Sr. Mary Roch Rocklage, RSM, was inducted into the Health Care Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Chicago late last month. Sr. Rocklage, 75, was the first president and chief executive of the Sisters of Mercy Health System, a four-state system she guided toward increased lay leadership.
Sr. Rocklage was the top executive of the Chesterfield, Mo.-based health system from July 1985 to July 1999, and she chaired its board from 1999 to 2003. She has been a national leader, too, chairing both CHA and the American Hospital Association. She's served on the governing boards of numerous hospitals and health and education organizations and worked on health planning initiatives with numerous governmental, religious and civic agencies.
Modern Healthcare and the American College of Healthcare Executives created the hall of fame in 1988 to honor "health care visionaries, original thinkers and people who applied the power of innovation to their professions." Sr. Rocklage is the 90th inductee, and she joins a marquee lineup that contains the names of six other women religious, including two saints — Mother Francesca Cabrini and Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Inducted with Sr. Rocklage were Percy Allen II, a health care executive whose career included seven years as president and chief executive of Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, starting in 1999. Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser was inducted posthumously. He was instrumental in launching and shaping Kaiser Permanente, one of the country's largest nonprofit health insurers. Kaiser also created the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
In accepting the honor, Sr. Rocklage thanked the Sisters of Mercy, whom she said made all that she has done possible.
Sr. Patricia Talone, RSM, CHA's vice president of mission services, said "Sr. Mary Roch has a deep passion for care of the poor and sick, and for the women and men who serve them. Her efforts have laid a solid groundwork for the essential formation of the next generation of health care leaders."
At the installation, AHA President and Chief Executive Rich Umdenstock praised Sr. Rocklage for being "prescient, persuasive and persistent" in her advocacy for health care access for every person. He noted her fidelity to the struggle for health care reform and her mentoring of health care leaders. She continues that work today. As Sisters of Mercy Health System's health ministry liaison, she guides laypeople in leadership at the Sisters of Mercy Health System.
"Like health care across the nation, Mercy is in a time of change," Sr. Rocklage said in a statement. "Our mission of serving our communities has not changed, but the hands who serve are now doctors, nurses and many coworkers. What a blessing to see the work of the sisters before us being carried out every day by compassionate people."
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