Shadowing doctors who shine light on health care in Canton, Ohio

April 15, 2015

Community leaders shadow doctors during the Mercy Medical Experience Day in February. Top left: Dr. Mohan Rajaratnam, left, an emergency medicine specialist, talks with a patient in Mercy’s emergency department; GDK & Co. insurance associate Quinn Parker observes. Top right: Attorney Brian Mertes, left, gets a tour of a catheterization lab from interventional cardiologist Dr. Dilip Patel. Bottom right: Robert Mahoney, left, retired chairman of Diebold Inc., visits the radiation therapy department with Dr. Edward Walsh, medical director of Mercy Cancer Center.

Mercy Medical Center in Canton, Ohio, builds ties with community leaders by pairing them up with a doctor or dentist for a day. The ministry of Cleveland's Sisters of Charity Health System held its fifth "Mercy Medical Experience Day" in February this year.

The shadowing experience gives community leaders a better understanding of the medical center's Catholic mission, its role in the community, the challenges faced by health care providers and the financial climate of health care delivery. Thomas F. Turner, president of the Mercy Development Foundation, began the program in 2007. He said participants come to understand the contribution Catholic health care makes in the region, and "to see how we treat the whole person, body, mind and spirit."

It's also an interesting and fun day, said Jennifer Meier, a board member and chair of the cultivation committee for the Mercy Development Foundation. She shadowed a clinician as a participant in the 2010 program and helped plan this year's event. When she took part, she observed urologist Dr. Steven Ochs at work, including his surgery, and saw firsthand where the medical center's emergency department needed upgrades. A family foundation named after her late husband, the William C. Meier Family Foundation, was among the donors that helped fund a modernization and expansion of the center's emergency department around the time she shadowed Ochs.

The Mercy Medical Experience isn't about fundraising or advocacy, Turner said. Rather, it's an opportunity to raise awareness about the health care the center provides and showcase good works. Participants spend time at the medical center or at Mercy Medical Center at St. Paul Square, located in a converted convent in a low-income Northeast Canton neighborhood. The clinic provides medical care, behavioral health and oral health. Those who shadow dentists there learn about the struggles poor patients face in paying for dental care, how the system helps those patients and about "one of the finest graduate dental programs in the Midwest," Turner said. He was referring to Mercy Dental Services' general practice residency program.

Mercy Medical Experience participants have included government, education and business leaders, as well as Mercy's own board members and its "imminent leaders," the members of a young friends' organization.

An orientation dinner is held the night before the event. There the community leaders meet their doctors and receive embroidered white lab coats and badges to show they're taking part in the Mercy Medical Experience. Mercy also invites program alumni back for the dinner. Speakers tell the influential audience about the health center. Participants sign statements that they won't disclose information about the patients they encounter while shadowing a clinician. The doctors and dentists taking part will ask each patient if he or she is comfortable with having the visitor observe an exam or procedure, before inviting the guest into the room.

Meier said as a Catholic, she always has had a great respect for those who dedicate themselves to caring for the sick and the poor. The Mercy Medical Experience reinforced that. She said the experience raises awareness of the Catholic medical center's work and its commitment to the poor and underserved. "I think we walk in the footprints of saints when we comfort those in need," she said.

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