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David Pate, MD, JD, had what might have seemed an inauspicious start to a successful career in health care: At a local hospital career day, he fainted at the sight of blood. But despite that experience, Pate went on to spend a decade as an internist and another 14 years in various executive positions before he was named president and CEO of St. Luke’s Health System, an essential hospital in Idaho.
From the start, Pate knew he was passionate about helping people. “I felt then, and still feel now, that health care is where I can make the biggest impact in my community,” he says. St. Luke’s certainly makes an impact by providing care and, as one of Idaho’s largest employers, building an economically healthy community. Every day, the system works with tight-knit neighborhoods, businesses, and organizations throughout the state.
This partnership with the community, along with his staff’s teamwork and the many inspirational stories of the patients they serve, motivate Pate as a leader of an essential hospital. He has led thousands of health care clinicians and support staff members in serving the rural areas of Idaho in a role that he calls “incredibly significant and gratifying.”
You could say Grady Health System President and CEO John Haupert has a hospital career in his blood. He grew up in a family of physicians and hospital board members, and at an early age he worked summers as an emergency department orderly. In that role, he quickly developed an interest in the policies that guide how care is provided and funded. Given his background and a passion for helping the less fortunate, Haupert decided to use his degrees in business administration and health care administration for a career in essential hospitals. “Serving those who the system has pushed aside is incredibly important to me,” he says.
Haupert, who also serves as board chair for America’s Essential Hospitals, thrives on complexity — an important trait for someone who runs a large, academic essential hospital. “The complexity of medical education combined with the complexity of financing essential hospitals, as well as the complexity of providing care to an underserved population all fit my personality, my personal mission, and my values very well,” he explains. Haupert constantly strives to make Grady, in Atlanta, an enriching environment for learning, an innovator in new and technologically advanced care, a leader in policy, and an advocate for social justice in the community.
As CEO of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG), Susan Ehrlich, MD, MPP, understands the vital role essential hospitals play in the lives of patients. She is a third-generation physician with deep experience in health policy and finance, including serving as budget and planning director for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
“My training and experience have set me up for the perfect career: I take care of patients, run an outstanding health care organization, and participate in health policy at the local, state, and national levels,” she says.
Ehrlich is passionate about caring for all members of the community by providing services essential to their ability to live in a healthy, positive way. She leads a hospital that does exactly that: It fills an integral role in the community as the only combined public primary and multi-specialty outpatient facility, the only emergency and acute inpatient psychiatric hospital, and the only medical emergency, medical-surgical hospital and level I trauma center.
ZSFG could not hold this unique position in the community without a team that is passionate about taking care of patients and constant improvement, Ehrlich says. She achieves both as a leader of a diverse team that she describes as “talented, compassionate, and dedicated.”
Jacob’s mother, Cat, has only one kidney. It was failing when she arrived at the hospital for an emergency Cesarean section, and Jacob wasn’t getting enough blood. His heart rate was dropping. For a mother who had already lost one preemie and a baby in utero, the scene was terrifyingly familiar.
In his first weeks of life in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Jacob had to overcome immature lungs, an open blood vessel that allows for abnormal blood flow, and the risk of double blindness. Today, he runs and jumps, climbs and falls, dances and drums. In the hands of loving, dedicated parents and an equally loving, dedicated hospital staff, his recovery has exceeded expectations. Treating him as their own, LAC+USC’s staff has provided vigilant, expert care that continues through age 6 for the tiniest preemies. And his parents, attentive and meticulous in following care instructions, have given him the foundation for a lifetime of health. Follow Jacob’s story through the eyes of his physician and other essential NICUs in Walls Down.
Akram Boutros is focused on mission. ”We are responsible for each patient who comes in, as well as the entire county,” he says. Boutros sees this role an opportunity to deliver health to all people. “We have to transform from sick care into health care. It’s a very different level of engagement.”
MetroHealth is going out to the people, to schools, foster homes, jails, and senior centers. “We are accepting responsibility for their care,” Boutros says. “In doing so, we are building trust within the community.” Boutros is also building trust among his staff. He does so by working among them, donning scrubs and sitting with patients, dispelling the hierarchy. “You can change people’s minds and hearts by recognizing them, advocating for them, and giving them a clear vision of how their role relates to the mission,” he says. “We give them a voice.” His staff responds with praise, which he dismisses. “I am not as good as people make me out to be. I really try hard, but people are kind.”
Andre Yusuf grew up in a family of bakers, “but I wanted to be a pilot,” he says. Hindered by his eyesight, Yusuf went to culinary school instead. He was working for Marriott when his wife was diagnosed with cancer, and subsequently, Celiac disease, which is a digestive disease triggered by gluten.
