CHA honors young leaders for contributions to ministry

July 1, 2016


“Tomorrow’s Leaders” honorees take part in a seminar with senior ministry leaders the day before the Catholic Health Assembly’s opening.

CHA celebrated young executives making a significant contribution to the Catholic health ministry by awarding its "Tomorrow’s Leaders" recognition to 10 up-and-coming men and women. It is the sixth consecutive year for the award.

These Tomorrow's Leaders demonstrate a strong commitment to Catholic health care, and CHA’s annual program encourages them to continue their careers in the ministry. The group participated in a retreat with top ministry executives a day prior to the Catholic Health Assembly in Orlando, Fla., and then received recognition at CHA's annual awards banquet.

The 10 honorees spoke to Catholic Health World about their work in the ministry.



Jessica L. Estrada
Director, community outreach and mission integration, St. Vincent’s Health System, Ascension Birmingham, Birmingham, Ala.

Before Jessica Estrada joined St. Vincent's Health System in 2011 to direct its community service and outreach department, she'd studied theology, worked with a program resettling refugees in the U.S., did mission work in Brazil and dreamed of making a career of such mission work. At St. Vincent's "all the pieces just fit together," she said, because she could serve people in need, through a church-sponsored ministry.

Estrada, 37, and her team have integrated their indigent patients into St. Vincent's 11-clinic primary care network and connected them into the broader social service system; enhanced an associate formation program to give staff sharp insight into the perspectives of vulnerable people; created a wellness program for local clergy; improved health outreach to Hispanic people; and built strong relationships with community partners in order to bolster services to community members.

"My favorite thing is that I get to be creative," Estrada said. She and her team have learned to innovate and leverage limited resources to tackle entrenched community issues.

"She has been a major influencer and a critical catalyst in our ministry," said Wayne Carmello-Harper, St. Vincent's chief mission integration officer.


Anna M. Grant
Director of integration, clinical excellence, Bon Secours Health System, Marriottsville, Md.

Data analysis is essential to virtually every aspect of health care reform, and that puts statistician Anna Grant, 32, at the heart of some of the most critical work Bon Secours Health System is doing to prepare for the future of health care delivery.

Grant supports the system's data collection and reporting around quality, safety and access. She was part of a team that identified Medicare-insured patients not getting their annual wellness visits and encouraged them to get the check-up. The project resulted in a significant increase in the patients making the visit, which can flag health concerns before they worsen.

The business intelligence that Grant provides is essential to leaders' decision-making, and, said Bon Secours President and Chief Executive Richard Statuto, "executives have even given credit to Anna for boosting their credibility and effectiveness as leaders."

Grant said that dissecting data to understand and tell patients' stories is an adventure. "Every day is a surprise — that's what keeps it exciting. And I love every minute of it."


Jenny Hawkins
Director, diversity, Ascension, Texas, Austin

Nationwide, about 20 percent of people with substantial disabilities are employed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But, at Seton Healthcare Family, part of Ascension Texas, 86 percent of the 118 young adults with intellectual disabilities who have graduated from Project SEARCH over the past nine years have gained competitive employment.

Seton leaders attribute this success to Jenny Hawkins, who joined the 11-hospital system in 2007 to establish and head this effort, which prepares and trains young adults with intellectual disabilities for the competitive workforce. Project SEARCH has created a pipeline of talent to work throughout Seton hospitals and in the Central Texas region.

Hawkins, 37, has been instrumental in expanding Project SEARCH to other hospitals and companies in Texas. Achieving this impact "requires a great deal of organizational skills, knowledge of each partner's services, and professionalism — all of which Jenny demonstrates time and time again," said Melinda Paninski, a specialist for Workforce Alliances and Project SEARCH for the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.

Paninski said Hawkins "has integrity and grit that drive her desire to improve the lives of others."


Dr. Jill Kruse
Medical director, Avera LIGHT program, Avera Health, Sioux Falls, S.D.

