7 Questions With...

Dr. Matthew Sutter, Allen County Health Commissioner
Sep 3, 2020
Alicia Tharp
Tim Brumbeloe
7 Questions With...

Dr. Matthew Sutter stepped into the role of Allen County Health Commissioner a few months ago in the midst of a global pandemic. While a pandemic may not seem the ideal time to take the job, it was the perfect time for Dr. Sutter. We were fortunate to chat with him about the role and his goals. 

Q1: How did your career path lead you to becoming Allen County Health Commissioner? 

My journey to this position would probably appear a bit non-traditional and unexpected. I’ve been a part of this community for much of my adult life, starting my career as a computer programmer for Lincoln National when its corporate headquarters was here. Later, I decided to pursue my interest in the medical field and became a paramedic with Three Rivers Ambulance Authority, where I found I really thrive in the midst of difficult situations. I’ve been an emergency physician for the past 20 years, most of it with Lutheran Health Network. During that time, I have had the opportunity to step into a variety of challenging leadership positions, including Chief Medical Officer for Lutheran Hospital. When the global COVID-19 pandemic emerged, I had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Deborah McMahan in an advisory capacity. With her impending retirement as health commissioner in the midst of this challenging time, I decided to step up and help lead our community’s public health efforts. 

Q2: How has the transition been coming in to this role in the midst of a pandemic? 

It’s been a whirlwind. Each day brings new issues to navigate. It is a constant challenge to try to understand the latest information on COVID-19 and how to best respond for the health and safety of the whole community. 

Q3: What important message about COVID-19 would you like to share with our readers?  

COVID-19 is a serious disease with the potential to overwhelm our healthcare system. While most infections are mild, we don’t know the long term effects. The best approach to limiting its impact on our community is to use the tools we know work to limit the number of people infected until there is an effective vaccine to prevent the disease. Right now, our most effective tools to do that are
1. wearing masks/face coverings in public, 2. washing hands regularly, 3. limiting large gatherings and maintaining social distance of at least six feet and 4. staying home when we are sick.  

Q4: What do you hope to achieve in your new role? 

I hope to see Allen County viewed as a pioneer in the response to COVID-19 and other public health threats. We have an innovative and effective team at the Health Department, and I’m proud to be chosen to lead them.

Q5: How do you define success? 

Success to me is performing at a high level in challenging situations. I’ve been blessed with being able to perform meaningful work and hope to continue that. 

Q6: What do the next five years look like for you?  

It can sometimes be hard to imagine life after COVID-19. Most of my goals right now are short term. The biggest challenge is being effective in my role as Health Commissioner while continuing to work clinically and administratively. I’m certain the next five years are going to be very busy.

Q7:Where can you and your family be found in your free time? 

My wife and I have three children – one is in high school
at Homestead and the other two are away at college. These days, you’ll mostly find us at home. We’ve enjoyed travel in the past but have cancelled all our trips this year because of the pandemic.  

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