Murray's Diplomacy Honors God's Presence In Catholic Health Ministry
ATLANTA (June 6, 2011) — William Murray, FACHE, immediate past president and CEO, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, Lenexa, Kansas, received the 2011 Sister Concilia Moran Award from the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) during ceremonies at the 2011 Catholic Health Assembly in Atlanta, June 5-7. Murray, 66, retired as chief executive in January and is completing wrap-up work as a special advisor.
The annual award recognizes visionary leaders, drawing attention to their innovative ideas, unique projects, or outstanding achievements in Catholic health care. It celebrates the lifelong contributions of Sister Concilia, a pioneer in the development of mission-effectiveness programs throughout the world, whose youthful spirit, contagious energy, and boundless joy challenged everyone she met to model servant leadership.
A man of deep humility, high integrity and solid values, Murray is recognized for his ability to balance business matters with the success of the mission. During his 12-year presidency at Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System (SCLHS), his visionary leadership was personified through two significant, forward-thinking initiatives — the development of a leadership resource to help SCLHS leaders prepare for the changing landscape of health care delivery and the alignment of two major health systems.
Murray implemented the SCLHS Common Calling Leadership Model, a philosophy that centers on the system's mission and core values and the interdependence of affiliate hospitals, clinics and the system office. The model stresses that no one entity can be successful without the others — that all interests are mutual and must be aligned toward the success of the system as a whole.
He valued the importance of cultivating future leaders to sustain and carry the Catholic health ministry forward. He collaborated with five other Catholic health systems to establish the Ministry Leadership Center, an intensive, mandatory, three-year educational program to help senior executives become grounded in the values that inform the Catholic health care tradition.
Murray is recognized in church circles for his knowledge of sponsorship issues and has participated in the collaborative sponsorship formation program with 11 other religious communities and health systems. He retired from SCHLS earlier this year.
Prior to the passage of health reform Murray recognized that the critical mass and agility of health systems would be essential to sustaining the ministry. Driven by the Common Calling philosophy, he identified and implemented a strategic growth initiative — the integration of SCLHS and Exempla Healthcare. He believed the combined strengths of the two systems could provide greater service than if they remained separate. In spite of fierce opposition, he successfully achieved this initiative in support of the mission and with respect for local circumstances and church teachings.
The reshaping of governance at Exempla Healthcare in Denver took two years and made for trying times. There were court actions, public protests and rebellious board members — even a hostile bill in the state legislature.
Through it all, Murray kept his cool. The result is a better-capitalized network of three local hospitals, with the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System of Lenexa, Kansas, in charge and plans secured for a new Saint Joseph Hospital in downtown Denver. His dignified approach to persuading opponents exemplifies the leadership style he practiced — one that modeled ministry values.
Mary Jo Gregory, chief operating officer for the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, said when challenges arose during Exempla's reshaping, Murray chose not to fight fire with fire.
"There were some tense days with all kinds of chaos, but Bill never demonized anybody," Gregory said. "For him, it was about completing the transaction with the least amount of pain and maximum charity for the opposition. His rule was never to speak negatively, but to speak the truth."
Said Murray, "Catholic health care is about working for the common good, a way to practice the belief in God's presence in our work. It encourages people to be idealistic in an increasingly cynical world, and it drives our work with the belief that the best is yet to be."
He said the award "is for all the people I've worked with."
Exempla was created in 1998 by merging the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System's Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver with Lutheran Medical Center in the west suburb of Wheat Ridge. In 2004, Exempla opened Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette, Colo., near Boulder. Of the three, only Saint Joseph operated under the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.
In 2007, at the urging of the Community First Foundation (Lutheran Medical's sponsor), the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System agreed to increase its operational control of Exempla and operate all three Exempla hospitals. The change in control was driven, in part, by Exempla's request for capital to invest in its hospitals. The sponsorship change was opposed by some Exempla board members, doctors, community organizations and political leaders, many of whom didn't want a Catholic system to operate all three hospitals. Murray met directly with many of them in forging the agreement. It allows the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System to invest in all three hospitals and proceed with plans for a $623 million new Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital, next to the current one downtown.
"We had a flawed joint operating agreement of secular and Catholic hospitals that put a straightjacket on Exempla's ability to grow," Murray said. "To make the change happen, our job was to explain what Catholic health care is all about."
Among the opponents were some Lutheran Medical doctors and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which tried to get the Colorado General Assembly to kill the deal. The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System obtained operational control of Exempla in December 2009.
At Murray's side during the reshaping discussions, was Sr. Doris Gottemoeller, RSM, who was board chair of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System during the Exempla reshaping. She is the 2008 recipient of the Sister Concilia Moran Award.
"It was his steadiness of vision that helped us through all the pressures," said Sr. Gottemoeller, now senior vice president for mission and values integration at Cincinnati's Catholic Health Partners. "I remember a meeting in which some of our opponents said they'd rather see (Exempla) fail than become part of a Catholic health system. Bill's resolve was to stay the course, always on the high road."
The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), founded in 1915, supports the Catholic health ministry’s commitment to improve the health status of communities and create quality and compassionate health care that works for everyone. The Catholic health ministry is the nation's largest group of not-for-profit health systems and facilities that, along with their sponsoring organizations, employ more than 750,000 women and men who deliver services combining advanced technology with the Catholic caring tradition.