CLAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Dr. Pamela Combs has a singular goal saying, “I always wanted to change the world, and make it just a little bit better.”

The world, however, and the Miami Valley changed during Doctor Pamela Combs’ first days on the job as the new Superintendent of Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services.

In 2019, tornadoes gutted the Miami Valley Memorial Day weekend. Less than a year later, a global pandemic sent the whole world spinning.

With no precedent or game plan and little time to respond, Dr. Combs knew she had to act immediately.

“It was such a pivotal moment, the realization that we needed to do things very differently, very quickly,” she said.

Dr. Combs and her team began buying PPE by the truckload, charging it to their own credit cards if need be, buying resources and food. Cots were coming in from Wright Patterson Air Force Base, allowing Dr. Combs and her team to set up living conditions in their facility for those they served in case they needed a place to stay.

Julie Nelson, Dr. Combs’s Executive Administration Assistant, said Dr. Combs ran point and the team followed, “Pamela just put it into place, to get the ball rolling. I don’t think she planned it out in advance of how to do this. I think she just did it, we put it in place, and it worked.”

Forever the optimist, the harsh reality and the real cost of the pandemic, however, even steals the smile that Dr. Combs naturally wears.

“The first death we had in our system because of Covid, was one of those moments,” Dr. Combs’ said. “It was just very hard, to realize that we were going to start losing people to Covid.”

Sixteen people the she served have died, people whose worlds she had changed. Gone.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Combs envisioned the emotional toll the pandemic would exact on her staff, so she focused on the future.

Even in the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Combs was looking to its end, “I wanted to pull us out of the crisis. I asked all of our staff to give ten percent of their time each week to thinking of the future, and I know that’s what’s kept us going.”

The future-focus produced a proposal for adult-changing tables in rest areas, stadiums and arenas for adults who need them. The proposal later was accepted and will become a life-changing reality around the world within the next five years.

When asked if she thought she could pull this off, a reflective Dr. Combs quickly admitted with a laugh, “No.” She said she is amazed they pulled it off each day over the last two years, living up to her code of changing the world and making the world a little, or in Dr. Combs’s case, A LOT better.

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