West Virginia has lost a true medical treasure. Dr. Mike Lewis died with peace and dignity at the Hubbard Hospice House in Charleston, where he received compassionate comfort measures for his end-of-life care. This is reflective of his dynamic medical career advocating for hospice services and end-of-life care through advanced directives. Mike was beloved by his wife, Mino, daughters Beth and Tana, six grandchildren, immediate family members, friends, colleagues and patients.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said that he and his wife, Joanne, were deeply saddened by Mike's death. "Throughout his career, he was a kind, compassionate health-care advocate who dedicated his life to the health of all West Virginians. We are grateful for his service to the people of West Virginia," Tomblin said. Well, that just about says it all.
A rural Raleigh County native and distinguished family physician, Mike resigned as the state Department of Health and Human Resources cabinet secretary for health reasons a little more than a year ago. Mike headed the agency for 18 months. During his all-too-short tenure at DHHR, he developed significant priorities to target major health issues facing West Virginia residents.
In his DHHR letter of resignation to the governor last year, Mike expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve West Virginia. "My life has come full circle, from the chronically-ill child raised in southern West Virginia in need of health care to heading the department responsible for delivery of the same," he wrote. "Serving West Virginia has been the greatest honor of my life."
As I observed in a column for the Sunday Gazette-Mail on June 24, 2012, "It seems like Mike was preparing for the DHHR cabinet secretary position during his entire medical career. With his degree from the WVU School of Medicine, he also served there as Chairman of the Department of Family Medicine, Associate Dean of the Charleston Division and Associate Vice President for Health Sciences. He also was the Director of Graduate Medical Education at CAMC, Board Member of the WVU Hospitals/United Health System, and Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences at the Higher Education Policy Commission."
However, that work was only a small segment of his outstanding career as a family doctor, in which his primary focus was on quality patient care. As a close personal friend for 30 years, I know Mike touched so many lives through his exemplary medical career, including service as a primary care physician in private practice, medical school and university health program management, state governmental administration, and work with free clinics.
His stethoscope on the pulse of each of us and all things health care will be missed on Earth by family, friends, colleagues and patients, but his spirit will remain here everlasting.Stevens is president of Government Relations Specialists, a Charleston health consulting firm specializing in hospital and medical services. He can be reached at Stevens...@aol.com.