Tomorrow's Leaders

July 1, 2015


CHA honors young leaders for contributions to ministry
Nine recognized for leadership qualities

CHA has awarded its Tomorrow's Leaders recognition to nine individuals who have demonstrated a passion for the Catholic health mission. Just prior to the Catholic Health Assembly, recipients, who were all age 40 or younger at the time of their nomination, took part in a leadership formation retreat with senior leaders from across the ministry.

Members of the Tomorrow's Leaders class of 2015 spoke to Catholic Health World about their path to ministry leadership.


Danielle Gilbert
Administrative director, human resources, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, Richmond, Va.

For Danielle Gilbert, a career in human resources is an opportunity to mentor others and help them reach their full potential.

Gilbert's desire to nurture others was forged in adversity. At age 16 she became a primary caregiver to her younger brother and sister after their mother died and the children moved in with their grandmother. The responsibility of guiding her siblings while working and putting herself through undergraduate school at night taught her the importance of setting goals to unlock potential. She went on to earn dual master's degrees in business administration and in public administration in 2011, both with honors.

At Bon Secours Richmond Health System she leads employee recruitment efforts and is credited with helping attract and retain diverse talent.

"She's a driving force in developing our diversity and inclusion programs and in cross-cultural training that sets our health system apart from others," said Sr. Anne Marie Mack, CBS, Bon Secours Virginia Health System senior vice president of sponsorship. "Danielle believes in the intrinsic value and potential of everyone."

Gilbert facilitates and teaches math in the health system's School at Work program for low-wage employees. In the community, she mentors youth and adults through volunteer programs and also through a for-profit company she founded, Manifest in You, which provides job search help and life coaching for both teens and adults.


Eric Gilliam
President, Saint Joseph East, Lexington, Ky.; and Saint Joseph Berea, Berea, Ky.

As an undergraduate student, Eric Gilliam took courses to become a physician assistant. While in school, he worked as an emergency department technician at Jewish Hospital in Lexington (which was renamed Saint Joseph East), and then as a pharmacy technician at Saint Joseph Healthcare in Lexington. In both roles, he said, "I saw things I knew I could do better in health care delivery, and I wanted to try to make changes." He determined he could have a significant impact in this regard in an administrative role, so he shifted course. He earned a master's degree in health administration, and has since worked as a health care administrator in positions of increasing responsibility.

Gilliam, 38, has spent most of his career with the Saint Joseph Healthcare system of Lexington, now part of Catholic Health Initiatives' KentuckyOne Health. He has been president of the system's Saint Joseph East and Saint Joseph Berea since 2012.

He has improved the hospitals' culture by asking managers to hold daily team huddles to strengthen teamwork and to round several times a week to maintain their connection with patients. He does the same. Jeff Murphy, KentuckyOne Health vice president of marketing and communications, said Gilliam "believes greater employee satisfaction not only creates a positive workplace and lower turnover, but that it ultimately creates greater quality care for patients."


Justin Joe
Manager of community health, Providence Health & Services, South Bay service area, Torrance, Calif.

As manager of a Providence Health & Services program that assists low-income people in enrolling in Medicaid or in coverage through California's insurance exchange, Justin Joe is very familiar with the plight of the underserved. "I see the challenges and the barriers of those who had been unable to get insurance," he said.

Joe said witnessing the impact that Providence's support can have in the lives of the poor is a constant reminder to him that this work is "more than just a job."

In addition to managing the insurance enrollment program, Joe, 28, is the practice manager for a primary care clinic for the uninsured. His supervisors say he is the best prepared person in the room at meetings, and he is unflappable under pressure.

James Tehan, Providence service area director for community partnerships, said Joe's integrity, analytical skills, empathy and leadership capabilities are propelling his career. "Justin Joe started with Providence as a part-time college student in 2008; and seven years later, he manages 19 employees" and has responsibility for many important Providence projects, particularly the enrollment program and the clinic for the uninsured. He earned a master's in public health while working full time.

Tehan said, "Justin has a deep commitment to working with the poor and vulnerable."


Sondra Norder
President and chief executive officer, St. Paul Elder Services, Inc., Kaukauna, Wis.

Sondra Norder, 35, said as an undergraduate student working in a nursing home more than a decade ago, she "fell in love with the setting and the work." She liked that she could build long-term relationships with residents and families, that she could partner with dedicated staff members and that she could take on the challenge of improving the often-negative perception community members have of long-term care.

Norder brought her enthusiasm for the work to St. Paul in 2010 when she accepted a position as administrator and chief operating officer. She also brought a juris doctor with a health law emphasis and a bachelor of science degree in health care administration into the leadership position at the 201-bed nursing and eldercare complex. She was promoted to president and chief executive officer in 2013. Under her leadership, the organization has significantly improved its ranking on quality measures, stabilized its finances, spearheaded an expansion of its rehabilitation facilities and built up its memory care offerings.

"Her personal mission is to make sure every resident, regardless of financial status, is made to feel welcome, at home and comfortable at St. Paul's," said Scott McConnaha, vice president of mission for St. Paul's parent company, FSCC Sponsored Ministries of Manitowoc, Wis.

FSCC President Sr. Laura Wolf, OSF, said Norder "has a strategic mind and a deep commitment to the elderly and our health care ministry."


Christi Pierce
Vice president of quality and safety, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Baton Rouge, La.

Christi Pierce, 37, is right in the thick of efforts to shape and implement Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center's strategic and innovative responses to rapid market changes driven by health reform.

