Health care heroes: Doctors on COVID-19 front lines

Meet physicians who stand out in a year when all caregivers are heroic

Yard signs spell out THANK YOU SNAFORD HEROES outside a hospital in Fargo, North Dakota.

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning when Doctors’ Day rolled around. This year, as COVID-19 vaccines roll out to more people, health care providers continue to fight on the front lines of the pandemic.

During that time, a few Sanford Health doctors have emerged as health care heroes. Here’s what our leaders say about them.

Avish Nagpal, M.D.

Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Sanford Broadway Medical Center, Fargo

“Not only did Dr. Nagpal lead Sanford’s response to COVID, (but also) he willingly shared his knowledge with other hospitals that had limited resources to ensure the greater good,” said Dr. Jim Volk, clinic vice president, Fargo, and Dr. Doug Griffin, chief medical officer, Fargo. “He held virtual roundtable discussions for North Dakota hospitals in the spirit of sharing experiences and knowledge gained from preparing for and treating COVID-19 patients. Describing our experiences, and understanding of the latest literature, he helped answer questions that providers had from hospitals throughout the state.”

Jacob Fish, M.D.

Pediatric Hospitalist, Sanford Children’s Hospital Fargo

“One year ago as COVID was announced as a global pandemic, Dr. Fish and other Children’s Hospital leaders met to address and prepare for the impact to the pediatric and neonatal population,” said Vicki Oberg, director of Sanford Children’s Hospital, Fargo. “He was instrumental in collaborating to develop the Pediatric Special Care unit and the processes that were needed to treat children with COVID and educate and protect our staff.”

Jon Ulven, Ph.D.

Psychology, Sanford Moorhead 8th Street Clinic

“Dr. Ulven led resiliency planning and training for staff while serving as department chair and putting his patients first in his very busy practice,” said Kathryn Norby, executive director of family medicine and behavioral health, Fargo. “He provided highly valued expertise on potential long-term effects of the pandemic and how people can spot the symptoms and take action. This man is a constant light in a world that struggles to be understood.”

Christopher Pribula, M.D.

Hospitalist, Sanford Medical Center Fargo

“During the height of the pandemic, he was always there, and when it was incredibly busy he was going the extra mile, even serving food to patients,” said Sherm Syverson, executive director of emergency and trauma and COO of Sanford Medical Center Fargo. “His caring nature in unprecedented times left an indelible impression on his patients, their families and his co-workers.”

Chris Mees, M.D.

Family Medicine, Sanford North Walk-in Clinic, Bismarck

“Dr. Mees was instrumental in getting the COVID clinic set up at both walk-in clinics at Sanford. His forward thinking and problem solving were evident in the initial setup of the COVID clinic and quickly got the buy-in of his colleagues and staff,” said Joseph Kambeitz, clinic manager, Bismarck.

Ryan Zimmermann, M.D.

Family Medicine, Sanford Health West Dickinson Clinic

“Dr. Zimmermann is kind, truthful and caring. Patients go to him because he makes them feel comfortable and listened to,” said Becky Roshau, clinic director of Sanford Dickinson. “His work is measured by the number of people that want him to be their primary care physician. Patients will wait to see him. They trust him and feel confident in the medicine he provides.”

Dragos Balf, M.D.

Interventional Cardiology, Sanford Heart Bismarck

“Dr. Balf stands up for what is right and always has patient’s best interest in mind,” said Crystal Toepke, director of clinic operations, Bismarck. “Dr. Balf is a well-rounded provider that looks at patient health as a whole. He uses resources throughout Sanford and in the community as needed. Dr. Balf provides a great service to his patients by showing them kindness, empathy, compassion and exhibiting professional knowledge. He provides a level of care that he would want his family, friends and himself to have.”

Jessica Sedevie, M.D.

OB/GYN, Sanford Obstetrics & Gynecology, Bismarck

“Jess continually shows resolve in her daily work, she is knowledgeable and professional and a strong, competent provider,” said Jada Shoemaker, director of obstetrics, Bismarck. “More importantly she genuinely cares for her patients in a way that shows empathy, sincerity and kindness. She is her patient’s number one advocate. She also has the courage to voice her ideas and concerns and is a true leader in our department.”

Manit Singla, M.D.

Hospitalist, Sanford Bemidji Medical Center

“Dr. Singla demonstrates resolve through constantly looking for ways to improve processes and be part of the solution,” wrote a trio of leaders at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center: Dr. Colleen Swank, vice president of clinic; Dr. David Wilcox, vice president medical officer; and Sally Corser, director of hospital medicine. “He wants to consistently provide the very best care for hospital-based patients — wanting the best outcome and experience every time.”

Dimitriy Yezhikov, D.O.

