Published on March 30, 2012

Three recognized with Distinguished Physician Awards

Amir Arbisser, M.D.

Community Service/ Humanitarian Award

It’s quite appropriate that Dr. Amir Arbisser, a pediatric ophthalmologist, has the vision to see things others don’t.

He envisions classrooms where every student can clearly see the blackboard and the pages of their books. Their vision has been corrected at no cost through a national effort supported by governments and foundations. As a result, standardized test scores improve in classrooms across the country.

He has the vision to see beyond his own specialty and understand the big picture of what must change in health care.

His humanitarian vision has taken him to Haiti, India and to western China for mission work. In India, he did cataract and strabismus procedures. In China, he carried 120 dozen pairs of pre-fabricated glasses up a mountain on a four-day trek and provided an eye clinic for remote mountain people. He purchased another 60 pairs of glasses in country and did a surgical procedure to remove an embedded corneal foreign body -- outdoors and in the snow.

Dr. Arbisser’s visionary efforts as the co-founder of Eye Surgeons Associates have not only helped the Quad Cities community but have had national and international implications, as well.

“He has a way of finding the connections between dots that others don’t see and an ability to align people’s goals to get everyone moving in one direction,” says his colleague Dr. William Benevento, who nominated him for the award. “Now, with more than 20 doctors at Eye Surgeons, these are crucial skills.”

Locally, Dr. Arbisser’s humanitarian deeds are helping students to see more clearly. In 2003, he and his wife, Dr. Lisa Arbisser, established the See Life Clearly Foundation, a foundation that promotes healthy vision.

The foundation sponsors the Scott County See Clearly to Learn Project, which is researching the premise that children who receive the eye exams and glasses they need will improve their scores on standardized tests.

Dr. Arbisser raised most of the funding, contacted the schools, presented to parents, gathered support from eye care professionals and provided exams.

So far, the success of See to Learn can be seen in the statistics: Early pilot studies show children who received eye exams and corrective glasses significantly improved their performance on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. In 2010, 426 third-graders received free eye exams and eyeglasses if needed, at no cost. The 2010 findings are not complete, but he believes they too will reinforce the importance of good vision on learning and have implications for fewer disciplinary issues in the classroom.

Back to that vision: It’s not enough to do the project locally. Dr. Arbisser’s goal is to take it nationwide.

“We’re excited about the results so far,” Dr. Arbisser says. “The potential rewards for this easy-to-adapt project delivered to every community in America are huge.

This is an incredible opportunity for education. There might be less distraction with fewer disciplinary issues. Possibly, fewer resources might be devoted to remedial or special education if children who can now see are able to remain in their classrooms.”

Dr. Arbisser serves on the Genesis Health Services Foundation Board. He also is a past board member of Spring Park Surgery Center, former president of the Scott County Medical Society and concluded a six-year gubernatorial appointment on the Iowa Board of Regents.

As co-founder and President Emeritus of Eye Surgeons Associates, he has built a practice with a reputation for providing quality eye care.

“Dr. Arbisser gives exemplary eye care to the children of the Quad Cities,” says Dr. Peter Metcalf of Genesis Health Group, Silvis Pediatrics. “He is always available when a child with eye problems needs help.”

“He is a champion of high quality care and high standards for the providers within his group, within ambulatory care settings and within the hospital,” says Flo Spyrow, Senior Vice President of Genesis Health System. “In all he does, he ensures the patient is at the center of his work.”

Humphrey Wong, M.D.

Colleague Award for Quality Care

Ask Dr. Humphrey Wong what he likes about working in the Intensive Care Unit, and he will tell you about the rewards and challenges of caring for the sickest patients in the hospital.

He will offer examples of how patients, revived from cardiac arrest and in a coma, have been saved from neurological damage by a state-of-the-art therapy in the Genesis ICU called induced hypothermia.

Most of all, he frequently will use the word “team” because that’s really the hallmark of the ICU -- multiple medical disciplines working together to do what’s best for critically ill patients.

As medical director of the Intensive Care Unit at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, Dr. Wong of Pulmonary Associates leads the care; promotes patient safety; keeps the lines of communication open between caregivers and the patients and their families; and, works to ensure care is based on the latest evidence for best practice.

Meanwhile, he brings compassion and consistent kindness to his patients, their families and his fellow colleagues.

The fast-pace, ever-changing nature of the ICU suits him, he says. He was drawn to the specialties of pulmonology and critical care as a resident nearly 20 years ago.

“I chose these specialties because the patients are so sick and the challenges are so great,” he says. “When we’re successful in treating them, the rewards are even higher.

“These patients are so complicated, with many staff contributing to their care. That’s why we emphasize teamwork and promote communication between all the different physicians, nurses and other health care professionals. We all must be united, so we can give consistency in care and do what’s best for the patient.”

His above-and-beyond efforts to support physicians in the care of their patients is why he’s deserving of the Colleague Award for Quality Care.

