A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy who flew Air Force cargo planes for seven years, Dave Kapaska earned his master’s of business administration degree from Southern Illinois University and worked for Mobil Chemical Company in sales. He then “got this crazy idea to go to medical school.”
With the encouragement of his wife, Mary Ann, he applied and was accepted by the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences, now DMU. The couple packed up their three young children and moved from California to Des Moines.
“We found a welcoming community of students,” Mrs. Kapaska says. “It was almost an instant family.”
Dr. Kapaska practiced family medicine in Ankeny and Sac City, IA, his hometown, but his military leadership experience and business degree expanded the scope of his career. In 1999 he became senior vice president and chief medical officer at Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center in Sioux Falls, SD, where he helped initiate and implement Avera’s “e-ICU Care,” which connects critical care experts to rural hospitals and allows patients to get care in their communities instead of being transferred to larger urban hospitals. That’s critical to Avera Health, which provides inpatient, outpatient assisted living and nursing home services to people in five Midwestern states, many in rural areas.
“I loved patient care, but when I got to looking five, 10, 15 years ahead, I got excited about what was possible,” he says. “Why not take care of 100 patients at a time instead of just one at a time?”
Dr. Kapaska retired in 2017 as regional president and chief executive officer of Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center, but he’s still excited about innovations in health care. As a member of DMU’s Board of Trustees since 2017, he’s also engaged in guiding the education that future health care professionals will receive. He and Mary Ann are excited about how the Campaign for Des Moines University will advance that education at DMU.
“Two things come to mind regarding the campaign: appreciation and possibilities,” he says. “I appreciate the education I got at the University and the opportunities that were made available to me as a result. The possibilities are what we can do at DMU for our students in innovative medical education, patient care delivery and research.”