MARSHFIELD – Visionary. The Clinic's conscience. Trustworthy.
These words were used to describe Greg Nycz, director of Family Health Center of Marshfield, Inc. (FHC).
Nycz, who has spent his entire 42-year career at Marshfield Clinic, was honored Wednesday, Dec. 10, with the Heritage Award.
Marshfield Clinic's Heritage Foundation was established in 1997 to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the community in government, civic leadership, education, medicine, law or business. This Foundation annually presents an award to an individual who has made a difference.
Previous winners include former congressman and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, former governors Tommy Thompson and Lee Sherman Dreyfus, retired congressman Dave Obey, and former Marshfield Clinic leaders and researchers Robert Froehlke, Dr. George Magnin, Dr. Russell Lewis, Dr. Dean Emanuel and James Weber, Ph.D.
Nycz was honored for his decades of service bringing health care to people who have difficulty accessing it.
"This is the most treasured award I could ever get," Nycz told the 75 friends, family members and colleagues attending. "The celebration of this award shouldn't be about me; it should be about all of us. It took this special institution."
Nycz came to the Clinic in 1972 as a biostatistician for Marshfield Medical Foundation, Inc., (MMF), now Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation (MCRF). He's also held roles as a data comptroller, director of Information Systems for MMF, director of Health Systems Research Department and the Clinic's Health Policy director.
Nycz has been a champion for health care equity.
As FHC director, he has fostered collaborations and forged relationships with Clinic leaders, state and national stakeholders to improve and sustain access to health care for all, regardless of social or economic circumstances. The creation of nine FHC dental centers that provide oral health services annually to nearly 50,000 people, most of who are uninsured or publicly insured, is a key example.
He also has worked with University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health's Partnership Education and Research Committee, National Institutes of Health Directors' Council of Public Representatives, National Association of Community Health Centers and Wisconsin Primary Care Association.
"He's a visionary for providing health care in this country," said retired Clinic President Dr. Richard Leer, who was the event's master of ceremonies.
The award ceremony speakers included John Schmelzer, Ph.D., MCRF associate research scientist; Donna Friedsam, UW Population Health Institute; Obey and Nycz's son, Eric.
Friedsam first worked with Nycz in the 1990s with the Primary Health Care Association. She recalled when health centers received a small boost in federal funding during the recession but it wasn't enough to make a significant difference on its own. Nycz convinced other health centers to pool the funds, got the state to match the investment and leveraged private sector support to create a program that extended care for the working uninsured.
"We're all trying to solve difficult challenges," Friedsam said. "Lucky for us, Greg is usually the smartest guy in the room."
Nycz was gracious in receiving the award and thanked his family and the many people he's worked with the past four decades. He received a golden shovel as a tribute, an appropriate memento since he's also a master gardener and takes pride in his large gardens.
Nycz he said the work is nowhere close to being done.
"If we unleash the potential of this great Clinic, our research and education capabilities, Security Health Plan of Wisconsin, Inc., Lakeview Medical Center and other partner organizations, we have the potential for a bright future," Nycz said.
The Marshfield Clinic system provides patient care, research and education in more than 50 locations in northern, central and western Wisconsin, making it one of the largest comprehensive medical systems in the United States.