DES MOINES – Don Ortman knows Promise Community Health Center.
The 48-year-old principal at Rock Valley Elementary School has been actively involved every step of the way since a steering committee was formed to study if there was a need to establish a community health center in northwest Iowa – a few years before Promise even opened its doors in July 2008 in downtown Sioux Center. He has been on the Promise board ever since.
For his longtime, outstanding contributions to Promise, Ortman was awarded the 2016 Carl Kulczyk Memorial Award by the Iowa Primary Care Association on Tuesday during its annual conference in Des Moines. The award was established in recognition of Kulczyk’s contributions to the Iowa PCA and the community health field prior to his death in 2008.
|Don Ortman, who has served as a Promise Community Health|
Center board member during its entire history, was awarded
Iowa Primary Care Association's Carl Kulczyk Memorial Award
for 2016 on Tuesday, Oct. 18, during its annual conference.
“I’m very humbled, and I’m very honored,” Ortman said during his acceptance speech.
Nancy Dykstra, executive director for Promise, said Ortman always has been a passionate advocate for Promise – recognizing that many families face challenges to accessing affordable health-care services, even as basic as students in his school dealing with head lice. She noted he has positively impacted Promise in many ways, including guiding the health center through its most challenging years as board president when it did not have any state or federal funding, organizing the inaugural celebration fundraising dinner eight years ago, delivering unexpected encouraging notes and signs to boost staff morale, and leading the early marketing efforts to spread the news of what Promise could offer families. And much more.
“Don energizes every project and group he works with,” she said. “His persona is bigger than he is, and when you meet Don, you’ll know what that means. Children love his stories; parents and adults recognize the respect for all human dignity that Don conveys. He never calls attention to himself.”
In addition to connecting families to needed primary health care and other essential services at Promise, Dykstra added that Ortman has impacted his community in many other ways. A few examples: He was one of the first to welcome immigrant families and help them find housing and essential items; he helped to lead the recovery efforts in Rock Valley after the devastating flood in 2014; he coordinates a monthly community meal.
“Don embodies the mission of community health center work,” Dykstra said. “He meets the needs of all persons in the community – wherever those persons are and whatever their situations are.”
Ortman said establishing a community health care in Sioux County was important to provide affordable and preventative care to less fortunate individuals and families and to help eliminate the barriers people have to receive the care that they need. He recognized the need to serve the growing Spanish-speaking population with translators so they could communicate with health-care providers in their own language. He noticed situations where families were being denied health care because of unpaid medical bills and where people were ending up in hospitals or emergency rooms because they weren’t receiving preventive care. In particular, he knew of a woman who could not get important preventative heart care until her 65th birthday when when she went on Medicaid. By that point, severe heart damage was already done.
|Don Ortman reminisces about his years of|
service on the Promise Community Health
Center board while accepting the Iowa
Primary Care Association's 2016 Carl
Kulczyk Memorial Award on Tuesday.
Ortman has played an integral role in overseeing Promise’s development throughout its history. He watched Promise open with state incubator funding and later become a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-alike. He saw it gain FQHC status and receive federal funding in 2012 after navigating its leanest years. He saw Promise add various services throughout the years to its initial primary medical care, including prenatal care by midwife providers, dental care, mental health care and vision/eye care.
Ortman said the yellow tin exterior of Promise’s building doesn’t reveal the beautiful facilities and services being provided on the interior to people of all income levels – not just the less fortunate and at-risk populations that Promise targets.
“Promise took a lot of energy, time, perseverance, tears, worry and prayer in the beginning,” Ortman said. “However, the appreciation and joy observed in patients, many of whom were receiving health services for the first time in their lives, was well worth it. The staff who survived the hard times – low pay, no raises, but did their job because they felt called to serve people and especially the less fortunate – has made me very invested and proud to be a board member of Promise Community Health Center. To see Promise thriving and growing the last several years has been very fulfilling, and our patients’ stories and appreciation for Promise is very gratifying, exciting and humbling.”
In the years ahead, he hopes Promise can continue to develop its relationship with the local hospitals and clinics “because they need us and we definitely need them.” As one aspect, he hopes that eventually leads the ability of Promise’s midwives to deliver babies at a birth center or being granted delivery services at local hospitals.
“We make each other better and help each other,” he said. “We are on their team. We are not their competition. We could never compete with our outstanding hospitals and clinics.”
Ortman fondly reminisces on his many years of service on Promise’s board.
“The most rewarding thing for me is trying to live out to the best of my ability the second greatest commandment of: Love thy neighbor,” he said. “I have also been blessed with many friendships I wouldn’t have had if I was not a part of the Promise family.”
And how does he assess Promise’s health right now?
“Thriving, learning and growing.”
Promise Community Health Center of Sioux Center is the only Federally Qualified Health Center serving the far northwest corner of Iowa. Promise provides medical, prenatal, dental, vision and behavioral health services. To learn more, visit www.promisechc.org and watch this video.
MORE ABOUT DON:
MORE ABOUT DON:
Don Ortman grew up in Battle Creek and graduated from high school there in 1987. He earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake in 1991. He then taught in the third and fifth grades and coached girls basketball, volleyball and track in the Griswold School District. He completed his master’s degree in school administration from Northwest Missouri State University in 1996. In 1997, he accepted the position of principal at Rock Valley Elementary School, where he has served ever since. He has received various awards, including Iowa Elementary Principal of the Year and National Distinguished Elementary Principal in 2003, Iowa Character Counts Administrator of the Year in 2005, and Iowa Reading Association Administrator of the Year in 2007. Ortman authored, “The 4th of July,” which is dedicated to the patriotic communities he has lived in.