Meet the Violence Prevention Program Team


The VPP Team: from left Sara Heidbreder (AG Counselor and Advocate), Abidemi Abioye (VPP Manager), Quinn Davis (AG Counselor and Advocate), Kate Lawler (VPP Director), and Theresa Gaudio (SANE Coordinator).  Not pictured, Kelsey West (Data Assistant).

Late one night, SCH Nurse Theresa Gaudio received a call asking her to come back to work in the ED. A woman had just arrived in ED and they feared that she had been sexually assaulted.  The ED staff asked Theresa to return to do a specialized examination that only certified and specially trained SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) can provide. After 6 hours, working through the night, Theresa arrived back to her home at about 3am, exhausted and emotionally drained.

Such is the committed work of a SANE and her colleagues in SCH’s Violence Prevention Program (VPP). Theresa and five other members of the VPP provide medical assistance, counseling, resources, guidance and comfort to survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking whenever they are needed-day or night.

What began in 2014 as a request by the Illinois State’s attorney’s office and FBI to help fulfill an unmet need, SCH’s Violence Prevention Program has blossomed into a nationally-acclaimed program that is one of only eight in the nation to be awarded a prestigious, $950,000 federal grant through the Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime to enhance hospital based victim services. Together, these six team members provide an invaluable service to the community by helping survivors of interpersonal violence. Let’s meet the members of the Violence Prevention Program:

Kate Lawler: Director of the VPP

Kate oversees the overall administration of the program, including supporting survivors, working with partner organizations, training and education, policy development, grants administration, data tracking and analysis, community outreach and representation of Swedish on several city-wide task forces. Kate has over 20 years’ experience working with women in health care settings, and non-profits, and has overseen the VPP since its inception, 5 years ago. Kate is grateful to be part of the VPP team. As Kate explains, “In previous jobs, I saw many situations of violence, especially against women and girls and felt that I didn’t have a way to make a systemic change. The VPP is different; with the support and resources of a healthcare system behind us, it is the perfect opportunity for us to support and provide options to survivors that can make a lasting change in their lives”.

Abidemi Abioye, Manager of the VPP

Born in Nigeria, Abidemi moved to the U.S when she was 12 years old and grew up in the Chicagoland area. Abedemi began working with survivors of domestic violence as a Facilitator for Apna Ghar and conducted research on public health issues at Center for Asian Health Equity with the University of Chicago. Abedemi joined the VPP team in early 2019, and feels that this is the perfect position for her; it combines her social work and public health experience, while allowing her the opportunity to interact with survivors. According to Abedemi, “In my role I can focus on the public health aspect, I can analyze data AND I connect with survivors. I really enjoy my job because even though it’s challenging, I feel that I’m helping people in crisis, and providing them with more choices for their future”.

Theresa Gaudio, SANE Coordinator

As an RN, Theresa has been working in the hospital setting for over 38 year —23 of them at SCH. She currently works in the Emergency Department as a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Coordinator, where she ensures that the hospital is in compliance with the most up-to-date laws pertaining to SANE personnel, and that our SANE nurses are provided current educational opportunities. Theresa is committed to VPP because she believes this program saves lives. According to Theresa, “I just want to make sure that survivors get the best care. If we can give them the most helpful information and excellent medical care in the most caring way, then we can change one person around.  That’s why I’m doing this- I want to make a difference.”

Sarah Heidbreder, Apna Ghar Counselor and On-Site Medical Advocate 

Sarah works at Apna Ghar (a local, domestic violence agency) as a counselor during the week, but has office hours once a week at SCH, where she provides short and long-term counseling to any survivor referred to her from the VPP. When asked why she enjoys her role with VPP, Sarah quickly responds, “It’s very inspiring to work in such a collaborative and compassionate environment. To know that the hospital system is so invested in interpersonal violence makes me feel good. I know that I can really contribute to this program and help survivors.”

Quinn Davis, Apna Ghar Counselor and On-Site Medical Advocate

Like Sarah, Quinn also works primarily at Apna Ghar, but has weekly office hours at SCH, where she provides short and long-term counseling to survivors of the VPP.  Quinn is delighted to be working with the VPP, and refers to it as her “dream job”. Quinn goes on to explain, “I get choked up about it, for me, it is extremely meaningful. I get to help someone in a life changing way; I’ve had jobs were I didn’t feel that way. These are survivors that I have a lot of empathy for. It is very meaningful and I love it.”

Kelsey West, Data Assistant

Kelsey works to input, organize and track patient data for reporting and analysis.Kelsey enjoys being part of the VPP team because with her experience in the hospital setting and as a domestic violence advocate, she sees the program as a wonderful merging of the two. Kesley goes on to explain, “It’s an amazing program. The way that VPP team members are able to meet survivors at the hospital is the perfect place to start services, or just provide survivors a place that is safe to talk to a counselor.  I think this is why VPP is so unique.”

