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Toby's Take: Coming Home to Great Bend

Great Bend Campus

June 06, 2022

Editor’s Note – This is the second of 2 blogs on Toby’s visit to The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Campus. Read the first entry.

Through the first 10 blog entries since it began this past March, I’ve had the chance to write about physicians, nurses, people who clean patient floors, volunteers, organ donation and a breast cancer expert whose grandfather delivered me.

I’m having a blast telling the story of The University of Kansas Health System and am constantly looking off the beaten path for things I find fascinating, hoping that you find them interesting, too. At the bottom of this blog you can follow Toby’s Take. If you haven’t and would like to, please email me. Include a note on what you’d like to read about this incredible place.

This week, I’m completing a 2-parter. Last week, I wrote about my trip to Great Bend, Kansas, where we operate a hospital and several clinics, and focused on how economic development will make our work here even more important.

“The University of Kansas Health System is very proud of the excellent care that the medical staff, employees and leadership provide to the Great Bend community,” said Randy Cason, regional vice president of Greater Kansas. “The health system has continued to make significant investments into the facilities and services for the people of Barton County and surrounding areas. Our Great Bend hospital and clinics allow us to further our commitment to the health of all Kansans.”

As I mentioned in Part 1, we often discuss how we can make it more attractive to get young people to stay or return and serve their community. We’re getting there.

Working in Kansas City, I saw and experienced a lot. I mean, medical miracles. And I wanted to help be a part of bringing a higher standard of care to central Kansas. – Kyle Zink

Ambulatory nurse manager

'Home again, home again, jiggety jig'

Three physicians who all graduated from Great Bend High School practice here now. Dr. Jonathan Pike, family and hospital medicine, sees patients every day. Dr. Rigoberto Ramirez, cardiology, comes to Great Bend at various times of the month. Dr. Micca Schneider, family medicine, is the most recent addition to this team, starting last October.

“I am excited to serve the community that supported me throughout my upbringing,” Dr. Ramirez told us at the time. He’s practicing at St. Rose Medical Pavilion, a mile away from The University of Kansas Great Bend Campus and on the site of the now torn-down St. Rose Dominican Hospital (among other names).

Kyle Zink serves as an ambulatory nurse manager for the health system in Great Bend and gave us a tour of St. Rose.

“I used to watch Kyle when he was young when his mom worked here,” someone offered on the tour. Yes, the son of Melanie and Dan Zink is a local, too, from nearby Ellinwood. Dan had been in remission from esophageal cancer, and that experience with his father in part had sent him seeking a medical career.

He’s a graduate of Barton County Community College and Fort Hays State University. His tour of duty included stints in Wichita and back through our Main Campus in Kansas City. There, he saw everything one might imagine in emergency cardiothoracic treatment.

“The overall teamwork, no hesitation, (and the attitude that) we can help each other,” he remembered. When the chance came to move back home, he didn’t have to change gears.

“I wanted to be around family, my nieces. My wife is the from the area. Working in Kansas City, I saw and experienced a lot. I mean, medical miracles. And I wanted to help be a part of bringing a higher standard of care to central Kansas.”

He’s hoping more people will come to places like Great Bend to give back or just be of service.

“I just think there needs to be a stability. (We need more) applicants to take care of older generations … increasing the continuum of care.”

Zink possesses a certain Midwestern charm that makes a guest feel at ease and very much taken care of. When we toured St. Rose Medical Pavilion with him, he walked from station to station, person to person, saying hi and asking them how their day was going.

Meeting Zink was a highlight of the trip, along with the homemade cookies at Great Bend Coffee. It wasn’t until a follow-up phone call days later that he dropped something on me that almost made my jaw drop. Zink’s dad had died the week before, and our Friday morning tour was his first day back from the funeral.

“What?” I asked. “Oh, my God. I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you …” and then I realized, he’s not going to volunteer that to people he barely knew. That would make them feel awkward. On our tour, you wouldn’t have known he had a care in the world, let alone that he was dealing with a devastating loss.

Dan Zink’s cancer had raged back.

“It is what it is. He got diagnosed when I was in high school. We weren’t even sure that he’d have this long. He got to see all of his grandkids.”

We’re proud to have people like Kyle Zink working for and representing us at The University of Kansas Health System in Great Bend. For Kyle, getting to care for his neighbors and having that last year with his dad can’t be anything other than priceless.

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