Outgoing Ascension Healthcare executive reflects on time with ministry

February 15, 2019

Three top executives to depart amid reorganization


In 2005, Patricia Maryland was tapped to chair a 15-member Citizens Health Care Working Group created under President George W. Bush and commissioned by Congress to undertake a national dialogue on health care policy with the American people.


The work culminated in a report to the White House and Congress that Maryland said later served as a supporting document for the Affordable Care Act, passed under the Obama administration.

Maryland has been president and chief executive of Ascension Healthcare since July 2017 and is an executive vice president of the parent company, St. Louis-based Ascension. She said her work on that panel was one of highlights of her 15 years with Ascension.

Maryland is one of three members of Ascension's senior leadership team who will leave the company on June 30 as part of a reorganization announced last month. In a Jan. 22 announcement Ascension said that, effective immediately, it is eliminating "the Solutions and Healthcare division construct" as part of its ongoing efforts to create "One Ascension." Maryland will retain the chief executive position until her departure, when that position will be eliminated, Ascension said.

The Solutions division had contained Ascension Holdings, Ascension Investment Management, Ascension Global Mission, Ascension Technologies and several other business lines.


John Doyle, executive vice president of Ascension and president and chief executive of Ascension Holdings and Ascension Holdings International, and Dr. David Pryor, chief clinical officer for Ascension, said they plan to retire. Maryland said she will look for a new and different challenge.

Doyle joined the Ascension system office as senior vice president of strategic business development and innovation in 2000 having been an executive vice president in Ascension's Indianapolis market. Ascension credits Doyle with leading the development of its first strategic direction, identifying new business opportunities and leveraging new and existing business lines to generate new sources of revenue.


Pryor joined Ascension Health in 2001 as chief medical officer to lead the system's work in care excellence. He moved to a newly constituted parent company in 2012 as part of a reorganization that year that created Ascension Healthcare and the Solutions division. He led Ascension's efforts to improve patient safety and clinical quality, dramatically reducing preventable injuries and deaths, and introducing the principles of high reliability to the system, Ascension said.

Joseph Impicciche is stepping into a newly configured role of president and chief operating officer of Ascension. Impicciche will have oversight of Ascension health care operations and services. He will report to Anthony Tersigni, who will remain chief executive of the organization but will cede responsibility as president to Impicciche. Impicciche has been executive vice president and general counsel of Ascension since 2004.

In a media release announcing the reorganization, Tersigni said, "The changes being announced today embody our commitment to One Ascension by creating a more integrated, flatter organization that supports aligned accountability, nimble decision-making and empowered teams."


Maryland said in an interview with Catholic Health World that Ascension's organizational transformation in recent years will serve the ministry's strategic direction and long-term sustainability during a time of significant change in the health care industry.

Maryland's legacy
Maryland said that before stepping into the top job at Ascension Healthcare in July 2017, she had told Tersigni she intended to remain in the post for only two years. Prior to accepting the chief executive position, Maryland had been president of health care operations and chief operating officer of Ascension Healthcare for nearly five years.

In addition to her tenure on the health care working group in the mid-2000s, Maryland said she is most proud of being the first female and African-American to provide leadership at the chief executive level within Ascension.

As chief executive of Ascension Healthcare she has direct leadership and oversight for 151 hospitals, more than 50 senior living facilities, and more than 1,800 ambulatory care and diagnostic sites in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

"I feel like I've been sponsored by top leadership through Tony Tersigni and supported by many others to have made this kind of achievement from a career perspective," she said.

From her platform as one of the highest-ranking women of color in Catholic health care, Maryland said she has, in turn, been able to sponsor and nurture the careers of other women and minorities in the leadership ranks through Ascension's Leadership Academy and ASPIRE program. (Aspire stands for Accessibility, Sponsorship, Preparation, Integration, Results and Experience.)

Focus in near term
Maryland, a member of the CHA Board of Trustees, will focus during her remaining tenure at Ascension on managing the transition of Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., from acute care to a health village concept.

"This is definitely an area that I'm passionate about," she said. "As we see needs evolving and changing in a community, our ability to be able to respond to that is really important," as is being agile enough to make "those necessary changes."

The Providence campus is home to Ascension's Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which will continue as a long-term skilled nursing facility with plans to add outreach services. Maryland said there is a great need for additional services to support frail, low-income elderly in the District. "Let's make that happen on this campus," she said of Providence.

Future plans
Maryland said she has not determined what her next professional step will be, although she said she is not interested in being the chief executive of another health system.

She expressed an interest in board work, health policy and in mentoring young talent, specifically women and minorities who are looking to grow professionally within their organizations.

Maryland spent half of her 30-year career in health administration with the Ascension system. "My time in Catholic health care has been just so precious for me," she said. "Because of our mission and who we are as an organization, we really — through our actions — care about the most poor and the vulnerable."


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