Citing his consistent support for Wisconsin’s hospitals and health systems in the public policy arena, WHA has named State Senator Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) the winner of the 2020 Health Care Advocate of the Year award. While the award is usually presented at WHA’s Advocacy Day in front of more than 1,000 health care supporters, this year’s award was presented virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. WHA Board member and Children’s Wisconsin President and CEO Peggy Troy presented the award via Zoom.
“Dale’s experience and passion for high-quality care has made him a critical and effective partner for hospitals, health systems and for WHA,” Troy said as she presented the award. “[His] work this year on telehealth reform is the most recent example – though certainly not the only one – of how Dale uses his role as a state lawmaker to improve our hospitals’ ability to have the very best care for our patients.”
Sen. Kooyenga is the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. He also chairs the Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families, and serves on other committees related to education, elections and ethics. He is also personally connected to health care – his wife, Jennifer, is a nurse, and his mother was a pediatric oncology nurse.
While accepting the award. Sen. Kooyenga noted that those special connections to health care give him an important perspective on how hospitals and health systems are vital to local communities.
“I feel like what’s missing right now in politics on both sides is this concept of empathy – the concept of ‘put yourself in their place,’” Sen. Kooyenga said. “And I think that health care is in the role where you really put yourself in the place of individuals who don’t have insurance, individuals that don’t have the right care. I know you as hospitals are constantly trying to balance it out, performing high quality care [while] making sure we’re providing a broad blanket of care that makes sure we’re not leaving anyone behind,” Sen. Kooyenga said.
Troy reiterated how Sen. Kooyenga’s advocacy for updating the state’s telehealth laws helps hospitals and health systems provide more care to a wider population – especially during the current pandemic.
“As we’ve been in the COVID environment, the value of telehealth care been just unimaginable,” Troy said. “And because of this bill, we’re able to do it in a much more comprehensive and effective way. So, Senator Kooyenga, just know that you’ve had a huge impact, particularly in the last four months.”
WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding also lauded Kooyenga for his analytical approach on policy issues important to Wisconsin’s health care system.
“Senator Kooyenga’s ability to understand and act upon issues important to hospitals is greatly appreciated,” WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding said. “This award is for someone who is a true citizen legislator – someone who understands how important it is to support the nation-leading health care for which Wisconsin is so well-known.”
“You can count me as an ally,” Sen. Kooyenga said. “So thanks again for the award. It’s truly an honor and I look forward to working with you in the future.”
First elected to the State Assembly in 2010, Kooyenga served four two-year terms in the lower house. He then won a four-year term to the State Senate in 2018. In 2005, Kooyenga enlisted in the United States Army alongside his two brothers and was later called up to service in Iraq. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. He remains a member of the United States Army Reserve where he serves as a Major. He and Jennifer have four children.