Damond Boatwright: Time to embrace change that elevates human flourishing

June 2024
Outgoing chair of the CHA Board of Trustees Damond Boatwright addresses attendees of the 2024 Catholic Health Assembly. He is president and CEO of Hospital Sisters Health System.



2023-2024 Chairperson
CHA Board of Trustees
President and CEO
Hospital Sisters Health System
Springfield, Illinois

As I look back at my time as chair, serving this most honorable of associations, I've had the opportunity to do so much to support our work in Catholic health. Hands down, my most memorable time was spent working with the board to finalize our new vision statement: "We will empower bold change to elevate human flourishing."

Why did the CHA board adopt a vision statement? In these challenging and changing times, the CHA board, with the determined leadership of Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, recognized that as we continue to serve in dynamic ways, we also must evolve the way we approach our work.

The vision represents our apostolic belief that every person is a treasure, every life a sacred gift, every human being a unity of body, mind and spirit. It gives us clarity of purpose, priorities and principles.

It declares that it is our time and our moment as stewards of Catholic health care to be bold in our advocacy and to demand that we get a better payment model and system of care that allows us to take care of all God's children in the most equitable way possible to achieve human flourishing.

I challenge each of us to think about what this vision means not only to CHA, but also to each of us personally.

For me, this vision statement brings several things to mind. First, it calls to mind those individuals who have played crucial roles in my life. In particular, I think about my grandmother Bernice Conner, God rest her soul and spirit, who raised me and taught me about the power of prayer.

I think about Karen DeMarco, who believed in me. I was working the second shift as a manager in housekeeping in Charleston, South Carolina, when Karen told me, "Damond, you will be a CEO one day and you will make a positive difference, I promise you." Karen is also the one who introduced me to her husband, Frank, who was a health care executive and a true professional mentor to me until the day he passed away.

And I think about the one and only Sr. Jomary Trstensky, who served as president and CEO of HSHS for 16 years and is now the chair of the HSHS ministerial board. I have truly learned more about my own Catholic faith, Catholic traditions, the Catholic Church, and the power of CHA and associations because of her support. Thank you, Sr. Jomary, for empowering me to boldly find ways to create a sustainable Catholic health care model that will allow human flourishing to exist well into the future. God willing, I will do my absolute best to sustain this holy work.

What does CHA's new vision statement mean to you and are you willing to share that story with someone else? We are made to be a witness to the good news of God. As was written in the book of Esther: "Perhaps this is the moment for which you were created."

However, nothing happens without our individual effort. In John 5:8, Jesus was in Jerusalem at a pool called Bethesda, which had miraculous healing power. A man, paralyzed for 38 years, laments that no one will help him get to the water. Jesus encourages him to, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!"

This story is a reminder to us all that the power to make change is in our control. But we must first change our mindset to better understand what truly needs to change around us.

In health care we are constantly and persistently paralyzed by what we know — our current and past conditions, the ways we've always done things. We are certainly not the only industry that is too often stuck in old staffing models, old processes, old sites of care, outdated payment and benefit models. We can become frustrated when we get to the point where we know this cannot continue, and lament that we have no one to help us. The fact is it is now up to us to heal ourselves. Those who put those old staffing models, old processes and old agreements in place are no longer in charge. We must move on. The mission — and the responsibility to sustain it — is in our hands now. It is our calling.

So, I encourage all of you to take up your mat and embrace change for yourself and for your organizations. By renewing our commitment to our mission and living our values, we are truly formed in the way necessary to continue this important work — work that has a 2,000-year track record of success, by the way.

I look forward to continuing to work with CHA and all of you to create a Catholic health care ecosystem that continues to be innovative when necessary, bold when required, compassionate and healing, always.

Pace e bene.


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