The passion and commitment of the VPP team resonates load and clear. Together, these individuals create a program that makes a differences not only for the survivor of interpersonal violence, but for each team member as well. To help the Violence Prevention Program continue making a difference, please contact the SCH Foundation at or 773.293.5121

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Annual Gala 2019 to Benefit Cardiology


Guests will be whisked away to far-off lands when they attend SCH’s upcoming Tropical Paradise, Annual Gala on October 26, 2019. Chaired by Drs. Frederman Concepcion and Rosibell Arcia-Diaz, this year’s event will be held at the Hilton Chicago. The gala will feature elegant dining, themed entertainment, dancing to tropical rhythms, and a large silent auction with one-of a kind items benefitting SCH Cardiology.

Our Cardiovascular Services team at Swedish Covenant is committed to providing each patient with comprehensive care. By coupling the most advanced technology with open communication between primary care physicians and a team of heart specialists to identify and treat a range of heart and vascular conditions, SCH physicians and medical staff work together to provide a continuum of care that ensures the best possible outcomes for our patients.

It’s important to have a team of doctors who really care about you, just ask Carlos Mendez.  Last year, Carlos experienced a slight pain in his chest while exercising. He went to see his SCH primary care physician who suggested he see a cardiologist. A stress test was performed, followed by an angiogram, and then quadruple bypass surgery. After surgery, he completed his recovery in the cardiac rehabilitation program at SCH’s Galter LifeCenter.  Carlos is now feeling great, back to work, doing the things he loves and spending time with his family.  According to Carlos, “There was an amazing team approach; my primary doctor was in constant contact with the cardiologist and surgeon and since Galter is part of SCH, all of my doctors knew exactly how my cardiac rehabilitation was progressing and made suggestions to the Rehab staff.” 

In order to continue providing the highest level of cardiovascular care, all proceeds from Swedish Covenant Health’s upcoming Annual Gala, Tropical Paradise, will benefit the Cardiology Department and its services. Thanks to our generous Elite sponsors of this year’s Gala; Title Sponsor, SCH Medical Staff, Platinum Sponsor, Medical Express Ambulance Service, and Diamond Sponsors, Continental Electrical Construction Company, Covenant Ministries of Benevolence, Covenant Trust Company, North Park University, and PNC.

Can’t attend the Gala? You can support the Cardiology Department by bidding on fabulous items in our silent auction. For more information on supporting the Cardiology Department please contact the Foundation at or 773.293.5121.

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Employee Donor Profile: Jessi Hickey


With dual degrees in Nursing and Social Work, Jessi Hickey left Nashville for Chicago in search of a career that would marry both disciplines. Once she accepted the position as an Orthopedic Navigator at Swedish Covenant Health, she knew she had found her home. Three and half years later, Jessi is still delighted to help her patients on their road to recovery and work alongside her fellow colleagues.  Asked to explain her role, Jessi notes, “I’m the travel agent for patients having a hip, knee or shoulder replacement. I assist them through their entire time here in the hospital and beyond. I meet with a patient pre-operatively and help them understand expectations of surgery. I then visit with them in the hospital to see how they are feeling and educate them about next steps, and finally, follow-up with them after discharge acting as their point person in case they have any concerns or questions.”

Jessi’s commitment to her patients is inspired by the warmth and friendliness she feels from the entire hospital community. To Jessi, the SCH staff is like a second family.  “I love working at Swedish; I really like my co-workers and supervisors, it feels like family. You know everyone walking the hallways- at least by face- and everyone is so welcoming. It’s a really good place to work.” It’s this compassion for her patients, community members and fellow co-workers that inspires Jessi to give back to SCH.

Over the years, Jessi has participated in the annual Employee Campaign, raised funds from running the Chicago Half Marathon as a member of Team SCH, and joined the SCH Foundation Associates’ Board.  Becoming a leader of Associates’ Board has had a significant impact on Jessi’s understanding of the Foundation, donor-funded programs, and the importance of giving back. She originally joined the Board as a way of meeting people when she first arrived from Nashville, but soon discovered that Board members play an important role as ambassadors and fundraisers for SCH.  Jessi explains, “I think being on the Board is a small way of giving back and contributing to some of the programs that I don’t have an actual hand in but that I can support with some fundraising. I love the homeless initiative (Housing Connections) and the Violence Prevention Program. Being able to raise awareness for these programs to people in the community and provide funds to help these programs is why I continue on the Associate’s Board.”  The Board is responsible for organizing and hosting several fundraising events throughout the year. The most recent event was a fun-filled, beer-tasting fundraiser at Bar on Buena, complete with food, libations and raffle prizes. Another event is planned for Spring 2020.

Jessi and her fellow Associate Board Members are looking to increase Board membership- especially among employees. As Jessi explains, “If you like where you work and you want to support your patients, it’s another way to get in involved. The Associate’s Board is a great a platform to advocate for your patients and your work area by creating awareness and fundraising”.  If you would like more information about joining the Associate’s Board, or making a donation to the Foundation, please contact the Foundation at or 773.293.5121.

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