I want to talk about what this opportunity means to me and my vision for Catholic Health Initiatives. Being part of this organization for six years has given me the perspective that the vision is one that you designed — as a board, as members and as congregations. I come to this place with a collection of experiences and perceptions that allow me to take the vision forward — to renew and energize the vision of Catholic Health Initiatives. To make the vision real. To hold the conviction to translate this vision into the ministry that makes a groundbreaking and sustainable difference in health care in this country.
The vision must be an active engagement with you and leaders throughout Catholic Health Initiatives. A compelling and enduring vision will result from thoughtful engagement of collective input and creativity. However, I am here to answer the question, “What is my vision for Catholic Health Initiatives?”
It is difficult to put into words how I feel right now. I’ve worked hard my entire life, including 24 years as a health care executive. You have entrusted me with the opportunity to lead not just a premier health care organization, but to lead one of the truly pioneering health ministries in this country to even greater levels of service to our communities and the people who entrust us with their care.
In the Catholic Health Initiatives book Charisms, the opening sentence of the chapter about the Sisters of St. Francis of Colorado Springs reads: “Always, behind the political and social movements of the world and the global upheavals they generate, is Divine Wisdom directing our destinies.” Standing in front of you and our God, that particular quote resonates deeply as I look at my life. I want to share my background because these facts have formed the person and leader I am today.
I’ve been married to Maude Brown Lofton for 22 years. Maude is a pediatrician and child development specialist. We have two teenage children — one in college and one in high school. I grew up in the middle of three boys, whose parents worked hard to send us to a parochial grade school and high school. I was raised in New York City and graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. I have been a practicing Catholic my whole life.
My mother’s family has a proud Catholic tradition. My great-aunt, Mother Agnes Eugenia, co-founded the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary, a congregation of predominately black women religious, in 1915. I have many cousins who have been members and leaders in this congregation. In 2003, my cousin became the first priest in our family. His grandfather was the physician who delivered me in Beaumont, Texas, in 1954, after my mother had ridden a train from New York for three days to attend her sister’s wedding. At that time, black physicians were not permitted to practice in local hospitals, so I was born in a clinic staffed by the only three black physicians in town.
Both my parents are retired and my mom has become progressively ill. As the lead person to handle all of her affairs, I have learned more about this nation’s health care delivery system by navigating it with my mom during the last seven years than in 24 years as a health care executive.
What This Opportunity Means to Me
In the fourth edition of Sacred Stories, Judy Raley, SCN, wrote, “As I stood with them, I had a deeper sense of what it means to be where God calls us at any given moment.” My professional career has been blessed — and challenged — since I joined Catholic Health Initiatives six years ago. More importantly, my entire life has been changed in a positive way. I am a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better leader and hopefully a better colleague. I’ve always believed in and supported the mission and vision of every organization I’ve worked for, because each of them claimed care of the poor at the core of their existence.
Catholic Health Initiatives, however, is
the first ministry I have embraced as a leader, as you have embraced me. This is the first time in my career I am able to live out what I believe while leading an entire organization dedicated and committed to the healing ministry of Jesus.
Catholic Health Initiatives built a solid foundation under Pat Cahill’s leadership. We consolidated many health ministries, created a sense of system while building necessary infrastructure and navigated through difficult operational and relational times. A lot has been accomplished, and we are called to even greater levels of achievement — to nurture this ministry that has been entrusted to us as religious and laity alike.
As we begin to chart the next course of this journey — this great experiment known as Catholic Health Initiatives — we face some challenging external factors:
Even the public juridic person (Catholic Health Initiatives’ church corporation), the elemental structure on which Catholic Health Initiatives was founded, is being questioned by some leaders within Catholic health care. For the next few years, Catholic Health Initiatives will experience significant changes in management and governance due to turnover and succession planning.
My Vision for Catholic Health Initiatives
Clearly articulating a vision for one of the largest and most influential health ministries in the United States is a daunting challenge. My vision for Catholic Health Initiatives is grounded in my conviction and passion that her greatest potential is to establish the model to move the American health system beyond a focus on “sick care” to a reality of “well care.”
“Well care” is my definition for holistic and integrative health — for wholeness. It is the prevention of illness; the preservation and restoration of health; and the compassion to provide hope when healing is not possible. It is the optimal state of mind, body and the spirit; it is also the intricate connection of all three. Well care is everything and everyone that affects the health of a community, and consumers are seeking it out.
Catholic Health Initiatives does more than espouse holistic and integrative health — it is lived out in every one of our facilities, in every one of our community health services organizations. Few other Catholic health systems are as well positioned to breathe life into well care, or wholeness in human health. Our Catholic heritage speaks directly to nurturing the mind, body and spirit, and our strong foundation has given us a platform for the next part of the journey.
It is what we believe. It is our core, our hearts and our minds. When we fully actualize our beliefs, then we will influence the beliefs of others. We can extend our ministry. We can use “healthy communities” as the way to transform the American health care system. This holistic health concept is also the ethical choice, a perfect fit for Catholic Health Initiatives.
Although funds for health care are being whittled away at all levels, there are resources for integrative health care. The resources — people and money — must be refocused and redistributed. Catholic Health Initiatives has the courage and the capacity to refocus the resources of people and money.
Let me give you an example. In 1992, at Howard University Hospital, quintuplets were born, all of whom weighed more than three pounds. As we celebrated the birth of these quintuplets, a baby was born down the hall to a woman with a drug addiction. This baby weighed one pound, six ounces. The resources used to care for that one baby far exceeded the resources used for the quintuplets. Prenatal care and drug prevention and treatment would have made a difference. How are we called to redistribute and refocus the resources?
