Aileen Altman Richmond Receives Distinguished Alumna Award

Aileen Altman Richmond, class of 1962

As a young woman with a growing family in the small town of Albany, MO, Aileen Altman Richmond and her husband, John, learned of their youngest son's devastating prognosis after treatment of his brain tumor. Their third son, Jay, was left paralyzed, unable to see or speak. His doctors estimated a life expectancy of only a few weeks.

Without any formal health care education, Aileen and her family took their baby home, not only to manage his feeding tubes, oxygen, and numerous medications, but also a myriad of other medical needs. She surrounded him with love, comforted him, and provided him with the best care possible.

Despite Jay’s extremely poor prognosis, which continues to this day, Aileen immersed herself in his care and organized an interdisciplinary team of care providers to ensure that Jay received the most comprehensive, integrated care possible. She served as a pioneer in championing this model of care as multidisciplinary health care teams were not universally accepted as central to positive patient outcomes until the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Thirty-seven years after Aileen’s terminally ill baby was sent home, Jay is alive but remains totally dependent, requiring one-on-one care.

Through Aileen’s advocacy and love for Jay, she has become a champion for all disabled people in Albany and beyond. She has served on the Gentry County Rolling Hills Board of Directors, where she has helped develop processes and policies to ensure that individuals with intellectual disabilities who live in group homes are treated with dignity and respect, and that the quality of care that they receive ensures their safety and quality of life.

Aileen’s presence in her community, her unconditional love for her son, her role modeling of professional communication and coordination with members of the health care community, and her advocacy for the disabled have transformed this small community and the lives of many of the volunteers who help care for Jay.