Tomorrow's Leaders - Young highfliers making an impact in the ministry

July 1, 2011


With this year's assembly focused on the opportunities ahead for Catholic health care, it was only fitting that the association take time at the gathering to recognize young executives with high potential as future ministry leaders.

During an awards banquet at the assembly, CHA honored eight up-and-comers with its inaugural Tomorrow's Leaders recognition. The distinction went to people who, early in their careers, are demonstrating strong leadership skills and a passionate commitment to the ministry's healing mission. CHA introduced the honor to encourage those with promising careers in Catholic health care to continue serving the ministry.

Catholic Health World caught up with this year's honorees to learn what their work in the ministry means to them. 

Mollie M. Bresnahan
Licensed clinical mental health counselor
Health Care for the Homeless Program
Mercy Medical Center, Springfield, Mass.

Mollie Bresnahan said her parents instilled in her as a child the importance of living out her values. For the past six years, she has been doing that through Mercy Medical Center's Health Care for the Homeless Program, which dispatches clinicians and other caregivers to dozens of shelters, soup kitchens, clinics and other sites in three Massachusetts counties, to provide care to homeless people. Bresnahan joined the program through AmeriCorps and now is a staff member.

A mental health counselor, Bresnahan, 28, conducts psychological evaluations of homeless people, provides psychotherapy to them and helps them to access mental health services. In many cases she acts as a navigator, helping them stick to their care plans and access medical and social services. "I am surprised by their resilience," she said. "All our homeless patients and clients have experienced some sort of trauma in their life — whether it's trauma from a death, their childhood, loss, grieving, abuse — and they continue to get retraumatized throughout life. And the fact that they are still able to function is amazing to me."

Bresnahan sees the dignity in each client. She believes it's important to get to know each person individually and to help each get treatment. She says that her priorities in this respect align with those of Mercy, which "recognizes the value in each human being."

Bresnahan's support of the homeless goes beyond assisting individuals. She serves on several local and national boards and committees that are studying how to improve health care and services for the homeless through systemic change. Working through these groups, she's been able to further her goal "to spotlight and illustrate the importance of a comprehensive and holistic approach to care" of the homeless.

Sr. Melissa Camardo, SCL
Vice president, mission and sponsorship
Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital, Denver

For women religious, career choices aren't entirely self-directed; congregation leadership often strongly encourage sisters toward the paths most congruent with ministry needs. For this reason, Sr. Melissa Camardo, SCL, says, she didn't necessarily choose her mission leader role, "it has chosen me and I just continue to say yes to new opportunities as they present themselves."

Her career trajectory during her decade-plus at Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital has fit perfectly with how she frames her life as a Sister of Charity dedicated to helping the poor. "So it feels like even when I'm in a role like my current role that is more administration, I'm still participating in that healing process by creating an environment where people are able to experience compassion and the excellence in the clinical care that we provide, in order to restore them to health."

Sr. Camardo's first job at Saint Joseph was with an outreach program for low-income moms-to-be, helping them access prenatal care and get discounted baby items. She next managed a workforce development initiative, building up education and training offerings for Saint Joseph employees. Then, as director of spirituality, she helped employees to connect with the tradition of the Sisters of Charity. Now, as vice president of mission and sponsorship, she oversees the hospital's mission, ethics and employee development departments.

Sr. Camardo, 36, is known for her ability to articulate the importance of the Catholic health mission, understand the business aspects of health care and put in place programs that address emerging needs. She's also known as someone who shows genuine concern for those she encounters.

Sr. Camardo says she's living out her calling. "As a woman religious and as someone who tries to really embrace Catholic social teaching, to be with people who are living in poverty or vulnerable is a really important way to frame our lives. And so for me the healing ministry is really about a special attentiveness to people who are vulnerable," she says.

Imran Chaudhry
Regional director, operational excellence and project management
Providence Health & Services California, Burbank, Calif.

Seven years ago, as Imran Chaudhry was contemplating a move away from the private, for-profit business sector, he was drawn to the healing mission of Providence Health & Services. "During my initial conversations, it was very evident that their mission and core values were embedded in the culture and part of how the organization operates," Chaudhry recalls.

Providence's California region had begun a new operational excellence initiative just before Chaudhry joined the regional health system, and it proved a great opportunity for him to apply skills in improving operations honed during a six-year turn at General Electric. At Providence he works with employees in the region's five hospitals to improve hospital operations, chiefly using the Six Sigma management construct. Providence California leaders say as a result of improvements led by Chaudhry, their region is a stand-out performer in the health system and among Six Sigma companies.

It's not Chaudhry's business acumen alone that distinguishes his work, according to Sr. Colleen Settles, OP, Providence California's chief mission integration officer, it's his ability to integrate Providence's mission into the business improvement efforts.

Chaudhry, who is 33, sees a direct relationship between improving business efficiency and the quality of patient care. "My favorite aspect of this work is that as we work in our ministries to make processes more efficient, we are touching the lives of so many people that we serve in our communities," he says.

Angela M. Haggard
System director, community benefit and ministry outreach
Provena Health, Mokena, Ill.

In her 15 years with Provena Health, Angela Haggard has hopscotched around many different divisions and has taken on many different roles. She's been an information technology department manager, a performance improvement manager, a director in charge of transforming the culture, a vice president over support services and now the director of Provena's community benefit and ministry outreach activities.

Why the varied roles? Haggard likes to try new things, and she sees new opportunities as an adventure. So each time Provena took notice of her leadership abilities and invited her to apply her skills in a new capacity, she jumped at the chance.

Known as a skilled project manager with the capacity to understand both the big picture and the implementation details of a project, Haggard gets credit for helping to create a leadership development institute for top executives, and for putting in place initiatives that enhance operations and have been big hits with employees and patients.