Catholic Health Initiatives has many healthy community successes — from Kearney to Baudette, Towson to Roseburg. We have the opportunity to pull it all together and use our influence and power to influence systemic change. We must take what we are doing in the living laboratory of Catholic Health Initiatives and move it to the next level.
By most accounts, this is already a successful organization. However, there are people who would describe our strategic plan and direction as “solid, but safe.” John F. Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” Catholic Health Initiatives is poised to lead boldly in a world that is filled with risks, but with the risks come great rewards for the people we serve.
One might ask, “Why Catholic Health Initiatives? Why now?” Catholic Health Initiatives is the only one of a dozen not-for-profit, national health care systems that has the courage and conviction to do this. If you survey the landscape of American health care, many of the well-respected health systems operate in four states or less: Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and other academic health centers, Christus Health, Catholic Healthcare West and St. Joseph Health System, to name a few.
Catholic Health Initiatives operates in 19 states and represents America: our communities are diverse in size, ethnicity, age, religious traditions, languages and socioeconomic levels. Our ministries serve people in cities as large as Denver and the suburban towns near Philadelphia and Baltimore. We also serve rural communities like Baudette, Martin and Baker City. Catholic Health Initiatives is the sole community provider of health care in 28 markets.
Our ministries range from a statewide, billion-dollar joint operating agreement in Colorado to group homes in Fargo, North Dakota. Catholic Health Initiatives and its market-based organizations have carefully nurtured relationships with community agencies and organizations across the country. Collaboration is one of our hallmarks.
Courage, Conviction and Collaboration
Now, take our solid foundation, courage, resources, uncompromising spirit and practice of collaboration. I see a Catholic Health Initiatives that will stand where no other national health care system stands. I see a Catholic Health Initiatives that will develop and test new and innovative delivery models of care, looking at the opportunity to collaborate and partner with leaders in the field. I see people who will make the connections to build healthy communities and become the model for the nation. I see a Catholic Health Initiatives that demonstrates why the payer system must be revamped to reward organizations that keep people healthy. We are witnessing a milestone as the payment system is being revised to reward quality, and I applaud that effort.
Catholic Health Initiatives will have the courage and conviction to make integrative health care a reality,including fair payment for all services to allow us to nurture the ministry into the future.
My vision includes a Catholic Health Initiatives that is not only true to its Catholic heritage, but “makes Jesus present” in every facility and service. The healing ministry of Christ will be tangible and palpable in our culture. This can only be achieved when formation in the healing ministry and spirituality drives all leadership development. Through us, Jesus will touch every patient, resident and client we serve.
I see a Catholic Health Initiatives in which advocacy is the pacesetter for how a Catholic health ministry shakes up the world outside the walls of its facilities. Catholic Health Initiatives will shape public policy in Washington, D.C., as well as in state houses across the country. We will develop an effective grassroots capability that will make elected officials and trade associations turn to us before proposing to make changes in health care public policy.
My vision has leaders and associates living out our values to a degree that is visible to everyone who comes to us for health and healing, through reverence and justice, as Catholic Health Initiatives becomes the place to work, in every community. As testimony to our lived value of reverence, we have heard from two groups outside Catholic Health Initiatives – the Joint Commission surveyors and the leaders in Berea, Ky., who told us that every person who works within our facilities manifests the core values in every interaction, with patients and each other. Catholic Health Initiatives is: integrity as we model the behavior for business ethics; compassion for those who are poor and underserved, to ensure that health care is available and affordable; and excellence, consistently delivering the highest quality care to patients and clients and to steward our resources to effectively and efficiently serve our communities.
I see a Catholic Health Initiatives that is safe and patient friendly; that will take “best” practices and turn them into “next” practices. Catholic Health Initiatives will live out the vision of Jesus Christ, the healer, as pioneered by the women religious who founded these health ministries and this Board that is leading the way into the 21st century. Catholic Health Initiatives will become an indispensable component of the solution to systemic health care issues and will promote healing and wholeness in every community we serve.
My responsibility is to make the vision come alive. We will create an environment that fosters innovation and adopt a style of organizational behavior that is comfortable with new ideas, change, risk and yes, even failure. David Hughes, a noted management authority, has said, “Creating an environment that is tolerant of mistakes is difficult. It must be made clear that mistakes are acceptable if they are based on solid thinking, enhance learning of what will not work, and are caught early before the damage is severe.” I think Catholic Health Initiatives would receive mixed reviews if rated today on whether it is an environment in which risk is tolerated, much less rewarded. I ask you to support leadership as we take the necessary steps to ultimately make this vision a reality.
This is my vision for Catholic Health Initiatives. How we will get there is still unfolding, but I am confident that with the help of the Board and Members and leaders throughout the organization we will make this vision a reality.”
A dedication written by A. J. Cronin in a popular book on management seems apropos:
“Life is no straight and easy corridor along which we travel free and unhampered, but a maze of passages, through which we must seek our way, lost and confused, now and again checked in a blind alley. But always, if we have faith, God will open a door for us, not perhaps one that we ourselves would ever have thought of, but one that will ultimately prove good for us.”
- Living in a country that is at war while trying to serve as peacemakers.
- An economy in recession, which has forced virtually every state in the union to make severe cuts in Medicaid, education and basic health and human services.
- Increased threats of bio-terrorism and the front-line role of our hospitals.
- Increasing cost of government regulation and scrutiny.
- An aging population with high levels of consumer expectation.