At MSSC’s first large in-person membership meeting of 2021 on Dec. 7, outgoing President Stephen Grindel, DO, praised the medical community’s response to the pandemic. “The past two years were not what any of us expected,” he said. “But I am especially proud of how our members rose to meet this extraordinary challenge.”
Grindel noted that all MSSC members were impacted by COVID-19 no matter where they worked. Many dealt with financial costs related to the shutdown. Many had to make quick transitions to telemedicine.
“We had to obtain PPE and implement social distancing and vaccination policies,” he said. “We had the risk of potentially catching COVID from a patient and then maybe transmitting it to family members. We had difficult conversations with patients about masking and getting the vaccine. We lost patients to the disease.”
But Grindel noted that some MSSC members faced extraordinary circumstances.
“Those who work in the hospitals have truly been on the front lines, dealing with multiple waves of patients, including children,” he said.
Ascension Via Christi, Wesley Healthcare and their staffs have done heroic work under great pressure, including reorganizing their operations to care for more COVID patients.
“For most of this fall, the hospitals’ capacity level was listed as ‘critical,’ yet they continued, day after day, to provide high level of care to our community,” Grindel said.
Grindel also singled out the many other physicians who work in and with the hospitals. “They have been at the bedside with COVID patients,” he said. “They have been there when our community needed them most.”
Lee Norman, MD, was the featured speaker at the meeting. Norman served as Kansas secretary of Health and Environment and led the state’s response to COVID-19.
Norman noted the multiple crises and challenges he had to address when he was at KDHE, including the lack of personal protective equipment and testing and the vaccine rollout. He and his team often had to make decisions with incomplete data.
But when he lay awake in bed at night, Norman said, there was one thing that made him rest easier: Sedgwick County.
“Your medical society and the significant influence you demonstrated (was) a spectacular response,” Norman said. “For that, I am eternally grateful.”
The main focus of the meeting was recognizing Dr. Garold Minns, MD, for his work as Sedgwick County’s public health officer.
“Few people would have wanted to be Dr. Minns the past two years,” Grindel said. “Health officers had to balance public health threats with economic concerns and an extra-large serving of politics.”
Grindel said that Minns has faithfully served our community with integrity and humility.
“He accepted criticism with grace and compassion, recognizing the stress and strain many people are facing,” Grindel said.
At the same time Minns was guiding Sedgwick County government through the pandemic, he remained dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita, where he oversaw the medical school’s quick pivot to remote learning last year.
“That, in itself, is deserving of recognition,” Grindel said.
Grindel shared comments from some MSSC members who were in the middle of the COVID battles with Minns.
Maggie Hagan, MD, said Minns had been a mentor to her for the past 30 years and was her inspiration to become an infectious disease physician.
“His leadership has been invaluable during the COVID era,” she said. “He has done so much to keep our community safe and to limit the spread of COVID. His calm manner and wisdom have been so important in this time of chaos.”
Sam Antonios, MD, chief clinical officer at Ascension Via Christi Health, said: “While Dr. Minns has become more widely known in our community because of the leadership role he has played throughout the pandemic, the medical community has long recognized him as a man of wisdom, courage and commitment to our safety. We are blessed to have someone with his knowledge, integrity and conviction helping advance the medical profession and health care leadership.”
The MSSC Board of Directors voted to bestow on Minns the status of honorary MSSC member in recognition and gratitude for his exemplary work in public health and medical education. Members at the annual meeting voted unanimously to approve this honor.
Grindel presented Minns with a plaque and with a framed letter from Gov. Laura Kelly thanking Minns for his service and recognizing his many achievements.
Minns spoke briefly, thanking MSSC for the honor and thanking the medical community for its support and work during the pandemic.
“I’m a little be overwhelmed. I know a lot of you made sacrifices and had a very tough time through this whole two years – it’s not just me,” Minns said. “I want to tell you how much I appreciate the recognition. I always felt the MSSC is one of the most prestigious medical societies in the state of Kansas, if not the Midwest. I’m very respectful of you all.”