Dr. Aaron Gardener

Dr. Aaron Gardner founded Just 4 Kids Urgent Care in Idaho Falls.

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On the same day as a last-resort hospital crisis plan was activated statewide for the first time ever, eastern Idaho health officials appointed one of the plan’s authors to serve as a board member.

The Eastern Idaho Public Health board voted unanimously Thursday to appoint to the board Dr. Aaron Gardner, a local pediatric intensive care physician, and state and federal hospital disaster planner. Gardner fills a vacancy left for the board’s physician member that was created when 15-year member and OB/GYN Dr. Barbara Nelson retired from her post this summer.

No board member commented on Gardner during the public vote. But before the vote, the board entered an executive session closed to the public to deliberate on the four candidates interviewed Thursday.

After the meeting, board chairman Bryon Reed told the Post Register in an interview that any of the four doctors would have served well and that he looks forward to working with them.

“He has a real desire to work in public health, as they all did,” Reed said when asked why the board chose Gardner.

Before officially serving in the role, Gardner must be confirmed by a majority of county commissioners in the eight-county public health district, which includes Bonneville, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Lemhi, Jefferson, Madison and Teton counties.

During Gardner’s interview with the public health board, he stressed boosting trust in public health.

“There’s no question that trust in public health, in general, has been a challenge over the last 18 months,” Gardner said.

Rebuilding trust after it was lost requires time, he said. And it requires a series of interactions, he said.

“When things are wrong, when circumstances and evidence later comes up that says: ‘Yeah, this probably wasn’t the best decision or may have not been the right way to do this,’ I think if the trust is there, then we can still move forward. Because the intentions were good, the motives were pure,” Gardner said.

Asked how he would provide guidance to the health district board about Crisis Standards of Care if he served on the board, Gardner said he’d first ask a series of questions.

He said he finds “immense satisfaction in working with good people for a good cause,” work like that done by the health board. He said the members clearly love the communities and people that they serve.

“I drove into the parking lot. I can tell nobody is getting rich off of their community service,” Gardner said.

After the meeting, Gardner told the Post Register in a text message that he would be proud to serve.

“I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunity to serve with the Board. We are fortunate to live in an amazing community with caring public health and healthcare professionals — which gives me great hope for the future,” Gardner wrote. “I hope to make a meaningful contribution and be an influence for good on the board, particularly during these challenging times.”

Gardner was among four candidates who the health board interviewed Thursday. The others were: Dr. Stewart Curtis, Chief Medical Officer for Eastern Idaho Occupational Medicine Associates; Dr. Pamela Denson, an OB/GYN at Teton Women’s Health Center in Idaho Falls; and Dr. Joshua Stringam, chief medical officer at the Community Family Clinic.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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