Hospitalist, Sanford Bemidji Medical Center

“Dr. Yezhikov showed courage by stepping up during this pandemic to help anywhere he was needed most,” according to Corser, Dr. Swank and Dr. Wilcox. “He cared for patients not just within his department but for those across all departments of the hospital, working many extra shifts over the past six months to make sure all patients – including those with COVID-19 – could receive care close to home and not be transferred out of our community.”

Hari Pokhrel, M.D.

Hospitalist, Sanford Bemidji Medical Center

“Understanding the importance and value of career-long learning, he is always willing to serve as a mentor to medical students during their training and eagerly embraces the opportunity to teach the next generation of physicians,” wrote Corser, Dr. Swank and Dr. Wilcox. “Continually educating himself to be an even better doctor for his patients, Dr. Pokhrel focuses his energy on keeping up to date with the newest and best way to treat patients who require complex care in our hospital. No matter the situation, he is a source of calm in a storm.”

Calvin Tsogmo, M.D.

Hospitalist, Sanford Bemidji Medical Center

“Dr. Tsogmo demonstrates calling and has a presence that puts others at ease, gives them hope, makes them want to persevere and brings a positive attitude to everything that he does,” said Corser, Dr. Swank and Dr. Wilcox. “As a father to three small children under the age of two, Dr. Tsogmo shows up, smiling, positive and ready to take on the day caring for patients even when sleep-deprived and working countless hours at home and at the hospital. His commitment to his patients never stops.”

Abigail Polzin, M.D.

Emergency Medicine, Sanford USD Medical Center, Sioux Falls

“Dr. Polzin helped plan the response to the COVID surge. As the physician leader for AirMed and transport care, she worked tirelessly in planning and caring for patients coming to Sanford from outside Sioux Falls,” wrote a trio of leaders at Sanford in Sioux Falls: Dr. Mike Wilde, vice president medical officer; Dr. Josh Crabtree, vice president clinic; and Dr. Sara Zoelle, vice president medical officer, Health Network. “During challenging times, she helped to create a positive culture within the ER which improved our patients’ experience. Her positivity and care helped give our patients the very best care even when faced with so much uncertainty.”

Devin Bissoon, M.D.

Pulmonology, Sanford Pulmonary Medicine Clinic, Sioux Falls

“Dr. Bissoon showed tremendous courage and effort in responding to the COVID-19 surge by providing care to multiple patients with intensive care needs,” said Dr. Wilde, Dr. Crabtree and Dr. Zoelle. “In the past year, he assisted with advancing care for COVID-19 patients in a time when patients needed the very best care possible. Each day he makes a positive impact by utilizing strong evidence based care which gives patients the care they truly need.”

Paul Bjordahl, M.D.

Critical Care Surgery, Sanford Surgical Associates, Sioux Falls

“Dr. Bjordahl continues to demonstrate the values of Sanford Health through advancing trauma care in Sioux Falls and throughout our network facilities. He has dedicated his time to enhancing patient care through leading provider education for teams throughout the network and advancing trauma protocols at the Sanford Medical Center and referring locations,” said Dr. Wilde, Dr. Crabtree and Dr. Zoelle. “It’s this commitment to training and education that continues to show Dr. Bjordahl’s dedication to doing what’s best for the patient.”

Jenna Wolfe, D.O., M.P.H.

Hospitalist, Sanford Worthington Medical Center

“Dr. Jenna Wolfe played a big role in patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was instrumental in moving COVID-19 patients into our network facilities that were unable to go home due to their ongoing care needs,” said Dr. Wilde, Dr. Crabtree and Dr. Zoelle. “Her quick and effective response allowed us to not only provide these patients with the very best care, it also helped to make space within our facilities for other COVID-19 patients needing emergency care.”

Susan Hoover, M.D., Ph.D.

Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Sanford Infectious Disease & Travel Medicine Clinic, Sioux Falls

“She has gone above and beyond with her service and community efforts. During the early stages of the pandemic, providing our staff, patients and communities with the latest information was everything. Dr. Hoover’s involvement in the Sanford Health command center, town halls, media requests and community education efforts was instrumental in how we were able to give crucial information to the communities we serve,” wrote Dr. Wilde, Dr. Crabtree and Dr. Zoelle.

“In a time in which providing clarity and information to our communities was so needed, Dr. Hoover stepped up to answer questions, provide information and help calm fears. She spent time answering collegial questions, took on curbside consults to help with education and dedicated time to informing staff and clinicians in a time of great uncertainty. Dr. Hoover went above her call to care during the pandemic. Her expertise and her passion for patient care allowed Sanford to share information and resources with patients and our communities on ways to protect themselves from COVID-19 and the advancements being made in medical care in response to the pandemic.”

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Posted In Allied Health, Bemidji, Bismarck, Coronavirus, Dickinson, Fargo, Non-Clinical Support Services, Nursing and Nursing Support, Physicians and APPs, Sanford Stories, Sioux Falls, Worthington

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