Recognizing Brother (Dr.) Robert G. Travnicek, Kansas ‘59, for his "legendary service and dedication to public health" in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi State Medical Association recently presented Brother Travnicek with its Physician Award for Community Service. His extensive study and practice of both medicine and public health helped him not only survive but lead public health emergency preparedness and response to Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This recognition honors both active practice of medicine and community service above-and-beyond the call of duty.
Katrina slammed into Hancock County, Mississippi, early on a hot August morning in 2005, the worst natural disaster ever to strike the United States. The killer storm came as the costliest hurricane of the season and one of the five deadliest in U.S. history. Among recorded hurricanes, she’s the sixth strongest to have emerged from the Atlantic.
Katrina aimed directly at the six counties Travnicek oversees as director of the Coastal Plains Public Health District, a post he’s held since 1990. According to disaster response plans, he went early to the Harrison County Emergency Operations Center; he all but lived there for the next 60 days.
The fellow physician who proposed the award called the recognition overdue in light of Katrina but apt for "a long and illustrious medical career which has spanned nearly five decades. He is a man of highest character and deserves recognition of this prestigious award."
In crediting others, Travnicek personified the strengths of his public health career: team-building and cheerleading.
Accepting the award, he said, "This gives me a chance for the first time to publicly recognize at least three of the hundreds with whom I was teamed." He lauded George Schloegel, then president of Hancock Bank and now Mayor of the City of Gulfport, Gary Marchand, CEO of Gulfport Memorial Hospital, and "finally and particularly, my long-suffering wife who as a staff nurse was in a lockdown situation at Garden Park Hospital during the storm and for two days after."
Brother Travnicek’s selfless acts not only call to mind Acacia’s motto of Human Service, but also the words of our Preamble which remind us "to take a more active part and to have a greater influence in the affairs of the community in which we reside."
We salute Brother Travnicek for exemplifying what it means to be an Acacian.