Dr. Raymond Ingham Honored With the Sagamore of the Wabash
Former President/CEO of Witham Health Services Dr. Raymond Ingham was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash earlier this month. Dr. Ingham was with Witham Health Services for 24 years until his retirement in December 2021.
I spoke with Dr. Ingham about what it means to him to be a recipient of this prestigious award and what it means to have served his patients and Boone County as a whole throughout his career.
A Brief Look at the Sagamore of the Wabash Award
The Sagamore of the Wabash award honors those who have made a significant contribution to life in the Hoosier state. The designation was created in the late 1940s during the administration of Gov. Ralph Gates. When the governor discovered that he was to be made a “Kentucky Colonel” during a tri-state meeting, Gates quickly devised the award as way of reciprocating the honor. Though the word “sagamore” is known to come from the Algonquian language, it’s not entirely clear how Gates arrived at it. James Fenimore Cooper’s novel “The Last of the Mohicans” is one potential source of the term, defined as a lesser chief to whom the tribe’s true chief would turn for wisdom and advice.
For decades, the award has been bestowed upon people who have shown outstanding service as volunteers, veterans or educators.
Dr. Ingham’s Inspiring Legacy
As my way of acknowledging Dr. Ingham for his countless contributions to the health care industry and the Boone County community, I spoke with him about receiving the award and the legacy that he has left for the next generation of health care professionals to learn from.
“When I first got the phone call, it was pretty humbling,” Dr. Ingham said. “It’s a heck of an honor. I know five or six folks that received the same honor, and they were the kind of people I looked up to, learned from and thought of when I made certain decisions. So, I was honored, but by the same token pretty humbled because it means somebody out there thought I was worthy of something like this.”
Dr. Ingham received the award surrounded by those who nominated him, worked with and supported him, making it an intimate and purposeful celebration.
We spoke about the pandemic and the impact it has had on health care workers—locally and throughout the world—with the hope that the takeaway has been to realize the important role that health care professionals have in our lives and how these men and women rose to a challenge that no one thought we’d see in our lifetimes.
“These folks [health care professionals] are getting up every day and are trying to take care of themselves, their families and patients,” Dr. Ingham stated. “They are the ones who made it possible to accomplish what we have, and the pandemic just brought it to light. If I could take the Sagamore and divide it into 1,000 pieces, I would do that in a heartbeat because they are the true heroes.”
When asked how his career in health care began, Dr. Ingham shared, “When I was growing up, my dad was an entrepreneur, and my mom was a ‘flower child’—she loved the arts, poetry and music. I had three brothers, and I was number two [in line]. My mom thought her sons were growing up to be like my dad–heavy in finance and that sort of thing. So, she forced each of us to volunteer for any not-for-profit of our choosing. When it became my turn, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a hospital in the city of Detroit, and I was like an orderly.”
When Dr. Ingham graduated, he was promoted at the hospital he had been volunteering at and had the important but unglamorous task of administering presurgical enemas, a procedure that was common at that time.
Dr. Ingham added, “It was very common back then—thank God it isn’t anymore.”
During these years, Dr. Ingham realized that the work he was doing had a purpose and an impact on the patients’ care.
“At the time, I was thinking that I’m really helping somebody and making a difference to someone,” Dr. Ingham said. “And that’s what got me into health care. I went into respiratory therapy for several years, and I had a CEO at the time that had been one of my mentors for most of my career who said, ‘You need to make a decision. You’re going to work and have an impact on a patient’s life—patient by patient—or you can work very hard and try to make an impact on a community and its health care.’ He convinced me that this was the road I should take, and I’ve always been thankful to that CEO for saying that.”
In the wake of receiving the Sagamore of the Wabash award, Dr. Ingham has heard from several colleagues, staff members and former patients, all who have shared their congratulations and even gratitude.
“I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls,” Dr. Ingham said. “One patient, who was a relatively good friend, had his wife send me his Hall of Fame ring to remember him by. And I had a call from a young man who just got out of the hospital and thanked me for some things that we did that he needed, and it’s those kinds of rewards that mean so much to me. It makes me feel like the last 25 years—in particular—have been well worth it.”
Seeing Life Through a Different Perspective
Though still very early in his retirement, Dr. Ingham shared how his life and perspective of life have been changing.
“I am reading every book—non-health care related—that I’ve wanted to read over the past 25 years,” Dr. Ingham shared. “Plus, I’m going to things like Winterfest and Snowfest. I’m having a great time talking with people. I got to feed a camel and all these things that I could never do because I was too busy. It’s interesting. I’ve had the chance to watch people and see interactions. I’m seeing all the good that there is in life. I’ve seen it before, but now I’m seeing outside of health care. I’m seeing the love that is out there.”