Every community has its quiet, unsung heroes — individuals who give generously of themselves, accomplish much, all while seeking or receiving little attention. The Nevada County community is no exception, and Dr. Simi Lyss is a perfect example of just such an individual.
Born in Chicago Park, Simi is counted as a member of the first graduating class of Nevada Union High School. From an early age, Simi would contribute in lasting ways; as junior class vice president of Grass Valley High, he was among a small group of students who selected the blue and gold colors that NU proudly displays to this day.
Initially earning an engineering degree, Simi went on to study medicine, enjoying a successful career as a dermatologist and later as a lead administrator for the Kaiser Hospital system.
While medicine was clearly the focus of his professional life, it has been in his “retirement” that Simi has proven a true renaissance man, contributing much to a varied list of local and international organizations. As one of the founding members of the Kellermann Foundation, Simi served as president of the board of directors in its early formative years.
He was the key architect of the Bwindi Community Hospital, designing the facility on sheets of legal paper. Influenced by Simi’s leadership, the Bwindi Hospital has grown to a 120-bed, full-service hospital that serves a population of 250,000 residents in southwestern Uganda and has been ranked the best hospital in Uganda for the last four years.
More recently, Simi helped design the Batwa Women’s Center — a learning center for Batwa pygmy women where they can be educated in the crafts of weaving, tailoring and knitting.
Another of Simi’s designs, the Bwindi Nursing School, is nearing completion, and it is through his wisdom that the project will to come to fruition. The school will graduate 24 registered nurses per year. A registered nurse in Uganda will oversee a 10- to 25-bed hospital, admit and follow the patients and oversee minor surgeries and deliveries.
With a well-trained cadre of nurses, the health care of Uganda will be markedly improved.
Closer to home, Simi serves on the Nevada County Fair board. Ed Scofield, who was also on the fair board with Simi, said, “I quickly learned that when controversial matters came to the board, I could always count on Simi to present a calm voice of reason. It was with Simi I found I could confide in and get advice on resolving difficult issues. Simi has remained my friend and mentor.”
Presently Simi is helping with the design and implementation of the new Miners Family Health Center, to be built in the Brunswick Basin.
Simi is affectionately known as “the 7-11 guy,” and for good reason. Much like the one-stop market, friends routinely go to Simi for his sage advice regarding questions on dermatological dilemmas, administrative matters, building design and for words of wisdom.
Simi is an inspiration to many. A debt of gratitude is owed to Simi by the numerous people and projects that Simi has assisted within this community and in Africa.
Simi has been a friend to many and a support to all.
The world is a better place because of Simi.
Dr. Scott Kellermann is a co-founder of The Kellermann Foundation. For information, visit http://kellermannfoundation.org.