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Toby's Take: What I Learned at the Hall of Fame

Photo of glass Hall of Fame awards on a table

July 12, 2022

My gig is all about learning. What I’ve learned in 14 months with The University of Kansas Health System seems like a lifetime of information. Lifelong learner right here, packed into a short amount of time.

It makes sense. After years in broadcast journalism, where you’re required to know a little bit about a lot of things, and after 14 years in sports PR, where you have to know one thing really well, I’ve arrived at the place where knowing a lot about a lot of things is a good start.

The Partners in Excellence Awards

I learned that sponsorship is not the same as partnership. When a business invests philanthropic dollars into a health system, it has a higher purpose in mind. I sat at dinner with our friends at Heartland Coca-Cola, a distributor in town who, yes, sells its products at our facilities (including waters and healthier alternatives to my Coke Zero with a splash of cherry). Heartland also funds the GED program we offer employees who want to get their high school diploma.

I learned that getting the current mayor of the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County can happen if you ask early enough. But getting him and the 4 previous mayors to all commit to a date and attend? They were all there, at various tables and up on stage for a photo. What a committed group of community leaders.

“I learned that not knowing about what’s making you sick is a miserable feeling. Sally Cray and her husband, Bud, used some of their treasure … to start the Cray Diabetes Center so people with diabetes could enter their treatment with eyes wide open.” – Toby Cook

Director of Public Relations, The University of Kansas Health System

The Catalyst Awards

I learned that not knowing about what’s making you sick is a miserable feeling. Sally Cray felt that way after she was diagnosed with diabetes years ago. She and her husband, Bud, used some of their treasure from a successful family business in Atchison, Kansas, to start the Cray Diabetes Center so patients with diabetes could enter their treatment with eyes wide open … and a hopeful spirit. The Crays, sadly both now gone, followed up with a large donation to advance our cardiovascular services.

I learned that the president of our Kansas City Division, Tammy Peterman, has known the senior senator of Kansas longer than anyone else in the room that night, including his wife, Robba Moran. Peterman and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran went to high school together in Great Bend. Peterman had a look on her face like she was going to give us the dish on the man in his younger years. What she did was give a lovely tribute to a well-regarded public servant who has been a defender of the health system and an advocate for more fair and more equitable organ and tissue transplant system.

The Legacy Awards

I learned that William Reed, MD, was a cardiothoracic surgeon who rose from poverty to help put our cardiovascular program on the map and lead the way in the establishment of our Center for Advanced Heart Care. Oh, and as a horse enthusiast, he bred and raised thoroughbreds. One finished third in the Kentucky Derby. Dr. Reed died before he could receive the Hall of Fame award in person, and his fellow surgeon Jeffrey Kramer, MD, gave a beautiful tribute in presenting the posthumous award to Dr. Reed’s son, a veterinarian.

I learned president and CEO of the health system, Bob Page, likes to write his own material and then will even follow some of it from the podium (ha). He, too, gave an impassioned (smooth, off-the-cuff) speech about honoree Greg Graves, who has been as much of an advocate of The University of Kansas Health System as anyone, fundraising, cheerleading or otherwise.

I could go on. But blog posts are like awards dinners. Wrap it up, leaving them wanting more (too late?).

So, saying goodnight, I’ll conclude with these other things I learned:

  • No one tells a patient story like Tammy Peterman.
  • These things really are better in person if possible. I know many organizations raised more money during the pandemic because it was all online. But I humbly submit that wouldn’t have lasted. Seeing each other is the real joy of the evening.
  • If gratitude is the guide to good living, the 2022 Hall of Fame dinner was a smashing success because you could feel the love.

Good night. See you next year.

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