Great Falls man’s tragedy becomes focus for good

Jason Gleason has made something good out of a horrific loss and received national recognition for his work and sacrifice to his community.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., recently honored the 46-year-old Great Falls resident as his “Montanan of the Week” for his work as a nurse practitioner for veterans, for his military service and for his work in stroke prevention.

“Montana is incredibly lucky to have a health care professional like Jason Gleason serving our veterans,” Daines said Nov. 13, reading into the Congressional Record. “He is truly an excellent example of someone who puts service before self. He understands that his service to our country did not end with his service in the military.”

Gleason, who works in the Great Falls VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic, said he was flattered by the recognition.

“This is probably the biggest honor I have ever gotten,” he said, noting the honor not only came about the same time as Veterans Day, but also during Nurse Practitioner Week.

And he wants to share the spotlight.

“It’s certainly a team effort and I have appreciation for the fantastic nurses I work with at the VA,” he said.

Gleason has become a sought-after expert in veterans’ health care, Daines said, noting Gleason spent 20 years in the Montana Air National Guard, retiring as lieutenant colonel.

In 2011, Heather, his wife of 16 years, died from a stroke, leaving him a widower with three children. He then dedicated himself to becoming an expert on strokes.

“She passed away suddenly. She was 40 and I was 39 and we had three young boys,” Gleason said.

He said he decided to take this tragedy and make something good out of it.

Gleason said he got involved with the Stroke Initiative Work Group with the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, which meets quarterly and supports all health care facilities in Montana.

It has helped fund a telestroke tool which provides smaller facilities with a stroke robot and stays with the patient. Within minutes it connects with stroke-care providers in Montana and other states.

“It’s fantastic,” he said.

Daines noted Gleason has received DPHHS’ Stroke Hero of the Year Award.

His expertise has taken him places. 

Gleason said he has been invited to talk at Columbia University and San Francisco about strokes.

“I want to empower others to join the fight and knock out strokes,” he said. “It’s my national anthem.”

Daines said Gleason retired from the Air National Guard in 2015, and “since then he has dedicated himself to providing exceptional health care to Montana veterans.”

He said Gleason has built a patient panel that is at 110 percent capacity and has 1,000 patients. When another provider recently retired, he stepped up and took over the patient panel and provided care to another 556 veterans.

“Jason has worked to improve the overall Montana VA system,” Daines said.

He said Gleason has recruited and mentored other nurse practitioners, which helped fill critical positions in the VA system. Daines said Gleason also participated in a VA residency program that trains providers to better serve female veterans.

Gleason, who grew up in Butte, has remarried. He and his three sons from his first marriage, Brady, Carson and Isaac, have joined wife Nicole and her two children, Blake and Hailey.

He said Daines is expected to some day present him with the honor in Great Falls. He is excited to let others enjoy the recognition.

“This award, for me, is very humbling and a tremendous honor,” Gleason said. “I want to share with other people, especially the team I work with. It’s not my award it’s their award.

“I am just very humbled by it,” Gleason said. “But it fuels that passion and desire to continue providing excellent service to our heroes and knock out strokes.”