Michael Blumhardt, nominated for the Annual VIA Award, Asante’s highest honor. His mother, Grace, had the last word: “We’re fortunate that he’s our son, but we’re blessed that he’s at Asante.”
It might be among the most challenging jobs in health care — helping critically ill patients survive. The job requires more than lifesaving medicine; it means understanding that the person in the bed is not just a case, but a human with a full life who is someone’s father, husband or son. It is, as a critical care physician puts it, “remembering that it could easily be ourselves ill in the bed, and not them.”
Michael Blumhardt, MD, understands this. Being an attending physician in the ICU is demanding in ordinary times, but it was triply so during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As patients crowded the ARRMC’s ICU, and deaths could number four or more a day, Dr. Blumhardt maintained a steady willingness to help and to keep his calm when a patient complained that COVID was “fake” just as he was put on a ventilator.
His compassion and clarity of purpose then and now have so impressed his colleague, Dani Thomas, DO, he nominated him for the Annual VIA Award, Asante’s highest honor.
“Whenever any patient is presented for admission or transfer, if they need help, the answer is yes,” he said about Dr. Blumhardt. “Regardless of the state of the rest of the ICU patients, the answer is yes. Regardless of the tragedy that has just transpired before his eyes, that he was powerless to stop, the answer is yes. Regardless of any personal stressors, the answer is yes. The answer is yes, I will help, however I am able. The answer is delivered factually. If there is an emotional overtone evident, it is one of sincere concern about the suffering of another human being.”
While professional generosity is ideal in acute care settings, it’s not always the norm, especially when a page for help with a complex medical issue goes out at 3 a.m. Dr. Blumhardt can always be counted on to be there.
“His equanimity has been a gift to each patient, each physician encounter, each nursing encounter, and the cohesive smooth functioning of the critical care service as his role has been expanded into administrative duties,” Dr. Thomas said. “It has been an example for all the ICU staff since his arrival.”
Family members who attended the Annual VIA ceremony on Nov. 1, including his parents, said that Dr. Blumhardt (to them, just “Michael”), was caring and compassionate even as a child.
“He truly is the kindest, most empathetic person, and has been since birth,” his sister Susan said.
Another sister, Robin, echoed this and added, “We are proud of Michael as a father and a man, not just as a physician.”
Four of Dr. Blumhardt’s five children were also present for the online ceremony. After thanking Dr. Thomas and all the support staff in the ICU, he directed his closing comments to his family.
“It’s not easy having an intensivist as a father or family member because our jobs are so demanding,” he said. “I feel extremely blessed and I’m blown away by the recognition today.”
In appreciation for his contributions to Asante’s Values, Dr. Blumhardt was given a charcuterie box, flowers, badge backer, gift card and personalized crystal award.
His mother, Grace, had the last word: “We’re fortunate that he’s our son, but we’re blessed that he’s at Asante.”