Awards, Big Rapids Hospital

Dr. Thomas Wright Receives 2020 Distinguished Physician Award

Dr. Thomas Wright

August 16, 2021

Grand Rapids, Mich., August 11, 2021–Six Spectrum Health physicians, including longtime Big Rapids Hospital physician Thomas Wright, DO, are getting their moment to shine now after last year’s Annual Distinguished Physician Society Awards Ceremony was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“Each year, we recognize an elite group of physicians who are nominated and selected by their fellow physicians at Spectrum Health,” said Darryl Elmouchi, MD, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan. “Through their words and actions every day, they live our values. The following individuals have committed themselves to improve health, inspire hope and save lives in remarkable ways through their work with patients, colleagues and students. Together, they leave a tremendous legacy of mentorship and teaching that will be passed down to multiple generations of physicians.”

Dr. Wright, who retired in 2020, was nominated by Big Rapids physician, Chris Skinner, MD.

“Tom has been a blessing and a gift to the Big Rapids community for over 20 years,” Dr. Skinner said in his nomination.

Dr. Wright served as a Spectrum Health Big Rapids Family Medicine physician and a regional primary care team leader.

He also developed Hope House, a free medical clinic in Big Rapids for those uninsured and with limited access to health care.

“I can think back on the couple of decades I spent in Big Rapids as some of the best of my career,” Dr. Wright said. “I felt like when I joined the medical staff and community, I had an obligation to leave it in a little better shape then I found it – and I hope I’ve been able to do that.”

In a series of online tributes and acceptance speeches, the videos highlight the extraordinary contributions made by each physician in patient care, as well as dedicated service to Spectrum Health.

The 2020 recipients are:

Thomas Wright, DO, Family Medicine [video]

Nominated and introduced by Chris Skinner, MD, Hospitalist

Dr. Wright has been giving back to the Big Rapids community for more than 20 years, first as family medicine physician then as the regional primary care team leader. When he saw the need for providing care to those who were uninsured or didn’t have access, he developed the Hope House, a free medical clinic in Big Rapids. It stands as one of his greatest legacies to the community.

Emeritus Lifetime Achievement Award: Larry Robson, MD, Vascular Surgery [video]

Nominated and introduced by M. Ashraf Mansour, MD, Vascular Surgery

The first formal vascular surgeon in Grand Rapids, Dr. Robson is considered a pioneer who established this specialty in West Michigan. Now retired, he was a master surgeon recognized throughout Michigan and the Midwest. Many surgeons who trained under him continue to be guided by his techniques and teachings. Dr. Robson grew up in Grand Rapids and returned to give back generously to his community.

 Barbara Wynn, MD, Emergency Medicine [video]

Nominated and introduced by Kenneth Johnson, MD, Emergency Medicine

Dr. Wynn is defined by resiliency. She completed her Emergency Medicine training in Chicago and forged her own trail at a time when she was one of few women in her field. Her legacy includes establishing the SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) program that connects sexual assault patients with the YWCA for treatment of physical, mental and emotional needs.

Jeri Kessenich, MD, Pediatric Hospitalist [video]

Nominated and introduced by Dominic Sanfilippo, MD, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine

Dr. Kessenich defines compassion. Throughout her career, she has provided excellent patient care by leading with her heart. A master clinician, educator and mentor, she is founding director of Spectrum Health’s hospitalist fellowship. She has dedicated 26 years to pediatric patients at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital as well as children in Haiti through her mission work.

John Visser, MD, Neurology [video]

Nominated and introduced by Timothy Thoits, MD, Neurology

When he started at Butterworth Hospital, Dr. Visser ‘took call’ every other night and every other weekend for seven years, covering Butterworth Hospital, Blodgett Hospital, Saint Mary’s, Mary Free Bed and Kent Community, for adult and pediatric neurology. His residents, known as ‘Dr. Visser residents,’ have been the envy of their peers. He continues to provide exceptional care to his patients and make significant contributions within the health system.

Leslie (Les) Wong, MD, Hand and Microvascular Surgery [video]

Nominated and introduced by Brandon Wong, MD, Pediatric Anesthesiology

A native of Jamaica, Dr. Wong came to the U.S. after medical school for his surgery training. In West Michigan, he found a welcoming community and fit right in with the team at Butterworth Hospital. Dr. Wong has continued to share his surgery expertise through teaching.

Since 1997, the Distinguished Physician Society has recognized 104 active and retired physicians with 20-plus years of service for their clinical practice and leadership.


About Spectrum Health

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system that provides care and coverage, comprising 31,000+ team members, 14 hospitals (including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital), a robust network of care facilities, teams of nationally recognized doctors and providers, and the nation’s third-largest provider-sponsored health plan, Priority Health, currently serving over 1 million members across the state of Michigan.


People are at the heart of everything we do. Locally governed and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we are focused on our mission: to improve health, inspire hope and save lives. Spectrum Health has a legacy of strong community partnerships, philanthropy and transparency. Through experience, innovation and collaboration, we are reimagining a better, more equitable model of health and wellness.