It was about four years ago that Dr. Jill Kruse recognized she had a serious problem: Trying to care for her two small children while also treating patients and serving in multiple director roles for a critical access hospital managed by Avera, she was completely overwhelmed. "My family suffered. I found no joy in my work and no rest or happiness at home. I would not wish those dark months on anyone else or their family," she said.

Kruse, 38, was determined to find a better way forward. She researched physician burnout. She met with Avera leaders, clinician colleagues and others to discuss it. That groundwork led to the creation of Avera LIGHT, a supportive program for physicians. The acronym stands for "live, improve, grow, heal and treat." The program tackles physician burnout by providing educational resources, professional life coaches, and peer group support. A self-assessment tool is to come.

Kruse is the medical director for LIGHT, and she continues as a practicing physician in Avera's medical group.

Dr. Mikel Holland, chief medical officer of Avera St. Mary's Hospital in Pierre, S.D., said, "As the health care system is changing rapidly, and physicians are faced with ever increasing demands, the burnout rate is climbing exponentially. Physicians are burning out, and at risk for suicide. We will never know how many physicians have been saved by this program.


Kimberly Luz
Divisional director of community outreach, Hospital Sisters Health System, Springfield, Ill.

Joining HSHS St. John's Hospital in Springfield in 2007, Kimberly Luz broadened its community benefit programming, adopted a population health approach for community benefit and built partnerships to expand the impact of the hospital's outreach.

Working with her community benefit team and community partners, she's created a farmer's market program for the poor, a food education initiative for children and their parents, a dance program for children and a community health worker initiative for the poor.

Luz, 37, takes an immersive approach to community benefit work. She said, "I enjoy that you can connect on a very deep level — that you can go into the community and into people's homes and walk in their shoes."

Diane Pugh is HSHS St. John's director of mission integration, spiritual care, ethics and community based innovation. She said Luz "is one of those people you meet in life that leaves a lasting imprint, whether it is through the programs she develops that support those in need or the spirit of joy she brings to the hearts of others."


Kassie Runsabove
Coordinator, Child Ready Montana, St. Vincent Healthcare, Billings, Mont.

As a coordinator for the Child Ready Montana program, Kassie Runsabove, 33, connects St. Vincent Healthcare with surrounding health facilities to ensure rural children get excellent care, including through telemedicine.

Runsabove also chairs St. Vincent's American Indian Awareness Steering Committee.

A Native American who lived on three different reservations growing up, Runsabove said she witnessed the financial and health care disparities of native people. She learned how they can feel "like they are on their own" when trying to navigate the health care system. She said they may have transportation barriers to get to care or difficulty navigating between the Indian Health Service, a government division that provides some health care, and private health care providers.

As a member of the steering committee, she helps develop programming to address disparities and to make health care accessible to Native Americans. She also helps clinicians understand how best to serve native people. Runsabove said that Native Americans may want family members or others in their tribe closely involved in their care because history has made them distrustful of services provided by institutions run by nonnatives. The steering committee has educated clinicians and staff at St. Vincent, has provided cultural sensitivity training in some hospital departments there and has helped with discharge planning for some native patients.

Steve Loveless, St. Vincent president and chief executive, said Runsabove's approach to connecting native people and clinicians is "always thoughtful and balanced. … Her ability to foster better communication and create unique, often unexpected ways to reach out to patients and families has quite literally saved lives."


Alison Santore
Senior director, federal government affairs, Providence Health & Services, Renton, Wash.

Alison Santore, 35, said she sometimes has to pinch herself. "I am so lucky, so blessed to be doing what I do — I love it."

She grew up wanting to work in politics. As her first professional job, she landed a legislative staffer position in then-Sen. Gordon Smith's Washington, D.C., office. She focused on legislation around government insurance programs, public health programs, aging issues and health insurance regulation. A government affairs, marketing and strategic consulting firm recruited Santore from Smith's office to advocate to Congress on behalf of Providence; and then Providence hired her to her current position.

