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From the time she was a 15-year-old candy striper at Weatherford Regional Hospital, Rita J. Baumgartner, the daughter of Bob and Jo Ramsey of Weatherford, knew she wanted to work in the health care environment. Over the years she continued to work in hospitals in various capacities.“When I considered advancing my education,” she said, “I felt I had waited too long. However, my biggest advocate, (husband) Richard, advised me that whether I went to college or not, life would continue to pass by.”

She decided to take his advice and earned a bachelor of social work degree from East Central University in 1987 as well as a master of social work degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1988.

Today, after a 23-year career as a licensed social worker, she is the 2011 recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award from East Central University’s Social Work Program.

Baumgartner began working in the admitting office at Valley View Regional Hospital in Ada in 1974, the same year she enrolled at ECU. It was her husband who pointed her in the direction of pursuing a degree in social work because of her love for health care and helping people.

She finished 13 years later, while raising a family and working in insurance billing and management information systems at the hospital. She became a social worker at Valley View in 1988. In 1990 she joined RehabCare Group Inc. as a program director, still at Valley View until she transferred to Stillwater Medical Center in 2005.

RehabCare Group has honored her as a Program Director of the Year and Marketer of the Year and for having the Program of the Year.

Baumgartner has had an outstanding professional social work career, said Dr. Carol Bridges, ECU professor of human resources, and has supported the ECU Social Work Program by serving on its advisory committee and as a field instructor for social work interns.

 The Baumgartner family also has supported students in the Human Resources Department by establishing two scholarships in Richard Baumgartner’s name. He was the chair of ECU’s Human Resources Department when died in 2004

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