Healthcare Advocates Honored with MHA Special Recognition Award

The MHA announced two winners of its Special Recognition Award during the Annual Membership Meeting June 29, recognizing them for extensive contributions to healthcare. Each of the winners has uniquely influenced healthcare in Michigan. The winners include Elizabeth Hertel, director, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), and Natasha Bagdasarian, MD, MPH, FIDSA, chief medical executive, state of Michigan.

Elizabeth Hertel was a critical part of Michigan’s COVID response, leading work to expand hospital resources, gain access to the COVID-19 vaccine for Michigan residents and assuring equitable distribution and issuing public health orders. She was appointed MDHHS director January 2021, which followed an extensive healthcare and policy career, including time spent with MDHHS, Trinity Health Michigan, the Michigan House Republican Policy Office and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Elizabeth Hertel, director, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), with MHA CEO Brian Peters and Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Hertel’s experience proved vital during a challenging time of the pandemic when most of Michigan’s population had yet to receive access to the COVID-19 vaccine and establish any immunity against severe disease. She played a large role in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to hospitals, health systems and other healthcare providers to distribute during the spring of 2021. The issuing of public health orders also played a part in changing public behavior to slow the rate of infection, particularly during times when hospitals experienced surges of patients for sustained time periods.

The MHA and member hospitals and health systems received open lines of communication with Hertel and members of her executive staff throughout the pandemic, proving crucial in providing hospital leadership and crisis command teams with the appropriate information about changing policy and regulatory issues, which allowed clinical teams to effectively focus on patient care.

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian was also instrumental in the state’s COVID response after being named the Chief Medical Executive in October 2021. Since her appointment, she has been an important partner for hospital clinical leaders, maintaining strong engagement with the MHA and clinicians on a regular basis throughout multiple COVID-19 surges. She helped lead development of the state’s clinical strategy and mitigation efforts including testing, masking, isolation and quarantine. She also developed the state’s “Response, Recovery, Readiness” cycle and guidance for schools and other organizations, as well as consulted on COVID-19 testing programs that helped Michiganders access over-the-counter testing.

Prior to her current role, Dr. Bagdasarian oversaw the COVID-19 testing strategy for the state and helped bring rapid testing technologies to vulnerable populations while serving the State of Michigan in the role of Senior Public Health Physician. Since early 2020, she has also served as a consultant/technical advisor for the World Health Organization, providing guidance on outbreak preparedness and COVID-19.

Natasha Bagdasarian, MD, MPH, FIDSA, chief medical executive for the state of Michigan, with MHA CEO Brian Peters and Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Dr. Bagdasarian is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in both Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases and is a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Besides her work in Michigan, she has worked in Singapore and Bangladesh and has over 40 publications on topics in infectious diseases and public health. She has held teaching appointments at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and the National University of Singapore and is currently an Adjunct Clinical Professor in Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Unvaccinated residents filling Michigan hospitals, getting hospitalized for COVID


As Michigan continues to record high numbers of COVID-19 cases, new data from the Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) proves that the majority of Michigan residents severely sick with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and MHA are pleading with residents to get vaccinated for their own health, the safety of Michigan’s health care personnel, and to avoid additional strain on health care systems that are already stretched and struggling to respond.

“The data is clear: if you are unvaccinated, you are risking hospitalization or death,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “We have a safe and effective vaccine that is quite literally saving lives. Michigan residents absolutely need to get vaccinated to keep their loved ones safe this holiday.”

Based on recent data from most Michigan health systems, MHA has found that three out of four COVID patients are unvaccinated (76%), 87% of COVID ICU patients are unvaccinated and 88% of COVID ventilator patients are unvaccinated.

“Michigan’s health care systems are stretched beyond their limits – so much so that the U.S. Department of Defense is providing clinical staffing support to hospitals throughout the state that are operating at capacity, delaying nonemergency medical procedures and placing their emergency departments on diversion,” said Brian Peters, CEO of MHA. “This data confirms what the situation in our hospitals is already telling us: get vaccinated, whether it is your first dose, vaccination for your children or a booster dose.”

Michigan’s number of hospitalized COVID-19 cases reached a new high this week, with 4,291 patients hospitalized. Recently, Michigan reached 70% of residents 16 and older who have received their first vaccine dose, but cases are surging in the unvaccinated population.

MDHHS is monitoring for the COVID-19 omicron variant which has not been detected in the state. Residents are advised that the presence of variants makes it even more important to get vaccinated, including the booster doses to increase protection, wear masks, and take other precautions.

In addition to getting vaccinated and wearing masks – particularly indoors and in crowded areas – other things people can do to protect themselves and their loved ones include:

  • Getting tested for COVID-19, especially before gatherings.
  • Physically distancing from others and avoiding crowds
  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water and cleaning hands with alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Self-isolating until you recover if you develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.

MDHHS has issued a public health advisory that all Michiganders, regardless of vaccination status, should wear a mask in indoor public settings and those who are not fully vaccinated or who are immunocompromised should avoid large crowds or gatherings.