Every day, lives are saved and people get better thanks to healthcare professionals, who truly are heroes. Each year, Ingram’s Magazine recognizes local healthcare heroes. This year’s NKCH winners are Ambassador and Volunteer Len Knudston, Auxiliary Staff Achievement; Michael Montgomery, MD, Meritas Health Cardiology, Lifetime Service Achievement; and Robert Pluenneke, MD, Professional Staff Achievement.

HC Heroes_LenLen Knudtson

Len can’t walk the halls without someone asking for his bad joke of the day. He has a special gift for connecting with people, whether it’s with his humor, a smile or his outgoing personality.
Len is so enthusiastic about the patient experience that he wears two hats. He works as an Ambassador and a volunteer. Whether transporting patients or ensuring their needs are met, he makes people feel comfortable. Instead of offering directions, Len walks lost visitors to their destination, making sure they find their way.
He truly receives fulfillment in going the extra mile. “What I like most about my job is I can bring a little comfort to patients,” Len said. “If they are hurting or sick, I hope for that moment in time I can ease their pain and maybe get them to smile.”

HC Heroes_MontgomeryMichael Montgomery, MD

More than 32 years have passed since Dr. Montgomery first joined the staff. As an interventional cardiologist and the chairperson of the hospital’s Board of Trustees, Dr. Montgomery continues to serve as an inspiration to others. His commitment to the highest quality of care, compassion for his patients, leadership in healthcare and genuine concern for his community are each deserving of the highest accolades.
After graduating from the University of Kansas Medical School, Dr. Montgomery began his career in the Air Force. In 1981 he left the Air Force as a Lt. Colonel, joined the Penn Valley Medical Group in KC, and was on staff at Trinity Lutheran and NKCH. He and 4 partners formed Northland Cardiology, which became part of Meritas Health. In 2012 he was elected Chairperson of the NKCH Board of Trustees.
“Dr. Montgomery has shown extraordinary leadership,” said Peggy Schmitt, president and CEO. “His contributions to the clinical practice of cardiology, to our hospital and to our community have been transformational.”

HC Heroes_PluenekeRobert Pluenneke, MD

Early in his oncology practice, Dr. Pluenneke encountered a patient with malignant melanoma. “Another physician told her the disease was terminal,” he recalled. Dr. Pluenneke gave her specialized therapy and 18 years later, she is now in her late 80s. “She turned out to be my greatest advocate,” he said.
Dr. Pluenneke continues to build relationships with his patients, including the young mother who came to him 15 years ago with metastasized breast cancer that had spread. Using a new drug, herceptin, he steered her toward remission, where she remains. “She saw her children go off to college and continued to work full-time. She’s one of my miracle patients.”