Willis Heck and eight other Kansas hospital trustees recognized

Chad Frey
The Kansan

When Willis Heck of Newton suffered a heart attack in 2017, he knew just where to turn. Being a member of the board of then Newton Medical Center (Now NMC Health) he knew when he wasn't feeling well that NMC was where to go. 

This week, Willis Heck was named the 2021 Trustee of the Year by the Kansas Hospital Association — about five years after he suffered a heart attack and went through therapy at NMC.

After surgery to place a stent to open the blocked artery, Heck was soon on the road to recovery. One of his initial steps along that road was a visit to f NMC’s cardiac rehabilitation program.

Halfway through his regimen, Heck has found that the cardiac rehab at NMC is serving him well, consistent with the rest of his experience at the hospital — and his expectation as a board member.

“The nurses and other staff members are always there (for patients) which is very important when you’re in the hospital,” he said. “They’re very willing to answer questions and share information. From ER to ICU to surgery, and then discharge and rehab, the care was excellent.”

This week, Heck was named the 2021 Trustee of the Year by the Kansas Hospital Association. 

Based on the recommendation from a committee of KHA member CEOs and hospital trustees, the KHA Board of Directors named Heck  as the 2021 Trustee of the Year out of a group of nine nominees.

A donation will be given to the NMC Health Initiatives Fund in his honor.

Heck, retired educator from Newton and Parsons, served on the then Newton Medical Center – now NMC Health Board of Directors for 19 years in two interrupted terms.

"Willis is known for being a great listener, for gathering critical information in advance, and avoiding the temptation to stand in support or opposition until he gets all the facts – traits invaluable to a contemporary hospital board," wrote Chad Austin, CEO of the KHA in a statement. "Above all, he understands how to work with other people to get things done. He has an uncanny IQ for gaining cooperation and consensus-building. He is detail-oriented and does not lose sight of the big picture; therefore, emerging trends do not catch him by surprise."

In addition to his service at NMC Health, Heck  has served KHA on the KHA Hospital Leadership and Governance Committee.

He said he believes this committee is essential because it shapes the knowledge base for Kansas hospital trustees. He was part of this committee when it initiated its "Kansas governWell" project.

"The educator-at-heart in him understood the importance of adding intellectual and practical tools for hospital trustees and for co-locating it in an easy-to-use online environment," Austin said.  "Through his years of work on the KHA Leadership and Governance Committee, he has helped to ensure that trustees for every Kansas hospital have resources available to them. And he further helped to ensure trustees would have an annual educational conference devoted to the issues and concerns that face all hospitals."

 Heck and the other eight trustee nominees will be recognized during a KHA Awards Ceremony on Oct. 27. Congratulations to all nine of these exemplary trustees.

Hospitals across the state nominated individuals for the Trustee of the Year Award "because they routinely went above and beyond the call of duty." Nine trustees from hospitals and health systems across Kansas were nominated as Trustees of the Year:

•             Joe Barnes, Smith County Memorial Hospital, Smith Center

•             Matt Floersch, Ascension Via Christi Hospital Manhattan, Inc., Manhattan

•             Michael Flores, Ascension Via Christi Hospitals Wichita, Inc., Wichita

•             Willis Heck, NMC Health, Newton

•             Phil Jarred, Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center, Chanute

•             Jesse Luckie, Ashland Health Center, Ashland

•             Jim Parrish, Stormont Vail Health, Topeka

•             Judith Reynolds, Rush County Memorial Hospital, La Crosse

•             Jessie Wyrill, Phillips County Health Systems, Phillipsburg

The Kansas Hospital Association is a voluntary, non-profit organization existing to be the leading advocate and resource for members. KHA membership includes 232 member facilities, of which 123 are full-service, community hospitals. Founded in 1910, KHA’s vision is Optimal Health for Kansans.