If a physician were to make house calls, one could say Dr. Scott Sasser is at home all over the world. Treating patients from around the globe, he calls his work “missional,” and nowadays, from his post at Prisma Health, he leads the community fight against the coronavirus.
That’s why the Community Foundation of Greenville honors Sasser with its annual Healthcare Transformation Award—recognition, he says, that belongs more to Prisma Health and the region’s entire healthcare system than it does to him.
“This is a community award; it’s everybody coming together in a whole community response to this,” says Sasser, CEO of Prisma Health Medical Group and, until recently, physician incident commander for Prisma Health’s COVID-19 response.
Among the team’s aggressive—and early—moves: working to ensure supplies of personal protective equipment, or PPE; pivoting from in-person doctor visits to virtual ones (nearly 400,000 to date); forming a task force with university and business partners to meet front-line challenges; participating in clinical trials on COVID-19 treatments, which the FDA approved for emergency use; and testing nearly 200,000 people so far, according to Dr. Angelo Sinopoli, executive vice president and chief clinical officer of Prisma Health.
“Dr. Sasser was unwavering that ‘if vulnerable individuals cannot come to us for testing, we are taking the test sites to them,’” says Mark O’Halla, Prisma Health’s president and CEO, of Sasser’s initial response to the pandemic. “Those are the words of a true community steward.”
In 2014, Prisma Health hired Sasser as the inaugural chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, and Sasser is a clinical professor of emergency medicine at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. He’s received funding that provided him opportunities to work with the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Institutes of Health, among other marquee organizations here and abroad. With his background in EMS, those experiences, he says, also prepared him for crisis preparedness. The doctor has worked as a resident at a mission hospital in Kenya, worked in Abu Dhabi in the Middle East, in Prague, the Czech Republic, and with the government ministry of health in Mozambique.
“Dr. Scott Sasser is a true community steward and a transformational leader with tremendous passion for our patients and our community. His drive to do what is right for those he serves is relentless, with the patient at the center of everything he does.”
—Mark O’Halla, president and CEO, Prisma Health
“Dr. Sasser brings internationally recognized expertise right here to Greenville,” says Dr. Matt Bitner, the current chair of emergency medicine for Prisma Health in the Upstate, who adds, “You can always count on him to listen.”
“Amid multiple demands,” says Dr. Christy Keyes, who works in Prisma Health’s emergency departments, “he can give you his full attention and focus. In doing so, when he makes people feel heard, he also makes them feel respected and cared for.”
Dr. Jim Ellis, an emergency medicine colleague who is president of the Prisma Health Medical Group in the Midlands, hails Dr. Sasser’s deep-seated virtues: “He has a sense of humor while leading in an open, honest, and transparent way, showing vulnerability that most leaders are afraid to reveal.”