CHA recognizes up-and-comers making an impact on ministry

July 1, 2013

Ten named Tomorrow's Leaders


At the 2013 Catholic Health Assembly, CHA honored leaders who are making significant achievements early in their careers in Catholic health care and who are poised to guide the ministry in the future.

The 10 young ministry executives named Tomorrow's Leaders participated in a leadership formation retreat with senior ministry executives prior to the assembly and were recognized at the assembly awards banquet.

Catholic Health World asked them to reflect on their work in the ministry.

Yousuf J. Ahmad
Market president and chief executive
Mercy Health, Cincinnati

Under reform, health care providers must change the way they operate by improving how they use information technology, coordinate patient care, work with physicians and partner with other organizations. Since joining Mercy Health in 2004, Yousuf Ahmad has been leading the system's efforts in these areas. He helped spearhead Mercy Health's adoption of an electronic medical records system, the expansion of its physician group practice, the implementation of its patient centered medical home strategy and its development of Cincinnati's first accountable care organization.

Ahmad, 39, says his work is meaningful to him because it advances public health and because it is grounded in Mercy Health's values of social justice, compassion and excellence — values he says are "part of my own DNA."

Mercy Health and Cincinnati-area leaders took notice of Ahmad's leadership skills, promoting him to his new position as market president and chief executive last month. James May, the outgoing Mercy Health president and chief executive now devoting full time to his role as executive vice president for Catholic Health Partners says, "Yousuf is a big picture person, able to see how the many elements of our network of care can come together and work in concert to improve the health of the communities we serve."

Kathleen D. Benton
Director, clinical ethics
St. Joseph's/Candler Health System, Savannah, Ga.

As clinical ethics director for St. Joseph's/Candler Health System since 2007, Kathleen Benton has been expanding the system's ethics consultation services, improving ethics education offerings for internal and external groups and building awareness of the importance of advance directives.

Benton, 31, spends much of her time heading ethics consults to help patients, their families and clinicians navigate difficult health care decisions. In this role, she says she often deals with clinicians or family members who don't want to hear the uncomfortable information she must convey.

During challenging discussions, Benton says she draws upon the Holy Spirit's guidance and upon her experiences growing up with a brother with Proteus Syndrome, the "Elephant Man's disease." She says, "I believe I have increased empathy for families, because I've been there," supporting her brother during his 105 surgeries.

Sr. Margaret Beatty, RSM, St. Joseph's/Candler vice president of mission services, says Benton's compassion is evident in her willingness "to do whatever it takes for the good of the patient. She is hard working and unafraid to investigate or challenge if it means that the patient and their families will be better served."

Nicole Breslin
Campion Health Center, Weston, Mass.

As a ninth grader visiting her grandmother in a nursing home, Nicole Breslin chose a career path. "That was when I decided that I wanted to run a nursing home because I saw that there was so much more potential than what the home was like that she was in." In that home, residents sat in the hallways with nothing to do.

Fast forward about a decade; Breslin found that opportunity in 2008 when she was named administrator of Campion Health Center, a skilled nursing and retirement home for Jesuits.

Executives at Campion's management company Covenant Health Systems, say Breslin woke the place up. "Nicole's arrival was like a breath of fresh air É she set about a one-woman course to reenergize the organization," the Covenant executives say. She secured a bus so residents can attend off-campus events; she helps them pursue their interests; and organizes on-campus activities including art classes, Wii tournaments and talent shows.

The 34-year-old Breslin says "it is quite a humbling experience that I can give back to scholars, theologians, doctors, lawyers, mathematicians, astronomers, writers and priests" who have contributed so much to society.

Kristin E. Carmichael
Domestic violence coordinator
CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, Santa Fe, N.M.

According to U.S. Department of Justice estimates, 37 percent of female emergency department patients seeking treatment for violence-related injuries were injured by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. Many domestic violence victims seek care in doctors' offices and clinics, often without volunteering the truth about how they were injured.

As domestic violence coordinator for CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center since 2010, Kristin Carmichael, 36, knows clinicians are in a good position to identify and assist victims of domestic violence in breaking out of the cycle of violence. She built up the hospital's domestic violence intervention program and has staff facility-wide using screening protocols. She collects and analyzes data to measure the effectiveness of CHRISTUS St. Vincent's efforts to have staff screen for abuse, intervene, make referrals, document the case and ensure a safe discharge from the hospital. Carmichael also advocates in the Santa Fe community for improved services for abuse victims and she speaks and consults regularly around the U.S. on domestic violence.

In her one-on-one work with abuse victims, she values that she can provide her services in the context of Catholic health care. She uses the medical center's spiritual care resources to help abuse victims address their concerns holistically. "If we treated just the physical problems, but ignored the situations that brought them here, we wouldn't be fulfilling our mission," she says.

Lynn Detterman
President and chief executive
Mercy Willard Hospital, Willard, Ohio
and Mercy Tiffin Hospital, Tiffin, Ohio

As Mercy Willard Hospital president and chief executive since 2009, Lynn Detterman has led the rural facility through several challenging and ambitious projects, including the opening of a replacement hospital and the difficult shutdown of Mercy Willard's obstetrical service line. Detterman, 37, also oversees a partnership involving a skilled nursing facility.

Sr. Diane Hay, OSF, Mercy Willard chaplain, says Detterman lives out Mercy's mission by leading Mercy Willard and its employees "with compassion for all people, dedication that is unshakable and enthusiasm that permeates throughout the facility."

Detterman recently added her leadership responsibilities at Mercy Tiffin Hospital in Tiffin, Ohio. She succeeds Dale Thornton, who retired as president and chief executive in late May. He said Detterman "truly has a servant's heart É She has been known to assist patients and visitors in locating wheelchairs, opening doors as well as escorting them to their destination."

