Kang, Kontos, Wiese Receive 2013 Distinguished Physician Awards
Rebecca Wiese, M.D.
Community Service/Humanitarian Award
Her years of practicing family medicine and international mission work have taught Dr. Rebecca Wiese the value of connectedness.
To her, that means looking beyond the medical treatments, technology and medications to also consider her patients' resources, culture, family concerns, and community. This sensitivity to the patient as a whole likely comes from having been a long-term patient herself.
On May 9, 1990, Dr. Wiese was hit by a car while acting as a Good Samaritan and responding to a car accident on Brady Street. In addition to a broken leg and shoulder injury, she also sustained a traumatic brain injury that left her significantly impaired.
She survived against tremendous odds, spending two months at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport as a patient.
During her weeks of intensive therapy on the inpatient rehabilitation floor, she remembers wondering what she would do next. One day, when she heard a doctor being paged overhead, it gave her sudden clarity: She would work to regain her physical skills, she decided, and refresh her medical knowledge to practice medicine again.
It took months, but she was determined. "The fact that I got such excellent care has made a huge difference in my life," Dr. Wiese says. "Without it, I wouldn't be here, able to work. It's a great blessing."
Today, Dr. Wiese is a hospitalist for Cogent Healthcare, working primarily with patients on the Rehabilitation and Behavioral Health units at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport.
"She overcame astronomical odds and now works on the floor where she was once a patient," says nurse Cheryl Osborn, RN, who nominated her for the award. "On the rehabilitation floor, she gives the patients consistent medical management. She is always approachable throughout the day with lab and x-ray results, medical concerns or the emotional well-being of her patient. When Dr. Wiese takes that rare time off, her fellow colleagues who cover for her are surprised to find out how medically demanding the rehab patients are...and amazed by how Dr. Wiese manages it all on a daily basis.”
Dr. Wiese went to seminary school and became Lutheran minister. This has made her more aware of the spiritual side of her patients' care.
At Wartburg Seminary, she has taught pastors from places like Palestine, Tanzania, New Guinea and Liberia how they as leaders could educate their communities on health issues like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
She has taught end-of-life care in Tanzania. And each year, through the ecumenical group Ilugua, she visits La Trementina, Zacapa, an impoverished area in Guatemala located near the Las Granadillas Mountain. Sixty percent of the children living on the mountain suffer from malnutrition. Her group works with subsistence farmers to help them grow better crops using irrigation, terracing and fertilizer in the driest region of Central America.
She has learned that all the pills and medicines in the world won't help if people are starving or don't have access to water. Again, this mission work reminds her of the value of "staying connected" and "listening" to the needs of the people she helps.
"Sometimes as physicians, we get caught up in the numbers, the doses, the technology and the latest treatments," she says. "We can never lose sight of the importance of the connections with our patients and their families."
Sung Kang, M.D.
Colleague Award for Quality Care
When staff describe Dr. Sung Kang, they tell of a hard-working anesthesiologist who has long been a reliable presence in the operating room at Genesis Medical Center, Illini.
He came to Illini in December 1975 and has been there ever since. For 30 years, he led the hospital's Anesthesiology Department, consistently working every other night. Still today, he can be counted on to stay late or come in at a moment's notice, they say.
"Dr. Kang has been a pillar of the Anesthesia Department at GMC-Illini for as long as anyone can remember," says Dr. Peter Metcalf, Illini's Vice President of Medical Staff Affairs. "At times, he has been the only one available to help, and I have never known him to refuse -- even when he was not on call. He is one of the most dedicated physicians I have ever met."
Dr. Metcalf, a pediatrician, remembers Dr. Kang's expert handling of a 4-year-old patient in respiratory failure who needed an emergency intubation. The boy had been a preemie with chronic lung disease, and as a result, had tracheal scarring from prolonged intubation.
"We were faced with a panicking child and mother," he recalls. "Dr. Kang managed to calm both down and proceeded with patience and a minimum of fuss. He saved the little boy's life and took all the tension out of the process. It's something for which I will always hold him in high regard."
