1/18/2015 8:42:00 PM Dr. Witt is Goodhue County citizen of the year
by Mike Dalton
Dr. Tom Witt, president and CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, Lake City and Red Wing, has been named Goodhue County Citizen of the Year by the Goodhue County Editorial Association.
Witt was honored at a surprise luncheon at the Cannon Falls facility on Wednesday, Jan. 7, which was attended by family, staff members, local board members, and representatives of the Cannon Falls, Kenyon, Zumbrota and Red Wing newspapers.
He came to Mayo Clinic Health System in 1997, and practiced in North Dakota, Washington and Red Wing as a partner in Interstate Medical Center.
Witt, a native of New Prague, received his undergraduate degree from St. John's University and his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School. He completed his residency training at the University of North Dakota Family Medicine Center in Bismarck.
When Dr. Witt started in Red Wing in 1986, paperwork after a patient visit took all of five minutes. "The amount of clerical work being asked of physicians has growned tremendously," he said. "At the same time, you need to maintain good patient contact. Physicians are more dependent on the team around them, and that's good."
That team will be the key to continued care in rural communities, Witt said. "Nurse practitioners and physician's assistants will be part of the solution," he said. "They are an extension of care."
Technology will also be key to containing costs in rural areas. More visits might be done electronically, allowing for face-to-face contact without an office visit, Witt said.
"Maybe we'll go back to some sort of house calls," he said. "It's always less costly to do care in patient's home. That's where health aides and NPs might come into play.
"There aren't enough doctors," he continued. "People need to trust the care they receive from NPs and PAs. There has to be a change in the thinking of the community."
Containing health care costs is important to Witt. "The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, but is a good starting point," he said. "There needs to be a fundamental change in how we pay for health care." He alluded back to house calls: "There are things that can be taken care of by face-to-face visits, but we don't get paid for that. We have an aging demographic; we have to figure out how to meet their needs."
Witt said being a physician is the greatest job in the world. "I can't believe the number of patients and families I've been allowed to reach."
That wouldn't have been possible without the support of wife Betsy and kids Luke, Carolyn and Adam.
"A doctor's spouse needs to be flexible, but yet be careful about expectations," Betsy Witt said. "Those who stay flexible never get bent out of shape. I think I'm a good balance for Tom." All three kids recognized their mother for working alongside the doctor.
Despite working with countless patients over the years, Witt said he is most proud of seeing the construction of the new Mayo Clinic Health System facility in Cannon Falls. "I'm really proud of the community. In this day-and-age of limited resources, everyone pulled together. The collaboration with the community is very valued."