OK, it’s time for a quiz: Name some famous doctors.
Here’s a start: Dr. Doolittle, Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Evil, Dr. Watson and Dr. Livingston. Did you get these two “newest” famous doctors: Dr. Fauci and Dr. Scrase?
Dr. Fauci, of course, is Anthony Fauci, in the news for the past 13 or so months as the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president.
Dr. David Scrase, 68, is New Mexico’s version of Fauci. He’s the guy providing updates on the pandemic in the Land of Enchantment, and is the cabinet secretary for the state’s Human Services Department and a professor of internal medicine and geriatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
He previously served as the interim division chief for General Internal Medicine and the Chief of Geriatrics at UNM, and has held a variety of administrative positions through the years, including nine years in medical education, plus numerous healthcare executive positions in Michigan and New Mexico. He has worked closely with the New Mexico Medicaid program for the past three years, leading a successful effort to enhance the treatment of Hepatitis C for Medicaid members and leads an effort to improve quality and reduce hospital readmissions in all New Mexico nursing facilities.
Scrase was appointed to his HSD role by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and confirmed by the Senate on February 11, 2019.
He’s also one of Sandoval County’s own: He’s been a resident of Placitas since 1998, having moved here from Ann Arbor, Mich., after earning his undergraduate and master’s of health services administration degrees at the University of Michigan.
He hails from the Detroit suburbs, “lived there half my life,” which includes being in what the locals term “A-squared” for 29 years.
Growing up, Scrase said, “I think I wanted to be a scientist.
“I was a Boy Scout, got to be an Eagle Scout, and you learn about a lot of things: solving problems, learning how things work.”
Of course, there’s no merit badge dealing with facing a pandemic.
“I probably started to get a break over the last month,” he said, “but now we’re starting to see an up-tick. … We need to help people and get the economy open — it’s been a labor of love.”
Another labor of love for the state’s iconic doctor in pandemic times is getting outside, hiking or gardening. He and his family have lived in the “same adobe house” since 1998 and he’s fond of arroyos and exploring the desert.
“I like being outdoors a lot. I enjoy doing landscaping work, a lot of projects,” he said. “I enjoy working outside in the sun and hiking; I enjoy reading — I really like (reading) everything — and playing the guitar. I usually get up every morning at 4,” although his work day doesn’t start until 7:30 a.m.
What’s on his bucket list, when things return to normal?
“In the short run, I want to get back out hiking — I’m not exactly sure when,” he said. “In the longer term, make a trip to every continent, spending more time with the grandkids — in Ann Arbor and San Francisco. Travel again and hang out with them as well.”
The Scrases have five children, and he said he enjoyed “watching them grow and learn, seeing their character and personalities. I’ve found a sense of happiness in my life, with things that aren’t always happy, challenging and don’t go the way you want — I could go on and on about my appreciation for the world around me.”
In talking with the doctor, it’s easy to see he enjoys his work and his role in the state’s battle vs. COVID-19.
“I found my work during the pandemic a wonderful experience for me,” Scrase concluded.