CHA's Trocchio reflects on 35-plus years of trailblazing work in community benefit

December 15, 2023

Julie Trocchio


Julie Trocchio is retiring as CHA senior director of community benefit and continuing care at the close of this year. During her 35-plus years at the association, she has led the Catholic health ministry's pioneering work in developing community benefit standards for not-for-profit providers and tools for assessing the needs of the communities those providers serve. She also played a key role in helping the Internal Revenue Service in its efforts to have nonprofit hospitals account for their community benefit work.

Her more recent focus has been on providing community benefit education and resources to CHA members and other partners, to increase understanding of how providers benefit their communities and how they account for this work. Trocchio also has made significant contributions to the ministry's progress in environmental stewardship, the social determinants of health, human trafficking, immigration, parish nursing and eldercare.

As she concludes her tenure at CHA, Trocchio reflects on her decades of work on behalf of the ministry:

What drew you to CHA more than three decades ago?
I used to work for another association and when I came to CHA for meetings, I would say, "Who are these really nice people who are doing such good work?" I discovered it was possible to combine my faith life and work life and I knew it was exactly right for me.

Throughout your career, Catholic health care has been a national leader in community benefit. What do you think it is about the ministry's leadership that has made it so prescient about community benefit?
When Congress started asking whether there was a difference between for-profit and not-for-profit hospitals and whether not-for-profit hospitals deserved tax exemption, the CHA board took the issue seriously. They commissioned a study on the distinguishing characteristics of not-for-profit health care and developed a framework for telling our story, not just in words, but with a solid accounting system.

They were truly prophetic by maintaining this work, updating it and refining it even when Congress did not seem interested.

Julie Trocchio speaks at CHA's Legislative Advocacy Conference in September 2010. During her 35-year tenure at CHA, she has been a key player on the association's advocacy team. Trocchio is retiring this month as CHA senior director of community benefit and continuing care.

What were some of the approaches that have made you and your colleagues in the ministry so successful in connecting with the political leaders who were making decisions about the community benefit space?
I think our credibility came when we explained that our members were carrying on a tradition started by the sisters who came to this country over 100 years ago. They looked around, saw what was needed and served. We built on this trust by having an accounting system that captured our members' work toward making our communities healthier.

I remember going to Sen. Chuck Grassley's office after he said in the press that no one knows what a community benefit is, and that you could call anything a community benefit. We said we knew and had an accounting system to document it. During the meeting one of his staff members looked through our guide and laughed, saying, "So you call having a meeting in your hospital a community benefit?" We had a hospital CEO with us who said, "I can understand what you are saying, but in my area, we are the safest place to hold a meeting at night. And we don't report what a hotel would charge, only what it costs us for coffee and janitor services."

How has CHA's work in community benefit been affirmed by other stakeholders?
Once we realized that our resources were being used not just by Catholic hospitals but by other nonprofits and state hospital associations, we knew that we were on to something.

What are the risks if the ministry does not properly anticipate where it must head when it comes to community benefit?
I think we are seeing today what happens when we don't tell our story. But I understand that. I remember going to a Catholic system meeting to talk about community benefit, and the reading to start the meeting was from Matthew, about not letting your right hand know what your left hand was doing and not to boast of good works. I said to myself, "This is going to be a hard sell."

It is uncomfortable boasting about the good we do, but we have learned it is essential to be accountable to our communities and our policymakers.

What must the ministry prioritize to best prepare for what's ahead in this space?
Community benefit is becoming more data driven, which makes it much more strategic. And we are getting more public health and other health professionals in the field, which will help the field leap forward.

What has gratified you most in your work in this realm?
Seeing how seriously our members take it when working with community partners to improve community health.

Beyond community benefit, your role at CHA also has included a focus on environmental stewardship. What gives you the most hope when you think about the ministry's work in this area?
It used to be only a small number of people in our systems, hospitals and nursing homes who were concerned about the environment and what we were doing to harm it. Now almost every organization and department are engaged. We are seeing environmental responsibility and sustainability showing up in overall strategic plans and health system priorities.

And your CHA role also has encompassed eldercare. What are you most gratified about when it comes to the ministry's recent work around long-term care?
Two things come to mind. First the heroic work of our long-term care members during COVID. CEOs and other staff sleeping in the parking lot to be sure residents got the care they needed, hiring a forklift so families could make a window visit with loved ones. I was so proud and enamored of their bravery and dedication.

Second, the Age-Friendly Health Systems initiative. I was helpful in getting CHA to be a partner with the American Hospital Association in this effort, which I think is the most effective quality assurance program for older people encountering the health care system. Watching this movement grow has been a joy.

Our biggest challenge is for the ministry to recommit to seeing the needs of older adults as a priority. Many of our organizations started by serving older people and Pope Francis has called this a priority for the church.

What is a favorite memory of your work in Catholic health care?
Watching Sr. Bernice Coreil, DC, testify before the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and telling him she would not continue her testimony until he was through with his conversation with his staff members. I said to myself, "I really want to work with these women!" (Sr. Coreil is the retired executive adviser to Ascension's president, a former CHA board chair and the 2003 recipient of CHA's Lifetime Achievement Award.)

What is ahead for you in retirement?
I am looking forward to not going to and from work in the dark and trying to learn Microsoft Teams. I also plan to be a professional grandmother.

Related media:

Community Benefit at CHA: How It Started and Where It's Headed

Catholic Health, Nursing and Me

Raising the Bar for Equity and Community Health


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