AMA Medal of Valor goes for Texas doctor’s Hurricane Harvey service

Sara Berg, MS , Senior News Writer

When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas as a Category 4 storm in 2017, clinical anesthesiologist G. Ray Callas, MD, worked without rest to help those affected. His outstanding efforts earned him the AMA Medal of Valor. The award is given to an AMA member who demonstrates courage under extraordinary circumstances in nonwartime situations. 

Dr. Callas, from Beaumont, Texas, was one of seven physicians and others honored at the 2018 AMA Interim Meeting in National Harbor, Maryland.

“Dr. Callas selflessly put the safety and comfort of his patients and neighbors before all else, working with hospitals and emergency-response teams to secure transportation to functioning hospitals for struggling patients,” said AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, MD. “But his tireless work extended beyond medicine and logistics as he also spent days cooking and serving food at a local restaurant while homes were evacuated for flooding.”

In addition to his work in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Callas competed in Dancing with the Stars Beaumont to raise money for community charities. He is also the president of the Texas Society of Anesthesiologists and previously served as chair of the Texas Medical Association’s Council on Legislation.

Medical society executives honored

The AMA presented other awards at the 2018 AMA Interim Meeting. Six honorees received the AMA’s Medical Executive Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to medical association executives who made substantial contributions to the goals and ideals of the medical profession.

One of the awards went to another standout in medicine, recognized in part for his work in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Greg Bernica, CEO of the Harris County Medical Society (HCMS), led the HCMS response during Hurricane Harvey by reaching out to Harris County physicians to support one of the largest shelters in Houston. He also helped to secure 400 physician volunteers who worked 2,500 hours and treated more than 4,000 patients after the hurricane. HCMS is the largest county medical society in the United States, where Bernica has served for 35 years, 27 as CEO.

Here is more information about the other five recipients of this award.

Paul S. Sanders, MD, executive director of the North Central Medical Conference in Minnesota: With more than 45 years in medicine, Dr. Sanders has always focused on improving the health of patients and the medical profession. He served for 13 years as CEO of the Minnesota Medical Association, also served as president of the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians.

Susan Hogeland, executive vice president of the California Academy of Family Physicians: Her work touched on vital topics such as AIDS, needle exchanges, hepatitis B vaccinations and disaster preparedness after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. Hogeland’s advocacy work extends to the AMA House of Delegates, Sacramento and as far as Capitol Hill.

Gordon H. Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association (MMA): Smith tirelessly traveled across Maine teaching the new legal standards for opioid prescribing in numerous forms. With nearly 40 years of service, he has been a constant collaborator with medical societies across New England and the country. During his tenure he:

  • Put in place an innovative group membership model to grow MMA.
  • Served as a founding board member of Maine Quality Counts, a statewide health care quality improvement collaborative organization.
  • Participated in developing what is now the Daniel Hanley Center for Health Leadership, an organization dedicated to enhancing the leadership skills of Maine physicians.

Alfred Gilchrist, chief executive officer of the Colorado Medical Society: In his 39 years of executive leadership in Colorado and Texas, Gilchrist has guided, grown and advocated for the medical profession daily. He is a leader, strategist, team builder and advocate for patients and medicine.

Gilchrist also successfully advocated Medicaid expansion and the stabilization of medical liability climates. He was also instrumental in the defeat of insurance mergers that would have harmed patients and physicians alike, and played a critical role in securing grants and funding to improve care and ensure public health, including $1.5 million for pandemic flu preparedness.

Stuart Samuel Friedman, former executive director of the Suffolk County Medical Society (SCMS): For more than 25 years, Friedman led the SCMS by encouraging membership and engagement, facilitating face-to-face meetings with legislators, and by mentoring and challenging the next generation of leaders. Under his leadership, SCMS became the first county medical society in New York to establish institutional membership for hospital medical staff.

Friedman also initiated legislative breakfasts for physicians to discuss policies and needs with legislators of Suffolk County. He also led the charge on bringing physicians to Albany to discuss critical health policy issues with their representatives.