As a boy growing up in post-war Korea, times were very tough and hard work part of everyday life, Dr. Kang says. After obtaining medical education in his native country, he traveled to America in search of further medical training opportunities and adventure.
He was welcomed by Illini Hospital and discovered Silvis to be a great place to practice and raise his family.
"I love to work, and over the years, I've been blessed to work with many incredible people at Illini," he says.
The American Society of Anesthesiology, of which he is a member, has been an early pioneer of patient safety, so Dr. Kang takes pride in Illini's "A" rating in patient safety and Genesis Health System's focus on quality and patient safety.
He likens anesthesiology to aviation, where the pilot strives to give passengers a smooth flight without any turbulence and a safe landing. In a similar way, Dr. Kang strives to provide his patients with a smooth, safe surgery without any complications, and a good outcome. He always treats his patients as he would treat a member of his own family.
"I'm happy when my patients emerge from surgery and the anesthesia in good condition, especially after those long, life-threatening procedures involving very sick patients," he says.
Dr. Kang lives close to the Illini Campus and is able to respond quickly for emergency surgeries, such as C-sections when the baby is in distress and needs to be delivered as quickly as possible. He also can easily get to the hospital during big snowstorms, when other hospital staff cannot. "I have made hospital duties my priority above anything else," he says.
Patients who have had Dr. Kang once as their anesthesiologist, often ask for him again.
"He's amazing to his patients," Colette Kissling, O.R. Manager at Illini, concludes. "He knows the place counts on him. He has always been there for us,"
George Kontos, M.D.
Patient Service Excellence Award
When Jim Ryan had surgery to repair a life-threatening abdominal aortic aneurysm, he found more than a technically proficient surgeon at Genesis Medical Center, Illini.
He found a surgeon who took the time to get to know him and his wife, Fran, and explain the surgery in terms they could understand. He left no doubt he truly cared.
That surgeon was George Kontos, M.D., of Genesis Health Group, Surgical Associates.
"He's the reason my husband's alive," says Mrs. Fran Ryan of Moline, who nominated Dr. Kontos for the award along with her husband. "Dr. Kontos' surgical skills, caring demeanor and ability to make the patient and family feel they are the most important people are truly amazing."
She recalls the fear she felt after learning her husband's abdominal aortic aneurysm, surgically repaired in 2005, "had leaked back in" and grown well past the rupture stage five years later. At 8 centimeters in diameter, it was a ticking time bomb.
Her husband was in Intensive Care for five days after surgery. "Every morning, I received a condition report from Dr. Kontos. His call always began with the positives on my husband and ended with him saying, 'Mrs. Ryan, it was a very big surgery.' He was such a gentleman and so professional."
Dr. Kontos would enter the couple's lives again for other health issues. Each time, they would be impressed by the special surgeon who always put his patients first.
Medical teaching has often encouraged emotional distance between the surgeon and his patient, but Dr. Kontos is happy to have learned differently. "My goal is to provide the same compassionate, first-class care that I would want a member of my own family to receive," says Dr. Kontos, a vascular, thoracic and general surgeon.
That philosophy is likely why he has earned two Doctors Day Awards since he came to Genesis six years ago. He works to keep the lines of communication open with families when their loved ones are in the hospital. He lets them know when he is going to call each day, so they don't have to wait at the hospital for a progress report. He empowers patients to make informed choices by making sure they understand their condition and surgical options.
"I've been blessed to care for all these patients who come here because of the quality care they receive at Genesis," he says. "It wouldn't be possible without all the physicians, nurses and staff with whom I work. It's a team approach."
He became a surgeon because he likes the immediate gratification of knowing whether he made the right medical decision. "As doctors, we're always wondering: 'Did we make the right diagnosis? Are we intervening in the right way?' By bringing the patient into the operating room, we know right then and there," he says. "We're able to see a patient turn around and get better. I also like technically demanding challenges, and being a surgeon allows me to have that personal reward as well."
In her career, Mrs. Ryan worked with a number of physicians and is impressed by the respect hospital staff has for Dr. Kontos. " He treats each staff member with respect -- from nurses to housekeeping. "He is truly a lifesaver. His office staff and nurse are the best, too."