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Industrial engineering alumnus receives Support Freedom Award

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Industrial engineering alumnus receives Support Freedom Award

Twenty years ago, University of Missouri alumni Don Flora, BS IE ’66, MS IE ’68, MPH ’71, helped initiate the Mid America Kidney Stone Association, LLC. (MAKSA), a physician-owned lithotripsy program in Kansas City. Nowhere in his goals and aspirations for the future of the association did it cross his mind that one day his support for his employees, specifically those serving in the National Guard and Reserve, would give him the opportunity to meet and be congratulated by the President of the United States.

As president of Flora & Associates, Inc., a healthcare consulting firm in Kansas City, Flora has served as the general manager of the MAKSA mobile lithotripsy program since the it accepted its first patient in September 1989. Lithotripsy equipment uses sound waves to break up kidney stones in the body without surgery — a service Flora says reduces patient pain and recovery time. In its early years, MAKSA consisted of 11 owners, two staff members and one lithotripter. Today, the program has a staff of 10 with 40 owners, two lithotripters and three lasers. One of those staff members is Harold DeLaughder, a registered nurse and a colonel in the Army Reserve.  He was the first R.N. hired by MAKSA, and as an active member of the Reserve, he has been deployed four times during his time with the firm, assisting with Hurricane Katrina and spending months at Fort Riley in Kansas.

While DeLaughder served his country, Flora maintained his salary and benefits, kept in touch with his family and even gave his children rides home from school when their mother could not. Because of Flora’s caring commitment to his employees, DeLaughder nominated MAKSA for the 2009 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which honors employers for supporting their staffs during times of deployment.

“Harold is very important to our program. As a valuable employee, it is our job to support him. Our kind of democracy exists in part because of the sacrifices our military personnel make and we must support soldiers and citizen soldiers. Our company could not exist in any other environment and this is our way of protecting that, “ Flora said.

Out of 3,200 nominations, MAKSA was one of only 15 employers nationally to be selected for the award. Members of MAKSA attended two congratulatory ceremonies, one for the Missouri Honors Program and the other in Washington D.C. on Sept. 17.

“Reserve and Guard members have a work ethic beyond belief. They are organized, and make sacrifices most of us will never experience. It is in industry’s best interest to honor not just the letter of the law and but also the intent of the law which is to help our citizen soldiers in any way we can. It does nothing but make our company better,” Flora said.

In addition to attending a gala in their honor, the MAKSA group also had photo opportunities at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama.

“What they did to make us feel important and honored is beyond description,” Flora said.

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