Olson honored with Community Health Service Award

Sanford Vermillion Hospital CEO Tim Tracy joins the banquet crowd in applauding Dr. Mary Jo Olson, the recipient of the 2011 Community Health Service Award. (Photo by David Lias)

Sanford Vermillion Hospital CEO Tim Tracy notes that throughout the history of the Great Plains, people have always depended on a reliable country doctor a character similar to Doc of the television show Gunsmoke, to provide a wide variety of medical services.

Vermillion is fortunate, he said, to be served by such a dedicated physician.

Mary Jo (Olson) is our modern version of the country doctor, Tracy said, shortly before presenting Olson with the 2011 Community Health Service Award at the Dakota Hospital Foundation Community Leadership Dinner, held May 18 in the Muenster University Center on the University of South Dakota campus.

She is always available, she has an infectious smile, she has a compassion that just runs deep, he said, and shes completely dedicated to her patients.

Tracy said Olson was instrumental in re-establishing Sanford Vermillion Medical Center as a regional presence a place where people look when they are in a time of need. She, like many of the other physicians, works very long and hard, wearing hours that are really needed when you provide primary care in a rural setting.

Primary medical care, he said, is Olsons calling. Sanford Vermillion truly is her place. Mary Jo started with us in August of 2000, and prior to that we were delivering less than 60 newborns a year here in Vermillion. In 2010, that number has nearly doubled, and it continues to rise because of Mary Jo and her partners.

They continue to raise the level of expectations, Tracy said. Mary Jo has been instrumental in creating a family birthing experience, all the way from conception through and beyond the birthing process. She welcomes those she serves and provides individual attention to each and every family.

Olson creates an environment, Tracy said, where excellence is expected.

She inspires those around her through her personal accountability and her demonstrated performance, he said. Mary Jo is our country doctor; theres no question about that in my mind. She does all thats necessary to insure health care access to everyone in need.

Tracy projected a video of on the screens of the MUC banquet hall, in which the Vermillion physician simply talks to the camera, explaining to the audience why she loves her work.

I think the most rewarding part of my practice is helping people, trying to make them feel better, finding a diagnosis or illness, giving them treatment, she said. Its also very satisfactory for me to deliver babies and bring new life into the world.

My patient philosophy is to always listen to the patient, and involve them in their care, Olson said.

Olson grew up on a farm near Gary. Mary Jos father, Kenneth, worked as a farmer and construction worker. Her mother, Avis, was the business manager at Gary School District.

Olson completed her undergraduate studies at the South Dakota State University. She received her medical degree from the University of South Dakota School of Medicine and completed her residency through the Sioux Falls Family Practice Residency program. She serves as a clinical associate professor for the University of South Dakota School of Medicine and Physician Assistant Program and is a preceptor for students.

She began her practice at Sanford Clinic Vermillion in 2000.

Olson is a member of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Vermillion and serves on the Trinity Health Cabinet Ministry. She is a member of the Hand Bell Choir at United Church of Christ Congregational, and also a member of PEO, Chapter E in Vermillion.

Olson has served on a number of medical staff and clinical committees in her time at Sanford Vermillion as well as holding the position of chief of staff for one term. She is currently clinic medical director and hospice medical director.

Olson serves on the Sanford School of Medicine Alumni Relations Council and is a member of the USD Alumni Foundation. She also serves on the Sanford Health Board of Governors.

Olsons husband Dennis, of 35 years, is a self-employed carpenter. They have two grown daughters. When not making rounds or seeing patients, Olson enjoys growing flowers, camping, skiing, and riding her Harley.

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