Dinah Lazarte’s life has been a mission of healing for more than three decades.

Lazarte is the chief quality officer at Southwestern Medical Center, a position she never expected to hold, but was surprised to find she enjoys.

It is Lazarte’s duty to make sure the hospital is in compliance with all regulatory standards for patient safety. It’s certainly a different part of the medical profession than she dealt with for most of her career as a registered nurse, but Lazarte said she is still responsible for the well-being of patients, just in a different way.

“Working as a nurse, you get immediate gratification from your patients,” she said. “In quality/risk, you don’t get those pats on the back. You don’t get someone saying ‘good job.’ At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to tell yourself you’ve done all that you can.”

Lazarte came to Lawton when she was 12 years old. Her widowed mother moved to Southwest Oklahoma to be close to family. After living in the Philippines, California and Hawaii, Lawton was a bit of a shock at first.

Lazarte said her family celebrated Halloween that year in Hawaii, then they landed in Lawton on Nov. 1. She said it was absolutely dreary to her eyes as a girl. “I was looking at my brothers and wondering ‘what in the world?’” Lazarte said.

Her mother remarried in Lawton and the family put down roots.

“I grew to love Lawton,” Lazarte said.

Lazarte’s late father — a Navy sailor — told her mother that he wanted the girl to go into the medical profession someday, so nursing was always in the back of her mind, she said.

After getting a nursing degree at Cameron University and Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Lazarte went to work at Southwestern Medical Center’s old location on West Lee Boulevard, more than 33 years ago.

She worked her way up at Southwestern from staff nurse to charge nurse to house supervisor and associate chief nursing officer.

“I stayed in nursing because it is something I felt like was a calling, not just a profession,” Lazarte said.

In 2009, the hospital was in a transitional phase. When the chief quality officer left, the position was offered to Lazarte.

She had never considered taking a position where she wasn’t directly involved in nursing duties, but she was looking to make a change. Lazarte said she prayed about the job offer and decided to take it.

Her immediate challenge was to prepare the hospital for state survey — an inspection on short notice that is part of the regular accreditation process. Southwestern passed the survey and she was able to continue with the learning process that was her challenging new job.

“I was overwhelmed,” Lazarte said.

Lazarte handled her new responsibilities “one step at a time,” she said.

The job opportunity coincided with a difficult time in Lazarte’s personal life, she said.

She had only recently become more active in First United Methodist Church, where she had been a member since arriving in Lawton.

She has served on the church’s Staff Parish Relationship Committee and the Finance Committee. In addition to Sunday services, Lazarte also is active in the discipleship courses and Bible study programs.

Lazarte said her life decisions are driven by her faith in God.

She said her church family is a safe place where she can go and have fellowship with other Christians who share the same beliefs and goals.

Another part of the community where Lazarte has always been active is Lawton’s annual International Festival.

Lazarte said her parents, Sally and Henry Herzig, were part of the founding group for the celebration, which started in one room at the Lawton Public Library and is now a sprawling weekend event in Elmer Thomas Park.

Lazarte’s mother had her cooking and dancing for the festival as part of the Filipino-American Club.

“My mother said you have to give back to your community,” she said.

As an adult, Lazarte has been the chair of the International Festival’s Decorating Committee and is currently a stage manager for the event.

“That’s just one of those things where you are proud to be a Lawtonian, because you can have all these programs in the city, and we do support the diverse community and we showcase it during that time,” she said of the annual festival.

To suggest someone to be featured in Faces of Southwest Oklahoma, send email to faces@lawton-constitution.com  .

From left, officers at Southwestern Medical Center Regenia Albers, quality/risk management; Dinah Lazarte, chief quality officer; and Brenda Wiseman, employee health/quality risk management go over some paperwork. Lazarte, who is also well-known in Lawton for her work with the International Festival, has worked at Southwestern for more than 33 years, starting as a staff nurse.

Dinah Lazarte, chief quality officer at Southwestern Medical Center, has spent more than 33 years working for the hospital at both of its locations on Lee.A registered nurse, Lazarte worked her way up from staff nurse, through various supervisory positions, to her current role. She is also well-known in the community for her involvement with the International Festival and as an active member of First United Methodist Church.