“Dr. Wong has established excellent rapport with colleagues and patients in providing compassionate and appropriate medical care,” says Dr. Conway Chin, who is medical director of Genesis Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

“He is very helpful and approachable. He is always willing to take the extra steps to help other physicians with their complex patients.”

He adds, “Dr. Wong also has demonstrated the vision to bring new treatments to the community like induced hypothermia that have benefitted critically ill patients.”

Genesis, Davenport is the only hospital in the Quad Cities to offer induced hypothermia, an advancement that requires the coordinated work of the ICU, the Emergency Department and Medic EMS, whose paramedics begin the therapy out in the field.

Induced hypothermia improves the neurological outcomes for adult patients who have been successfully resuscitated after cardiac arrest and who are comatose. Patients are cooled externally to 91.4 degrees F. for 24 hours. They are then re-warmed and allowed to wake up.

“Dr. Wong was very instrumental in helping to bring this therapy to Genesis,” says Debra Elmer, a registered nurse in the ICU. “He has continued to improve this process through his evaluation of each patient...de-briefing sessions and staying updated on changes in this therapy.”

Nearly 30 patients have received this therapy over the past two years. “When these patients are resuscitated after a cardiac arrest, we try to save them and also preserve their brain function,” Dr. Wong says. “We’ve been ecstatic to be part of the successes and see patients who wake up and are able to go home.”

Dr. Wong is an on-the-job educator who likes to share updated research and technologies. Always building a team atmosphere, he instituted “multidisciplinary rounding.” Each day, a team that can include physicians, nurses and staff from social work, dietary, pharmacy, spiritual care and respiratory therapy visits each patient and discusses their care.

“Dr. Wong provides consistency amid all the different disciplines,” Elmer says. “He’s always bringing us new information, and he always has that drive to try new therapies and technologies to benefit our patients.”

Robert Anderson, M.D.

Patient Service Excellence Award

The newborn was in respiratory distress and needed to get to the hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It was in the late ‘70s and transport by local ambulance wasn’t as prompt or reliable as it is today.

So, the young pediatrician grabbed a canister of oxygen in case it was needed and with a nurse accompanying, rushed the baby to the NICU in his own car.

Dr. Robert Anderson fondly recalls this story from his early career, and how, thanks to a vastly improved emergency medical system, he would never think of doing that today. During the boy’s infancy and early childhood, he treated his patient through severe reflux and respiratory illness and saw him grow up to become a healthy young man.

“The patient graduated from college and came back to visit me one day,” Dr. Anderson says. “He shook my hand and said, ‘I just wanted to thank you for all the good care you provided me as a child.’ Stories like those make what I do feel so worthwhile.”

Dr. Anderson has been a pediatrician for more than 30 years. Many recognize him for his signature bow tie, his upbeat personality and his tireless advocacy for children, particularly those with special needs.

He’s not only a physician but a teacher, always working to bring out the best in his staff and the medical students and physician residents who train with him.

Dr. Anderson of Genesis Health Group was attracted to pediatrics because of an interest in childhood development and the prospect of helping youngsters live long and healthy lives. “Chronic illness is still present in pediatrics, but there’s always more hope than dealing with the elderly or patients at the end of life,” he says.

That hope makes him endlessly pursue innovative care and better service for his young patients, say the seven people who nominated him.

He is considered the “father of the medical home concept” in the Quad Cities, incorporating elements of this model into his own private practice at least a decade before it was embraced by national physician organizations and insurance companies. He has worked to educate his peers both locally and statewide on the philosophy, participated in a demonstration project and has spoken nationally on the topic.

“There was a realization that many children had fragmented health care,” he says of the climate that led to the medical home concept. “Children were seeing their doctors for sore throats and earaches but their needs were overlooked when it came to linking them to specialists and community services. Having a medical home improves their continuum of care.”

Over the years, Dr. Anderson has held numerous leadership roles, strongly believing that physicians should be at the table when children’s health is discussed.

He has served as president of the Iowa Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

With compassion for those with mental illness, he serves as president of the Board of Directors of Vera French Community Mental Health Center and has been a leader in integrating behavioral health services in primary care settings, including a clinic for children with ADHD.

He has worked to improve clinical care and outcomes for kids while serving on the boards of the Scott County School Health Initiative and the Quad City Health Initiative -- to name just a few.

His drive for patient care excellence can best be seen, however, in the personal care he gives his young patients, his nomination says. “His actions are genuine and come from the heart.”

Dr. Anderson is one of the few physicians who still provides home visits to patients, particularly special needs children who have difficulty getting to the office. Concerned about his Title 19 patients, he brought flouride treatments to the office and gives them himself.

His nomination sums it up best: “This special man has devoted his life to children, especially special needs children. He has tried to lift some of their burden by understanding their needs and making it easier to provide the best possible care to those who need it most.”

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