February 8, 2021

Taking action to fight COVID-19

Paul Waldron, MD, and Scott Young, MD, are recognized for their work to quickly address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul Waldron, MD, and Scott Young, MD, receive the 2021 George Halvorson Community Health Leadership Award

In recognition of their bold actions in response to COVID-19, Paul Waldron, MD, and Scott Young, MD, received the George Halvorson Community Health Leadership Award. The award honors exemplary leadership in advancing Kaiser Permanente’s mission to improve the health of the communities we serve.

In April 2020, Dr. Waldron saw a young, previously healthy patient die in the intensive care unit from COVID-19. At the time, there were no proven treatments, and he believed the only thing that could have saved his patient was never having contracted COVID-19 in the first place. “I wanted to stop COVID-19 in its tracks,” recalled Dr. Waldron, an infectious disease physician at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose.

Dr. Young has also seen his share of tragedies and disasters up close. In addition to his service as a U.S. Navy flight surgeon, he worked in Washington, D.C., during 9/11 and was later deployed to New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Based on his experience with crises, Dr. Young knew that dealing with COVID-19 required quick action.

“You can’t be paralyzed by the size of the problem,” said Dr. Young, senior medical director for quality at The Permanente Federation, and executive director for Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute. “You have to rapidly move to support the front lines.”

Honoring exemplary leadership

Dr. Waldron and his team recognized the importance of contact tracing, so they launched an initiative in San Jose to reduce the spread of COVID-19. “We knew we had an opportunity as trusted health care providers to aid in contact-tracing efforts by contacting our members who had COVID-19 in a timely fashion to ensure they were tested and isolating effectively,” said Dr. Waldron, who credits his team with making the contact-tracing pilot possible.

A global pandemic is the greatest challenge of our lifetime. You don’t stop until this thing is solved.

“As is true in this pandemic, infectious diseases disproportionately affect the marginalized in our society,” Dr. Waldron said. “Practicing infectious disease is a chance to promote justice and equity, and care for those who need it most.”

Dr. Young led several of the organization’s key pandemic response efforts, such as creating pandemic reporting and forecasting capability and reports and developing national working groups focused on supporting clinical care. Like Dr. Waldron, he also championed incorporating health equity into Kaiser Permanente’s COVID-19 response.

“Being part of the COVID-19 response has been deeply moving,” said Dr. Young. “The teams I’ve worked with have been heroic and selfless, working 7 days a week for months and sometimes isolating themselves from family. A global pandemic is the greatest challenge of our lifetime. You don’t stop until this thing is solved.

Donations to further support community health

The award, named after former Kaiser Permanente chairman and CEO George Halvorson, provides recipients with $10,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.

Dr. Waldron chose to split the award among 3 local nonprofits that provide essential health services for underserved populations: AACI (Asian Americans for Community Involvement), the Roots Community Health Center South Bay Clinic in San Jose, and the Indian Health Center of the Santa Clara Valley.

As a veteran himself, Dr. Young’s charity of choice was Team Rubicon, an organization formed by 2 veterans who help military veterans and first responders rapidly deploy emergency response teams.  They are currently helping to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines across the United States.