Dr. Servies Speaks About Navigating Through Uncharted Waters as a County

January 2021

Boone County Health Officer Dr. Herschell Servies Jr. was recently awarded the 2020 Hometown Community Service Award, presented by Home National Bank. Additionally, he was one of two doctors named 2020 Healthcare Providers of the Year by Boone County Chamber—a distinction that Dr. Servies shares with his colleague Dr. Crystal Jones. Both doctors are affiliated with Witham Hospital Services in Boone County, Indiana.

Dedicated to Serving Boone County

Many residents know Dr. Servies as a lifelong Boone County resident and devoted physician who has served the greater Boone County community for the majority of his career. His role as the health officer at Boone County Health Department for the last two decades plus has become an even greater service to our county throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March of 2020. Dr. Servies’ extraordinary leadership and proven guidance have been instrumental to not only medical and county officials but also to the county’s school districts and municipalities—all of which have been trying to navigate these uncharted waters successfully and safely over the last 10-plus months.

Dr. Servies Boone County

“Last October, I retired from the clinical side of medicine,” Dr. Servies said. “We were well into the COVID-19 response that started March 2, 2020. As the county health officer [prepandemic], I would go up to the office once or twice a month and sign papers, etc., and leave. Now, since March 2, it’s been an 8 a.m.–4 p.m., five-days-a-week situation, not counting weekends and holidays.”

As a direct result of the county’s response to the pandemic, Dr. Servies found himself working with county officials, school superintendents and folks that he typically had not interacted with a great deal.

“I’ve become really good friends with all of the school superintendents,” Dr. Servies shared. “I’ve also gotten to know our county commissioners, county attorney and others really well. I’ve made a lot of friends, and I’ve made enemies too because of the decisions that have had to be made that nobody else wanted to make.”

Dr. Servies sits on two command task force committees, one for Boone County—the Boone County Unified Command Task Force—and another for Witham Health Services that is comprised of the hospital’s top doctors and specialists, including Dr. Jones, who is an infectious disease specialist. These task forces were organized to help our county’s respective medical and elected leadership navigate through the COVID-19 crisis and to provide guidance for the entire county as it pertains to the pandemic protocols and, most recently, the vaccination efforts.

“It’s been terribly emotional for me at times, making these decisions,” Dr. Servies expressed. “This is my home and community, and I know that many of the events are not only traditions but are for the churches and civic organizations to raise money for scholarships and all that. That’s why this has been so emotional for me.”

Dr. Servies continued, “We’ve made decisions that include converting areas of the hospital so that we can have beds for COVID-19 patients and plans to convert the Boone County Fairgrounds into a field hospital situation should we need it. We’ve had discussions about obtaining special equipment and ventilators. There for a while, we were running out of ventilators. And now, the big issue is getting all of our employees immunized. This whole thing has been a learning process, and there’s something new each day.”

The Push to Get Our County Vaccinated

The greatest concern that Dr. Servies has is that the public—in general—is suffering from information overload and has become leery of recommendations that have been published by the CDC and other medical and scientific sources. This distrust has had a significant impact on people’s desire to become vaccinated and rightfully so. But Dr. Servies, along with his task force members, continue to work at educating the public with facts and is encouraging people in our county to get vaccinated when it becomes available to them.

“We’ve got to start getting these vaccines in peoples’ arms,” Dr. Servies said. “I was one of the first doctors here to get it, and it so happens that on my three-week return for the second dose was just a few days after my knee surgery. I really didn’t feel like getting it done, but I still went in and got it. I know that there are rumors that the vaccines won’t cover the most recent mutations, and there is no easy way to get the truth out there to everybody, but the bottom line is the vaccines are going to cover the mutations.”

When asked what we as individuals and residents of Boone County can do to bring our positive cases down and reduce our current category of “red” to the bottom of the stack, Dr. Servies responded, “Wash your hands, wear masks, avoid crowds, stay home if you’re sick and continue social distancing. If we don’t remain diligent on doing these things and if we don’t start getting shots in the arms of people, then people are going to die. Period.”

For the most recent information on COVID-19 vaccine registration and who is currently eligible, visit ourshot.in.gov.