When Elsa Enriquez came to the United States from Ecuador 25 years ago, she had three goals: become a citizen, learn to speak English and learn to drive. Not only did she achieve those objectives, she has done much more.

After meeting and marrying her husband in this country, they bought a house and are raising their two children. Living the American dream is special enough, but the hard-working Enriquez added another impressive personal accomplishment to her list.

Enriquez is the winner of the first-ever Heart of Healthcare Award in recognition of her dedicated service as an environmental services (ES) technician at Hunterdon Medical Center, Flemington, N.J. Three others earned honorable mention ranking.

The award was presented to Enriquez at EXCHANGE 2012, the Association for the Healthcare Environment's (AHE's) Conference and Healthcare Marketplace in Phoenix in September.

The award — a crystal statue, membership to AHE and a $750 check — was funded as part of a public relations and educational campaign between AHE and Kimberly-Clark Professional to elevate and recognize outstanding efforts of environmental services front-line staff.

Marita Nash, director of environmental services/linen, Hunterdon Medical Center, says Enriquez does great work every day in the emergency department.

"Elsa has a wonderful blend of graciousness, humility and thoroughness. She is genuinely happy to be working in her job and recognizes its importance," she says.

Enriquez recognizes the critical role she and her peers play in preventing the transmission of pathogenic organisms and in patient satisfaction.

Earning honorable mention were Martha Bonilla, environmental services aide, Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital; Terry Perkins, environmental services worker, Level 3, Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, Vt.; and Kim Tyler, en­vironmental services worker, Tenet St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, Philadelphia.