going out and meeting with leadership to understand where we could do a better job serving their community and learning what their needs are. I think this (new position) is just another progressive step." Boyes said.
Kristen Shoup, director of WCH Health System, has served as the hospital's primary resource for the Amish community, but she welcomes having Walters as a more consistent contact for Amish customers.
"By just the nature of my job, sometimes it's difficult to get ahold of me because I'm away from my desk a lot. They leave a message, and I call them back and leave them a message," Shoup said.
"With Marilyn, this will be her primary function. I know that's something they're very interested in is having a person who's easier to get ahold of. They're busy too, and we want to be cognizant of that and value their time."
For a region that is home to the largest Amish population in the world, the position of Amish liaison is not unique, but Walters hopes with her personal background and resources in the community, she can convince more of the Amish community to choose Wooster Community Hospital for their health-care needs.
"I look forward to reaching out to the community when they have different events, getting Wooster's name out there and letting them know what kind of services we have," she said.
Reporter Emily Morgan can be reached at 330-287-1632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.