Joel Gilbertson, senior vice president of community partnerships and external affairs for Providence, said since Santore began advocating for Providence about a decade ago, she has shown "she is motivated by compassion and justice, and is guided by a conviction that everyone deserves access to health care, a belief core to Catholic health ministries."

Santore has promoted legislation to preserve health and social services funding, to improve and expand programs for the elderly, to ensure federal reimbursement for advance care planning and to stabilize mental health funding.

Gilbertson said Santore "has consistently had a heart for those who are suffering."


William 'Chip' Scott
Emergency department RN, PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center, Florence, Ore.

Emergency department nurse William Scott, 34, has been known to stop along the Pacific Coast on the way to his shift at PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center to center himself spiritually — on a surfboard. Whatever his secret, "his calmness in even the most stressful situations is much appreciated by all he works with," said Dr. William Foster, medical director of the emergency department at Peace Harbor. Foster said Scott "is one of the most outstanding RNs I have ever worked with in over 20 years of being a physician."

He said Scott has established a reputation as a hard-working, dedicated and compassionate emergency room nurse, with a deep repository of knowledge.

Janis Finley, interim director of clinical services for the facility, said Scott attends not only to patients' medical needs, but also to their spiritual and emotional needs. Scott once consoled a patient who was bereft because his wife had died, his finances were depleted and he felt he had no one to help him. The patient was belligerent with staff. Scott took the time to listen to the man, discuss his pain and connect him with counseling, pastoral staff and other help at the hospital and in the community.

Finley said because of Scott's leadership and proficiency, his colleagues elected him to head two councils making important quality improvements at Peace Harbor.

Foster said Scott "readily takes on extra responsibilities to make whatever he is involved in … better."


Steven Squires
Vice president, mission and ethics, Mercy Health, Cincinnati

Steven Squires was completing a PhD and was working in his first ethics position when he thought, "I'm the ethics expert. I have a lot of knowledge. I'll deliver it to everyone."

He quickly learned that he didn't know it all. Rather, it was through building deep relationships with hospital staff, clinicians and patients and hearing their perspectives that he could delve into the complexity of thorny ethical issues and help people work through them.

Lynn Maitland is vice president of mission and ministry at St. John Medical Center in Westlake, Ohio. A former colleague of Squires, she said during the decade she's known him, "He approached each individual with respect and compassion, regardless of their life circumstances. He earned the respect of the physicians and nurses for his knowledge and caring manner."

Squires, 39, has advanced from regional to system ethics positions at Mercy Health. He's helped increase clinician participation in mission, ethics and spirituality learning; provided training for ethics consultants and organized successful ethics colloquiums.

Squires said it's important for people to remain open to learning. "If we all work together, and really listen to each other, we'll learn from what our co-workers have to say," and address ethics issues in the most effective way.


Daniel Stricker
Vice president, strategy and business development, Ascension Senior Living, St. Louis

On one of Daniel Stricker's first days at his first professional job out of college, a man living at that long-term care facility greeted the new administrator by telling him he already knew he wouldn't like him.

Stricker recalled, "I made it my personal challenge to get him to do things with me. Like, I'd take him to Target to buy DVDs. I learned he actually was this cool, hilarious guy." The two bonded. Stricker was at his bedside when the man died.

Jesse Jantzen, chief executive of Ascension Senior Living, said it is this deep caring for people that makes Stricker a valued leader. "He is empathetic and engaging with residents and their families as well as with staff at all levels. He can interact with leaders at the highest levels and still help a custodian put away their mop and bucket at the end of a shift."

In administrator roles Stricker successfully turned around several declining senior living facilities before accepting his current job with Ascension Senior Living. Directing strategy and business development, Stricker, 31, is helping ensure all of Ascension's 36 senior living facilities use leading practices to offer the best in person-centered care.

Jantzen said, "I can say with total confidence, we will continue to see excellence from Danny as an extraordinary leader."


Copyright © 2016 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.<

Copyright © 2016 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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