• Building Bridges By Faith
  • 2017 Catholic Health Assembly

Statuto is a practitioner of the 'people first' business model of women religious


Successful leadership requires the ability to clearly define goals, chart a path to achieving them and inspire others to follow.

Rich Statuto, president and chief executive of Bon Secours Health System, certainly covers all those bases. The broad mission of his organization, he says, is "to bring individuals and communities to health and wholeness." The way for Bon Secours, and all Catholic health providers, to accomplish that, he says, is through the acronym CARE — convenience, affordability, reliability and experience. As for motivating others, one needs only to listen to the accolades of his staff.

"Rich is the absolute perfect CEO," says Sr. Pat Eck, congregational leader of the Sisters of Bon Secours of Paris and chair of Bon Secours Health System from 1997-2009. "He has the rare combination of being visionary, strategic and good at implementation. On top of that, he understands the ministry and is very people-oriented."

"Rich's giftedness as a leader comes from his ability to translate the charism of our sponsors: healing, compassion and liberation," says Jeff Oak, senior vice president, corporate responsibility and development at Bon Secours. He adds: "Listening is a hallmark of leadership, and Rich is a great listener."

"Rich is fair, balanced and competitive, and he truly lives his values," says Tim Davis, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Bon Secours. "He has a saying, 'family is first'. No matter what is going on, nothing is more valuable than his family. It's his priority, and he expects the same of his workers. He's the best boss I've ever had."

Statuto is a 2017 recipient of the Sister Concilia Moran Award, a CHA award given to innovative leaders who advance the ministry.

Statuto, 59, grew up on Long Island, N.Y., one of three siblings born to parents who emigrated from Italy. He graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in chemical engineering in 1980 and became a process engineer at the Procter & Gamble Co., based in Cincinnati.

Attending classes at night and on weekends, he earned an MBA from Xavier University in Cincinnati in 1983 and went to work for Touche Ross (now Deloitte & Touche), where his clients included health care companies. In 1987, he was giving a presentation on service line management in health care in Carmel, Calif., when he met John Brozovich, then president, operations of Bon Secours.

"He asked me if I'd ever considered a full-time career in health care," recalls Statuto. "I hadn't, but it seemed much more rewarding to use my skills to help reduce suffering and participate in joyous occasions like birth."

Faith-based business
Statuto's decision also was swayed by his respect for what he calls "the business model" of women religious.

"P&G is well-known for studying consumer habits and responding to needs, but Catholic women religious have a straightforward model that's older and maybe even better. They get to know the people and respond to human needs in order to build healthier communities," he says.

Statuto worked as Bon Secours vice president of marketing and business development from 1987-1990, then took a position at what was then St. Joseph's Health System in Orange County, Calif. He was St. Joseph's chief executive from 1995-2004, and has been president and chief executive at Marriottsville, Md.-based Bon Secours since 2005.

Ask Statuto what accomplishments in health care he is most proud of and he mentions work to ensure health care that is available and accessible to everyone, installing electronic medical records, supporting just wages and community health initiatives.

Universal access
As chair of CHA's board in 2003-2004, Statuto was among the first to commit to work for universal access to health insurance in the U.S., holding one of the first board meetings in his home to study, plan and support CHA's Covering a Nation advocacy initiative.

"It was part of my focus to make sure we had a broader advocacy base and investment in getting ready for covering the uninsured," he says. "It was exciting to see, a few years later, the CHA staff ready to support President Obama's work" to pass the Affordable Care Act.

Electronic medical records
Statuto championed a seven-year project at Bon Secours beginning in 2005 to achieve clinical transformation, well before the federal government offered significant incentives to install comprehensive electronic medical records systems. As a result, today Bon Secours has achieved the highest level of EMR adoption, where paper charts are no longer used.

"As an engineer, I was just very concerned about inefficiency, clunkiness and the fragmentation of information in health care," he says.

Just wage program
Statuto championed Bon Secours' just wage initiative, beginning in 2006, to be an advocate for the working poor. In 2015, Bon Secours broadened its program, bringing the minimum pay to $11 per hour, with plans to continue increases to $15 per hour over four years — 20 percent higher than the federally mandated minimum wage.

"As an organization that has a preferential option to care for those at the margins, I felt we needed to look inside to the people who tend to be our entry-level employees — people who touch our patients, provide hospitality and respond to our patients' needs," says Statuto.

Bon Secours has continued that focus by ensuring availability of health benefits to uninsured family members through an "Employee +1" option, extending coverage to others living in the same household, and through an Employee Wellness and Hardship Fund that assists individual employees in need and offers health programs with an emphasis on lower-wage earners.

Healthy community initiatives
Under Statuto, Bon Secours has invested in programs and projects that promote prevention and wellness by impacting social determinants of health. He cites a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study on mortality and morbidity that found  the factors that increase length of life and improvement of health to be only 10 percent clinical care and 10 percent access to care, 40 percent socioeconomics, 30 percent healthy behaviors and 10 percent built environment.

 "To live out our mission to bring people to health and wholeness, we need to engage community partners — churches, social service agencies, residents — to envision and prioritize what's needed in a particular area."

Bon Secours has improved the standard of living in segments of the most depressed sections of Baltimore by repairing and renovating dilapidated homes and constructing apartments for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities. It has also "adopted" neighborhoods in Hampton Roads and Richmond, Va.; Greenville, S.C.; and the Bronx, N.Y. — as well as Trujillo and Huancayo in Peru — investing funds and time to improve the quality of life, economic stability and overall health of the community.

Committing for the long haul
Statuto stresses that it's not just improving the built environment that's important, however. "In conjunction with our partners, we promote programs in teen parenting, earning GEDs, planting gardens, jobs creation, working with reentry of the incarcerated and more," he says. "Our commitment is very long-term and very rewarding."

Bon Secours leaders point to two other hallmarks of Statuto's leadership: his ability to humanize health care challenges and his determination to develop younger talent.

Says Oak, "When we discuss preventable deaths, he talks about the 100,000 families that hold funerals for loved ones whose deaths were unnecessary. When we talk about the high cost of care, he expresses a profound moral anguish over the million or more families who have been forced into bankruptcies as a result of medical bills. He interprets our challenges in terms of people, not numbers."

As for recruiting and developing bright minds, says Janice Burnett, chief financial officer and executive vice president at Bon Secours, whenever Statuto lectures at colleges he encourages business students to make a difference with their lives by choosing careers that advance the common good and put them in service to others.

Lighter side
Colleagues say Statuto likes games. He plays to win in everything from office Fitbit competitions to golf. He loves technology and gadgets and sight gags. (Lately he has been adding emojis to many of his communications.)

He's devoted to his wife, Jennifer; his four sons, Anthony, Dominic, Vincent and Mario; grandson Matteo; and his three dogs, Bella, Rosco and Lilly.



Copyright © 2017 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.