Some of her most significant contributions have been in the community development arena. Recognizing the need for Provena and its facilities to take a more comprehensive and strategic approach to community benefit work, she and her colleagues conduct thorough community need assessments, and promote the development of community benefit programs based on those needs. Provena rigorously measures the impact of its programs now. Haggard makes sure community benefit planning is an integral part of general strategic planning.

Haggard, who is 37, says the Catholic health ministry improves lives and communities, and she's glad to be a part of that work.

Stephanie Manson
Vice president, operations
Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Baton Rouge, La.

Stephanie Manson credits mentors at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center for her quick advancement up the hospital's organizational chart. "The leaders here help people grow, they invest in people. They gave me a chance and trusted me, and I appreciate the people who believed in me," she said.

Manson, 37, joined Our Lady of the Lake 13 years ago as an administrative resident, a type of internship connected with the master's in health administration she was pursuing at the time. She was hired and promoted to director of admissions. She directed ambulatory services before being promoted again to administrator of Our Lady of the Lake's children's hospital. As a young mother, she left full employment with the hospital, working as a consultant to Our Lady of the Lake for several years. Manson returned to the hospital in 2009 as its vice president of operations. In each of her jobs, hospital leaders say, Manson engaged her teams effectively and produced strong results.

Manson says she is inspired by the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady who founded and still serve at Our Lady of the Lake and elsewhere in the Franciscan Missionaries health system. "When I see the sisters and the work they do and the risks they've taken and the awesome foundation they built, it really resonates with me."

As a Catholic, Manson connects with that tradition — she says it is a reminder to her of the purpose of her work. "As I'm doing my work, I try to do it in a way that would make the sisters proud," she says. 

Mark Repenshek
Healthcare ethicist
Columbia St. Mary's Health System, Milwaukee

As a health care ethicist at Columbia St. Mary's Health System, Mark Repenshek lectures on ethics and consults on organizational issues, but it's at the bedside in discussions with physicians, patients and family members where the essence of his professional expertise and faith are the most concentrated. Repenshek says he feels privileged to enter into the "sacred relationship" between clinicians and patients and make a contribution at a time when decisions of great moment hang in the balance.

Repenshek's in-depth deliberations on ethical issues strip a problem to its essential components. He discusses ethical issues in a clear, straightforward, yet compassionate way.

Repenshek's influence now extends well beyond Columbia St. Mary's. He has published more than a dozen articles on ethics, presented at a dozen national conferences, consulted with national organizations including CHA and contributed to two books on health care ethics.

Repenshek, 37, feels honored to be part of a strong community of Catholic health care ethicists, and he sees the importance of creating a pipeline of future ethicists. "Somebody graciously opened the door for me 10 years ago," and he'd like to help make that happen for others.

John Paul Slosar
Senior director, ethics
Ascension Health, St. Louis

John Paul Slosar says he has been able to blossom as a health care ethicist in large part because his employer, Ascension Health, gives its employees much leeway in how they carry out their work. "Leadership sets direction and then trusts the people who work here to find a way to carry it out. People are free to use their talents to achieve what the leadership thinks is in line with our mission, vision and values. It's empowering."

Slosar, 40, joined Ascension Health as an ethics intern over a decade ago and has advanced steadily. He now provides ethics consultation and education both at the system level and for Ascension Health's 77 hospitals. He also serves on ethics committees outside of Ascension Health and presents widely on health care ethics. He has written more than a dozen articles and contributed to books on bioethical topics.

Daniel O'Brien, Ascension Health vice president of ethics and church relations, calls Slosar an "invaluable resource to hundreds of leaders across Ascension Health" and says Slosar "brings an artful blend of knowledge, political savvy and compassionate presence" to ethics discussions.

Slosar says he sees his role in part as helping "other people understand what ought to be done" to rectify social injustices.

He believes the input of health care ethicists is particularly important now in helping to prepare the ministry to meet the challenges of health care reform. "I think it's going to put a lot of old ethical issues in a new light," he said of health reform. Given the financial challenges ahead, leaders will be searching for innovative ways to create a sustainable health ministry. "It's exciting to see what new possibilities we can bring out of that," he says.

Fahad Tahir
Vice president, physician enterprise
Providence Hospital, Washington, DC

In recent years, Providence Hospital was seeing an exodus of physicians, and relations between administration and physicians were sometimes stormy. At 27, Fahad Tahir is in a key role working to repair these relationships.

It is a challenging enterprise, but Tahir is making great strides in helping the hospital to reconnect with physicians. He meets face-to-face with doctors and gets to know them as individuals. "My role is to engage with our physicians and to understand in a very personal way what they're looking for at Providence and then to make sure we're doing that," he says.

His efforts are making a difference, says Matthew Lukasiak, Providence vice president of mission integration. "Our physicians are feeling cared for and that our health ministry is aligning with them in a way that is win-win," Lukasiak explains.

Dr. Robert Simmons, Providence senior vice president of medical affairs, adds that Tahir quickly earned the trust of senior staff and physicians. "This degree of instant acceptance for a new, young non-physician hospital executive administrator — among an aging medical staff — is unusual" and speaks to Tahir's inherent leadership qualities, Simmons says.

Tahir also has responsibility for clinician relations and associate engagement at Providence's Perry Family Health Center, a neighborhood clinic serving uninsured and underinsured Washingtonians. He works with the Perry team to improve patient care.

Tahir joined Providence from another Ascension Health facility, Columbia St. Mary's in Milwaukee, and he says that while he was not entirely familiar with the Catholic health ministry prior to joining the Ascension Health network, he has learned much about the system's mission over time. "I try to hone in on what's the right thing to do for the situation at hand (and trust) that if you do the right thing from a professional standpoint, the rest will follow," he says.


Copyright © 2011 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2011 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.