Detterman says: "I'm not here just to do a job — but for a purpose."

Maria Aurora Diaz
Director of Community Health and the Center for Diabetic Wellness, Presence Mercy Medical Center, Aurora, Ill.

As an 8-year-old child, Maria Aurora Diaz had to translate a doctor's diagnosis to her father, a Mexican immigrant and diabetic: "Dad, the doctor says you have sugar in your blood."

She recalls, "We didn't understand what was going on and it added stress that we were not able to pay for the visit" and didn't have insurance.

Now, as the force behind Presence Mercy Medical Center's Center for Diabetes Wellness as well as the hospital's Health Institute and faith-based nursing program, Diaz says she's able to help ensure other people do not have to experience what she and her father did. Diaz, 39, has developed Presence Mercy's outreach programs to be culturally sensitive, accessible to vulnerable populations and effective in helping people achieve wellness, according to Presence Mercy leaders and those who work with Diaz in the community.

"To be able to work with an organization with a mission to care for the vulnerable — this opportunity is a blessing; it's because of God," Diaz says.

Dr. Denise Mohess
Geriatric hospitalist, palliative care and hospice
Providence Hospital, Washington, D.C.

When Dr. Denise Mohess arrived in the U.S. to further her studies in medicine, she knew she wanted to focus on a specialty not common in her native Trinidad and Tobago, so she could eventually share her knowledge there. But she didn't know what that focus would be until she was a second year resident working with a palliative care nurse caring for a dying patient.

Mohess, 36, recalls, "I initially thought it would be depressing, but found it uplifting and fulfilling to help the patient and family."

She went on to earn certifications in geriatric medicine, and palliative care and hospice and now works in the Center for Geriatric Medicine, the medical house calls and palliative care programs at Providence Hospital. She takes care of Providence's sickest and most vulnerable patients in the hospital and in their homes, sometimes in the most dangerous neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., explains Fahad Tahir, Providence vice president, physician enterprise. He adds that when caring for patients and counseling families, Mohess provides the best medicine in sometimes less-than-ideal circumstances.

Mohess says she treats every patient with dignity, as an individual of worth. "The patient has an illness, yes, but they are someone's mother or daughter or sister. So I approach them as a person," not a medical condition.

Todd Salnas
St. Joseph Health Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, Calif.

The two hospitals and a network of other facilities within St. Joseph Sonoma County have been preparing for full implementation of health reform by improving care quality, implementing an electronic health record, improving partnerships with other health care organizations and recruiting primary care providers. The work has been particularly challenging because the system's anchor hospital is a safety net facility facing declining reimbursements and seeing escalating numbers of uninsured patients.

Andrea Learned, vice president of development for the regional system, says amid the challenges, Todd Salnas, the system's president, has maintained his focus on the mission. "He speaks out about our essentiality and commitment to care for all in our community. He routinely asks, 'Is it fair?'"

She adds that Salnas, 40, successfully rallies people around the work that needs to be done. "When Todd arrived, few of our stakeholders grasped the long-term strategy we would need to sustain the work begun by our founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. Todd brought new ideas, honed a realistic strategy we all could be excited about and traveled throughout the region to communicate a new vision and to seek buy-in among key partners."

For his part, Salnas sees himself as someone who creates a culture where people may thrive. "I personally believe most people who work in Catholic health care are extremely committed, caring people," he says. "The best leadership style in this environment is a servant leadership style that not only inspires but also supports those who are committed, so they have opportunities to be the best they can be each day."

Raymond G. Weiss
Director, mission services
Felician Village, Manitowoc, Wis.

In two years as director of mission services at the Felician Village senior living community, Raymond Weiss, 40, has brought a new level of rigor and vitality to the campus' pastoral, spiritual and ethics practices, say administrators.

He put in place a tool for measuring how well Felician's core values are integrated into the campus' operations. He is working with administrators and board members to use a value-based decision-making tool. And he is using electronic records to track pastoral care visits.

Weiss also is working with staff to change the culture, including by helping interdisciplinary teams to function effectively and implementing a service program that helps staff head off concerns such as patient and family complaints before they escalate.

Sr. Rochelle Kerkhof, FSCC, is director of mission and pastoral care at Holy Family Memorial hospital in Manitowoc, which, like Felician, is part of Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries. She attributes Weiss' success in implementing such initiatives to his humility, "courageous heart" and servant leadership.

For his part, Weiss strives to bring alive the Gospel vision of healing. "My work invites a daily encounter with Christ in the faces of our residents and families (and) through the compassion and love shared by our staff," he says.

Maxim Williams
Director, community relationship building
Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, Greenville, S.C.

Sterling, S.C., was a vital neighborhood in Greenville, S.C., until a 1967 fire destroyed its high school. A period of urban flight followed, and the community has since struggled with widespread poverty, crime and poor health. Wanting to get at the root of these concerns, Bon Secours St. Francis Health Systems hired Maxim Williams in 2008 to assess Sterling's issues and unite the community to address them.

Williams went door to door to learn residents' perspectives and he created a league of agencies, businesses and other organizations interested in improving Sterling.

Using input from the residents and league, Williams helped develop a revitalization plan and he has since been working with the community to create recreation programs, gardens, exercise trails and a community center and to lay the groundwork for future improvements. Dot Russell, president of a Sterling neighborhood association, says, in large part because of Williams, "crime is declining, the neighborhood is getting cleaned up," residents are cultivating community gardens and more people are walking and jogging.

Williams, 34, hopes to replicate the results in Sterling in other neighborhoods. "My favorite aspect of the work I do is working within impoverished and low-income communities to create opportunities for people to see that they are valued; they have gifts and talents; and inspire them to be leaders," he says.


Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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