She is credited with changing the hospital's management of serious safety events, including by creating cultures of learning that result in lower rates of recurrence. She's enhanced the hospital's quality and reporting structure, creating global dashboards and daily reports that compare hospital data with national metrics. And, as director of physician services, she's navigated the delicate process of onboarding new physicians and grounding them in the Catholic health care mission.

Pierce helped support the establishment of a clinically integrated network of safety net providers in Baton Rouge. And she co-led successful efforts to secure the facility's participation in a federal bundled payment initiative.

K. Scott Wester, president and chief executive officer of Our Lady of the Lake, attributes Pierce's success in guiding these top-priority initiatives to her "leadership and high performance during times of tremendous growth and change."

Pierce has a master's of science in health administration and a master's of business administration and is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. She said each project or challenge she takes on "begins with putting the patient at the center."


Gabriela Saenz
Vice president of advocacy and public policy, CHRISTUS Health, Irving, Texas

As one of the top advocacy and public policy leaders of the CHRISTUS Health system, attorney Gabriela Saenz, 35, said she "loves working with policy and seeing it through, especially if it becomes law. This is what got me hooked" on being a health care advocate in the first place.

She said she's a person who wants to see results. She has her work cut out for her, with her focus on expanding Medicaid and other aid for the poor in the four states where CHRISTUS Health serves. Her main areas of responsibility are in Texas and Louisiana, which did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (The other two states, Arkansas and New Mexico, expanded Medicaid.)

Working at CHRISTUS Health since 2004, Saenz has been a key player in advocacy efforts to establish a Texas state program to expand Medicaid managed care, to defeat a Texas budget provision that would have cut health care reimbursements, to allocate targeted funds to trauma hospitals in Texas and to stop Medicaid cuts in Louisiana. The system estimates that these efforts alone have benefited CHRISTUS Health to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

Tom Nickels, a senior vice president with the American Hospital Association, said Saenz, who sits on the AHA health system advisory group, "consistently promotes health care access for the most vulnerable. ...She is a trusted advisor, strong leader and has a moral compass upon which we depend."


Jamie Schaefer
Vice president of finance and chief financial officer, Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, Yankton, S.D.

Health care financing is dynamic, and that is invigorating for Jamie Schaefer, 41. She said she thrives on the challenge of managing teams through times of transition.

Schaefer, who has a master's in business administration, said managing through change requires openness to new ideas and solutions. She added that she's thrived in her role because Avera Sacred Heart Hospital and parent Avera Health have trusted her and allowed her to innovate.

While many rural hospitals have suffered financially in recent years, the 144-bed Avera Sacred Heart and the critical access hospital it owns have had strong financial performance, in large measure because of Schaefer's financial guidance, said hospital leaders. Kara L. Payer, Avera Sacred Heart's vice president of mission, said that Schaefer responds to every request for new resources by asking how it impacts patient care or health care quality. She "invites the requester to discern if this is a need or desire," Payer said.

Douglas R. Ekeren, Avera Sacred Heart president and chief executive officer, said, "Jamie is consistently concerned with how our decisions impact not only our organization, but individuals and families in the communities who rely upon us for service."


Amber M. Sims
Vice president, Saint Thomas Health Alliance, Saint Thomas Health, Nashville, Tenn.

Amber Sims, 36, has responsibility for helping to align all of Nashville-based Saint Thomas Health's physicians, clinics and hospitals into a centralized, integrated health ministry — an imperative that Saint Thomas sees as key to success under health care reform.

Karen Springer, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Saint Thomas Health, said Sims has been successful in building the partnerships necessary for this work because of her "openness and her willingness to solicit feedback. Because she is an active listener, she is able to establish and maintain trust in those partnerships."

Fairly early in her career at Saint Thomas Health, in 2007, Sims, who has a master's of business administration, cofounded a Nashville medical mission program, which Saint Thomas parent Ascension plans to replicate systemwide. At each Medical Mission at Home — there have been more than 20 in greater Nashville to date — health care, dental and social service providers converge upon one location during a single day to donate free care to hundreds of poor residents who can't afford to access the care they need.

Sims said this effort to help the poor — and all of her work at Saint Thomas — is aimed at one purpose. "I want to have an impact" on improving the lot of people in need, she said.


Dr. Raymond Weick
Medical director, southern region, Mercy, Chesterfield, Mo.

For Dr. Raymond Weick, 40, a call to serve others through medicine began when he was in sixth grade. A beloved grandmother had end-stage cervical cancer; and he helped tend to her as she received hospice care in his family's home. He observed the comfort the hospice nurses provided. He kept her company and brought her meals and medicine. "I took away from that a great love of medicine and of how good it feels to help someone and to prevent people from suffering."

Weick, who's practiced family medicine in the Mercy clinic system since 2004, said he loves "the magic that happens when you walk in that exam room and shut the door and talk with the patient. You enter their lives in a way no one else does. It is a truly a gift to deliver care."

Weick has led projects to pilot the medical home model of primary care, to grow physician groups and to increase physician satisfaction at Mercy. He has been a preceptor for a nurse practitioner, a role that aligns with his belief that new models of care that rely on nonphysician clinicians are needed to meet the care demands of the population.

He helped implement a program bringing pastoral care and formation activities to outpatient settings. He said of the program: "It hits home for me. ...Formation reminds all of us why we got into medicine. For me, it was because I have a passion" for helping others.


Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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