(Sept. 3, 2021) – One of the highest awards given by the Kansas Hospital Association is the Donald A. Wilson Visionary Award. This award is dedicated in honor of Don Wilson, who faithfully served as KHA president and CEO from 1982 until his retirement in 2004. This year's recognition has special meaning with the unexpected passing of Don in May. Knowing Don, he would have been pleased to recognize this year's honoree, Dennis Shelby, chief executive officer of Wilson Medical Center in Neodesha.
KHA established this award to recognize individuals who have made an outstanding, innovative contribution to health care delivery, health care financing or other initiatives that improve the health and clinical outcomes of their community. The Donald A. Wilson Visionary Award provides KHA members the opportunity to recognize individuals who have truly been an agent for change in their community and the hospital industry.
For more than 40 years, Dennis Shelby has served communities through his work in three health care sectors: psychiatric, rehabilitation and general acute care. His most relevant and rewarding work has been in rural health care. Dennis is always looking into the future of health care to see how to keep health care viable in rural communities. Since Dennis' arrival in Neodesha in 2011, he has brought many new programs to Neodesha to greatly enhance the health care in Southeast Kansas. The addition of specialty clinics in spine, orthopedics, oncology, psychology and telemedicine services has allowed patients to obtain specialty services close to home. Dennis also established several community-based programs such as a community wellness program.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dennis knew the importance of continued health care services. He recognized the devastating effect lack of health care would have on patients. He also had concerns regarding the financial impact on health care facilities, as well as the livelihood of health care employees. He worked with his team and others in Kansas to discuss innovative ideas to continue to provide health care services to Kansans. Under his visionary leadership, Wilson Medical Center was recognized nationally by the National Rural Health Association, the American Hospital Association, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for their response to COVID-19 and for maintaining health care in rural America during a pandemic when health care is most needed.
Throughout his career, Dennis has been an active member of the KHA, serving on both the KHERF Board (2019-2022) and the KHSC Board (2013-2018). He also has served on many KHA committees including the KHA Rural Health Visioning Technical Advisory Group, KHA Dues Review Committee, KHA Governance Committee, KHA-PAC Steering Committee and the KHA Strategic Planning Committee. He also is providing a vision for Kansas in his service on the State of Kansas Board of Emergency Medical Services.
Congratulations to Dennis. We look forward to recognizing him during the KHA Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 27 during the second day of our LIVE (yet virtual) Convention. I invite you all to join us in honoring Dennis and the other health care leaders who will be recognized.