Common values cement relations between Saint Marys, Mayo Clinic

July 1, 2012

Saint Marys engages in disciplined analysis to ensure continuation of Catholic identity


PHILADELPHIA — When a devastating tornado ripped through Rochester, Minn., in 1883, Sr. Alfred Moes had a dream. Her religious order, the Sisters of St. Francis, would build a hospital to help the sick and injured, on the condition that Dr. William Mayo, a physician in Rochester, would provide the medical services, along with his two sons. And so began the long marriage between Saint Marys Hospital and Mayo Clinic — a trusting partnership that has allowed each entity to flourish and expand into an internationally renowned medical center.

During an Innovation Forum session at the Catholic Health Assembly, T. Dean Maines, president of the Veritas Institute at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, discussed his recent role in helping Saint Marys apply an assessment tool known as the Catholic Identity Matrix to its operations as a way of ensuring the future of its Catholic identity.

Maines said he'd been astounded, as he delved into the history of the organization, to learn about the vital role the Franciscan sisters have played from the earliest days of the development of the Mayo Clinic and its approach to health care. "It's one of the best-kept secrets in Catholic health care," he said.

Other presenters on the forum, titled "Sponsorship at Saint Marys/Mayo: Preserving the Mission in an Integrated Environment," were Sr. Mary Eliot Crowley, OSF, Franciscan sponsorship coordinator of Saint Marys Hospital and Mayo Clinic and Dr. Keith M. Swetz, a physician with the Mayo Clinic and a consultant with its palliative medicine program.

Today, Mayo Clinic patients in Rochester are seen in one of two hospitals, Saint Marys or Methodist Hospital. According to an agreement formalized in 1986, the three organizations work together as an integrated medical center, and the two hospitals are managed by a single administrative team. Under that agreement, the sisters relinquished governance and assets and began their "sponsorship of influence" at Saint Marys.

Well before that, though, in 1973, the sisters developed a philosophy of sponsorship, Sr. Crowley said, looking ahead to a day when a layperson would take the helm of Saint Marys (which happened in 1981). The goal, she said, was to ensure consistent governance and continuing care for the poor. Then, after 1986, the sisters established throughout the hospital an ongoing self-assessment and review process based on Catholic Franciscan values.

More recently at Saint Marys, as at many Catholic hospitals in recent tumultuous years, a question became more persistent: How would Catholic identity be preserved for years to come? That's where Maines entered the scene to work with Saint Marys on a dashboard for Catholic identity. "We are now putting into metrics" what had previously been understood, Sr. Crowley said: in-depth, hospital-wide assessments based on six principles that undergird Catholic identity in health care.

"The Franciscan sisters' values were always there, and the Mayo Clinic had absorbed the ethos of the sisters," said Lynn Frederick, administrator of the two Rochester hospitals, in an interview after the forum. "In the past couple of years, we said the values should be identical; that we (Saint Marys and Mayo Clinic) should use the same words." Those common values, available on the sponsorship section of Saint Marys Hospital's website, include primacy of patient needs; excellence, teamwork, compassion, integrity, healing, innovation, stewardship, and respect in delivery of health care; continued integration of the Franciscan heritage and philosophy into the workplace; and promotion of spiritual care.

The Catholic Identity Matrix has its own set of principles: solidarity with those who live in poverty, holistic care, respect for human life, a participatory community of work, stewardship of resources, and acting in communion with the Catholic Church, which includes applying the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services to medical practices at Saint Marys. Mayo Clinic physicians follow the ERDs in their practice at Saint Marys, according to Sr. Jean Keniry, OSF, president of Saint Marys Sponsorship Board.

The Catholic Identity Matrix originated with a request from the sponsors council of St. Louis-based Ascension Health for a tool that would assess how well principles of Catholic identity were reflected in the operating policies and practices of its hospitals. Since 2007, the Veritas Institute has partnered with Ascension Health to foster the tool's development. Saint Marys is now among approximately 30 Catholic hospitals using the tool, Maines said.

The dashboard "will enable Saint Marys Sponsorship Board to determine how effectively it is exercising its sponsorship of influence and how this sponsorship could be exercised more effectively in the future," Maines said. The dashboard tracks numerous specific activities related to the six principles, including board education, patient satisfaction surveys with a focus on values, education for employees on the ERDs, and reports on charity care.

Swetz said the process is based "on a common set of values" at Saint Marys and Mayo Clinic. "They are not just the values of the sisters," he explained. The partnership has such a long history of success, "because the values have been so intertwined."

"Today," Swetz continued, "it's not unusual to find Catholic and non-Catholic organizations being pushed toward mergers because of health reform." And that, he related, is the reason the group had proposed its presentation at the assembly. "As a layperson who practices at both hospitals (Saint Marys and Methodist), and who has studied and practiced elsewhere, I see this as an example where a relationship has been done well. I think it's predicated on one word: trust."


Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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