8 ways heroic local doctors have gone above and beyond during the pandemic

January is our annual Top Doctors issue, where we recognize local physicians who have been nominated by their peers and screened by our partners at a top New York-based research firm.

We know readers count on that list when making important care decisions and picking specialists, and it’s always an honor to publish the results.

This year, we supplement that list with a look at how eight Kansas City doctors have gone above and beyond in the coronavirus crisis. These physicians have all acted heroically in the face of the global pandemic, finding ways to go above and beyond in service to the city.

Katherine Aberle, M.D.

While she was on extended maternity leave due to Covid, Dr. Katherine Aberle, a surgeon at Ascentist Ear, Nose & Throat, wanted to keep her hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity sharp, so she started to sew. When she went back to work in September, she couldn’t help but notice that her colleagues’ surgical caps were hanging together by a thread. “The normal, disposable surgical caps are in short supply because all those materials that are used to make surgical caps are being diverted to make masks,” she says. Dr. Aberle ordered ten yards of Wonder Women scrub caps online and made scrub caps to be distributed at Advent Health Shawnee Mission. “I think Wonder Woman symbolizes empowerment and doing something for the greater good and helping others.”

Barbara Pahud, M.D.

Children’s Mercy Hospital infectious disease expert and UMKC professor Dr. Barbara Pahud has co-led the local efforts to develop AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine. Dr. Pahud made special efforts to get more African Americans and Latinos involved in vaccine trials, as long-standing patterns of social inequity have put marginalized groups at increased risk of infection.

Steve Stites, M.D. & Dana Hawkinson, M.D.

With the world focused on a health care crisis, The University of Kansas Health System’s Drs. Steve Stites and Dana Hawkinson started holding daily Covid briefings focused on advances and protocols. Hawkinson, an infectious disease specialist, and Stites, chief medical officer, deliver talk show-like live discussions on topics like vaccine updates and interviews with recovered patients via the hospital system’s Facebook page.

Steve Waldman, M.D.

Dr. Steve Waldman is serving as program director and will head up the new expanded UMKC School of Medicine in St. Joseph early this year. This new program will address rural healthcare and physician shortages, which have become more prevalent in the wake of Covid-19.

Ronald Chen, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Ronald Chen, Department of Oncology chair and professor at The University of Kansas Health System, was concerned that not enough people were getting proper screenings for cancer during the pandemic. “Appointments were getting canceled and people were not getting their prostate cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer screenings,” he says. Thanks to Chen and his team, free cancer screenings are now available at The University of Kansas Health System clinics across the metro area so that people can catch up.

Mary Anne Jackson, M.D.

An infectious disease expert and professor and dean of the UMKC School of Medicine, Dr. Mary Anne Jackson served as a member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Jackson also writes for Children’s Mercy Hospital-run monthly newsletter, The Link, which has updates on medical hot topics.

Mayank Gupta, M.D.

The opioid crisis has led to strict rules about how to prescribe the powerful, addictive painkillers to treat patients with chronic pain. The pandemic forced the closure of non-emergency medical offices, putting a lot of pressure on the system. Dr. Mayank Gupta at Kansas Pain Management went to great lengths to develop a system that meets government requirements while also serving patients who rely on prescriptions to battle debilitating chronic pain. His system involves a combination of telehealth check-ins, outdoor checkpoints and the hyper-efficient use of in-person appointments to keep patients safe but properly served, and he’s been active in sharing it with others in his field through webinars.

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