The WellSpan Spotlight

Awards and recognitions

Bobko family starts fund to carry on legacy of Jennifer Russell

Bobko family starts fund to carry on legacy of Jennifer Russell

Phil Bobko knew Jennifer Russell was a special person from the moment he met her.

Phil vividly recalled his second visit to WellSpan Rehabilitation in Gettysburg.

He was greeted with a "Hi Phil" by Jennifer – a greeting that not only "lit up the room," but became a precursor for the warmth and empathy that Jennifer demonstrated during his recovery.   

After Phil's therapy was complete, the relationship evolved from a caregiver-patient relationship to a friendship that included conversations ranging from springtime flowers to the meaning of life – and many random topics in between.

In October 2020, Jennifer passed away from the complications of cancer.

As a way to carry on Jennifer's legacy of compassionate care and work as a wellness instructor, the Bobko family established the Russell-Bobko Rehab Lectureship Fund, which will provide continuing education to WellSpan's rehabilitation team members.

"We just wanted to find a way to celebrate Jennifer's spirit," Phil said. "She made everyone smile who interacted with her and she represented the exceptional care that WellSpan provides."

The first part of Jennifer's 22-year career at WellSpan was spent as an occupational therapist, before she later transitioned into a role as a WellFit instructor.  

"No what matter role Jennifer was in, she exuded joy and was such a ray of sunshine to her co-workers and patients," said Jill Herr, director of clinical operations for WellSpan Rehabilitation (Hanover/Adams County), who worked alongside Jennifer during her entire WellSpan career.  

She was also remembered as a "terrific listener" and often went beyond the physical needs of her patients to connect emotionally when many of them needed someone to talk to.

Phil, a retired teacher from Gettysburg College, and his wife Barb, a retired elementary teacher and reading specialist, both say Jennifer's natural gift for caring and warmth motivated her patients and earned the admiration of her colleagues.

To say Phil is a good judge of character would be an understatement.

His background in mathematics has led him to apply statistical knowledge to organizational analysis and personnel psychology in many organizations. He has served, and continues to serve, as a principal scientist for several multi-year, large-scale projects and has authored papers and books on related content.

While the Bobkos have praised the health care they've received at WellSpan, the couple also means a lot to the Gettysburg Hospital Foundation.

"Phil and Barb are the most lovely and compassionate people when it comes to expressing gratitude," said Kristin Vought, regional executive director of philanthropy at WellSpan.

"I had a chance to get to know them right before the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout the lockdown we formed a friendship over Zoom where we got to know each other better, check in, and discuss their intentions for making an impact in the area of continuing education for providers."

The Bobkos have shown gratitude toward other healthcare professionals while making a philanthropic impact on the Gettysburg community, Kristin says.

"Hearing them talk about the nurses at WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital when they were hospitalized at certain times, to the relationship they formed with Jennifer, truly highlights the powerful impact WellSpan team members have on patients."

The endowed fund supported by the Bobko family will support lectureships that provide a forum for clinical education, personal motivation, and the discussion and training of topics relevant for today's rehab professionals.

The Russell-Bobko Rehab Lectureship Series will be launched on Sept. 9, in partnership with the Amblebrook Gettysburg Community, where WellSpan provides physical therapy and wellness services.

If you have been positively impacted by a WellSpan provider, please consider joining the Bobkos by making a gratitude gift through the Gettysburg Hospital Foundation.