After his wife passed, Yusuf began thinking about her symptoms and the effect of Celiac on her body. “It occurred to me that her diet could have contributed to her cancer. I wanted to do something about it.” Yusuf studied how to use food for wellness and accepted a job at TMC, where he and his staff have drastically improved the nutrition, taste, and variety of cafeteria food. “Patients get excited about the food, and that excites me,” he says. He lets patients taste the food and offer opinions so he can continue to excite and interest them. As far as his own palate goes, “I like anything that tastes good. I can feel whether or not the chef has passion for food when I eat it, when it tastes good.”
David Douhunt chose to go to Thomas Street Health Center when first diagnosed as HIV positive because of its comprehensive, state-of-the-art AIDS care. “You can make it if you stay in care,” he says. And he believes in the quality Thomas Street provides.
Douhunt has seen many of his friends give up the fight against AIDS but he puts his energy into helping those who still have a chance to survive. As a patient mentor, he often works with the newly diagnosed. “You’re terrified,” he says of the diagnosis. “And we deal with a lot of people without a hopeful future.” But in his laid-back, playful manner, he shares his story and his hope. He talks about living longer and advances in AIDS care. And he reminds people to exercise, eat well, and enjoy their life. “I’m a fighter,” he says, and at 55, he’s still going strong.
As a former volunteer firefighter, Deanna Harris had to respond to emergencies in her own car. Sometimes her parents were with her and ended up at the scene. There, they saw the true nature of her work. Later as an EMT, she became a regular in EDs and ICUs. She eventually went to nursing school and finally retired from firefighting when the risk became too great for her pregnancy.
Harris became a nurse but missed the adrenaline of her earlier career. So, she became a flight nurse for MetroHealth. “The ability to intervene in someone’s life when they need it most is an amazing experience,” she says. Harris also trains other flight nurses, EMS staff, and physicians, which is one of her favorites parts of the job. “We’re teaching ourselves at the same time. Everyone is a better provider.” Harris’ firefighting days remain close to her heart, as she continues to protect the citizens of Ohio on the Ohio State Board of Emergency Medical, Fire, and Transportation Services.
Caryn Seaton first arrived at TMC as a pregnant cop’s wife looking for her injured husband. “It was my first time at the county hospital. I thought, ‘We just have to make the best of it,’” she says. “But we didn’t have to. We were taken care of and my impression changed, absolutely.” Though he survived that night, Seaton’s husband passed years later.
A widow with four kids, Seaton chose TMC for their care. “It was close, everything was in one place, and I preferred it.” She had her first stroke while at TMC’s OB clinic for an exam. “The physician saw what was happening and took me right to the ER.” Now, after multiple strokes, she credits TMC’s physicians with her ability to shock neurologists. “They don’t know why I’m still alive,” she jokes. But alive she is and a constant presence at TMC, knitting blankets for new moms and mufflers for homeless people. The anger at her physical deterioration past, she’s learned to do other things. “You can’t ever quit learning, and TMC never quits teaching.” It is a quiet movement, she says, to serve us all.
Richard Rhine is always thinking about mission – doing the right thing for the right people. He may be talking about hospital funding or health insurance marketplaces, but he’s seeing the patients behind the policies. For him, it’s a personal privilege to serve.
Rhine works at one of the country’s largest health systems. “It’s hard for people to understand the magnitude of what we do on a daily basis,” he says. “They see news reports of people who were taken to Grady. They see a trauma center. They don’t hear the Brahms’ Lullaby play in the hallway every time a baby is born. They don’t get to walk through the ED every morning and see the faces of the patients.” It’s an environment he finds exciting and rewarding. “It allows me to go home at night knowing I’m on the side of the angels, that I’ve done the right thing all day long. I would still be in health care if Grady didn’t exist, but I’m grateful it does.”
Marlon White grew up playing football. According to his dad, “He should be playing on Sunday.” He was heavily recruited for college and accepted a scholarship to Prairie View A&M University, choosing to stay close to home.
When money ran tight, White left school to work for a pipe company, where an oncoming train nearly took his life. He was flown to Ben Taub Hospital, and physicians pumped nine pints of blood into his body and used an experimental drug to reduce swelling in his brain. “They treated us like family,” his dad says of Ben Taub. “It made me learn to respect people more, to treat them equally.” Three months later White went home, weighing 109 lbs. “He had to re-learn everything,” his dad says. “We started with one finger for ‘yes,’ two for ‘no.’ Four years later, he’s learning how to walk again with the help of Harris Health’s physical therapists. He works out three times a week and plans to finish school. “Hard work pays off,” he says. To his parents, he is strength and inspiration.