2020 Alumni of the Year

As they educate and mentor students, touch the lives of patients and work tirelessly in their professions and communities, the Des Moines University Alumni of the Year inspire others to aspire. Alumni of the Year honorees are selected by the DMU Alumni Association Board of Directors and past recipients of this prestigious award.

Recipients of the awards must be a member in good standing of their respective professional state or national organization and the DMU Alumni Association; demonstrate excellent service to DMU, its students and his/her profession; and demonstrate a record of service to his/her community on a local, state and/or national level.

View past Alumni of the Year recipients


College of Health Sciences: Tray Wade, M.H.A.’08, M.A.

Tray Wade, M.H.A.'08, M.A.

Tray Wade, M.H.A.’08, M.A., is president and CEO of EveryStep, an organization headquartered in Des Moines that offers a continuum of compassionate care and supportive services for vulnerable Iowans statewide. They include prenatal support and home visits to new and expecting moms, assistance to immigrants and refugees, wellness services to communities, hospice and home care services, and grief and loss support.

EveryStep originated as Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, which was established in 1908 and then evolved over the next 100 years by combining with HCI Care Services (formerly Hospice of Central Iowa) in 2012; expanding to several areas across the state; adding to its services the well-known Amanda the Panda grief and loss support program; and growing to offer more than 30 health-focused programs. In recent years, Mr. Wade led the effort to unite these programs as EveryStep to establish a common connection across its many services. He has been with the organization for nearly 16 years, previously serving as chief operating officer.

In the community, Mr. Wade is chair of the Dallas County Hospital Board of Trustees and a member of the hospital’s foundation board. He also serves on the DMU Master of Health Care Administration Advisory Board, the Greater Des Moines Partnership Government Policy Council and the United Way of Central Iowa Agency Director’s Advisory Council. He received the Nonprofit Staff Leadership Award at the 2019 Iowa Nonprofit Summit for having a successful impact on community challenges.


College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery: Scott Nelson, D.P.M.’00, FACFAS

Scott Nelson, D.P.M.’00, FACFAS

Scott Nelson, D.P.M.’00, FACFAS, is a foot and ankle surgeon with Catholic Health Initiative (CHI Health) Department of Orthopedics in the greater Omaha, NE, area. In February 2020 he took office as the 69th president of the 7,800-member American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) during the college’s 78th annual scientific conference. He also is past president-elect and secretary-treasurer of the college. He is active in selected committees that plan and coordinate activities for numerous foot and ankle surgeons across the country.

Dr. Nelson is board-certified in both foot surgery and reconstructive rearfoot and ankle surgery by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

Dr. Nelson completed his residency at the Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh and the Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Mary’s, OH. A past presenter at the DMU Foot and Ankle Surgery Symposium, he is a journal article reviewer for The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery. He is also well published in several medical journals and has written chapters in textbooks regarding foot and ankle conditions and treatment.

Dr. Nelson serves on the Podiatry Board for the state of Nebraska as a physician member and is active in the Nebraska State Board of Health. His role as a physician member is to help protect the general population from mistreatment and review specific incidences on a case by case basis.


College of Osteopathic Medicine: Dave Kapaska, D.O.’86, M.B.A.

Dave Kapaska, D.O.'86, M.B.A.

Dave Kapaska, D.O.’86, M.B.A., is a 1972 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy who flew Air Force cargo jets in the Vietnam War era, earned his master of business administration degree from Southern Illinois University and worked in sales management for Mobil Chemical Company. He then “got this crazy idea to go to medical school.” Thanks to his DMU education and excellent training at Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines, Dr. Kapaska practiced family medicine in Sac City, IA, his hometown, and Ankeny, IA, for more than 10 years.

With his clinical and managerial experience, Dr. Kapaska was recruited to become the senior vice president/chief medical officer at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD. Given Avera’s 600 physicians and 28 hospitals spread over 90,000 square miles in South Dakota, Iowa, North Dakota and Nebraska, he initiated in 2004 a telemedicine program for intensive care called “Avera e-ICU care.” Its outstanding results gave Avera world prominence in the development of multiple telemedicine programs.

In 2006 Dr. Kapaska became chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines primarily to initiate e-ICU for its regional affiliates. In 2008, he returned to Avera McKennan as chief medical officer and in 2010 became its CEO and president. For the next seven years he guided major projects in precision oncology, liver transplant, orthopedic expansion, behavioral health, addiction therapy, genetic research and major facility expansions to support the growth in programs and people. He retired in 2017 after a very rewarding career with Avera.

Dr. Kapaska was involved with multiple professional organizations as well as numerous Sioux Falls community organizations for several years, including the Visual Arts Center Board, the Discovery District Board, McCrossan Boys Ranch Board as chair and the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Board as chair. He also came out of retirement for six months in 2019-2020 to serve as interim president of the Sioux Falls Chamber.

Dr. Kapaska was selected for the DMU Board of Trustees in 2017, chaired the Academic Affairs Committee and now is vice chair. He is very proud and honored to give back to his alma mater through service to the board.

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