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A Lifelong Learner Leads the Way


March 31, 2021 Posted in: Patients & Providers

In nearly 20 years with CHI Saint Joseph Health, Kelly Toponak, RN, has moved from the bedside to the administrative side of health care. She started as a nurse in the emergency room (ER) at Saint Joseph Hospital before becoming shift manager and then unit manager. When opportunities arose to lead breast care services and then the Women’s Hospital at Saint Joseph East, she took them.

“Enthusiasm to learn and take on new things is just part of who I am,” Toponak said. “I enjoy a challenge, and I’m a perfectionist. I want to do a job right, and once I learn it, I’m ready to learn something new.”

Sure enough, last fall, Toponak’s career took her to Nicholasville, where she became director of operations for the Saint Joseph Jessamine, RJ Corman Ambulatory Care Center. Toponak enjoys her new role supporting her fellow employees at Saint Joseph Jessamine and ensuring they have what they need to provide the best possible care to patients.

“It’s been exciting to have a new population of patients to focus on,” Toponak said. “I’m from a small town in West Virginia, so I like the small-town atmosphere in Nicholasville.”

Helping Women on the Job and off the Clock

Toponak is also manager of the CHI Saint Joseph Health – Breast Care Center in Lexington, a role she describes as “near and dear to my heart.”

“I love to help and promote women,” Toponak said. “I want them to take care of themselves and enjoy long, healthy lives. Women make most health care decisions in families. If we can get them to prioritize their health, we can reach men, too.”

Toponak is an enthusiastic participant in the Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation’s Yes, Mamm! Program, which provides free mammograms, diagnostic services and support to vulnerable patients. She typically presents awards and medals to the finishers of the annual Yes, Mamm! 5K race.

During her spare time, Toponak continues working to uplift and support women as a member of the Bluegrass Junior Woman’s Club. Her work with the club includes volunteering with GreenHouse17, a Lexington-based organization that seeks to end intimate partner abuse.

"As a leader, my goal is to show kindness, grace and compassion. I want to paint a vision so everyone can see where we’re going, and then go there with a kind heart.”


A version of this article originally appeared in the Winter 2021 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

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