Incoming CHA board chair challenges ministry to reimagine how best to carry out its mission

Assembly 2022 Online

Kaiser says collaboration will remain essential

By JULIE MINDA

Speaking at the Catholic Health Assembly in Indianapolis June 6 after her installation as the 2022–2023 CHA board chairperson, Laura Kaiser described providers' extraordinary resilience during the pandemic, the need for respite and rejuvenation now and the importance of celebrating blessings to refresh the spirit.

"Over the past two years, we have been challenged, humbled and heartsick. But never defeated. Now is the time for renewal, the SSM Health president and chief executive said.

Even as ministry health systems strained under the weight of the pandemic and other challenges, they played a "key role" in revitalizing communities including by launching "We Are Called," a ministry commitment to confront racism by achieving health equity, she said.

"Achieving health equity requires efforts within our hospitals, clinics and care centers," Kaiser told the audience of senior leaders of the Catholic health ministry.

She said the ministry also has affirmed its dedication to environmental stewardship, recognizing the inextricable link between the health of the planet, the health of the nation and the health of individuals.

"As chair of CHA, I want to bring additional energy to the need to look after our shared home — to focus on renewing the earth as a key component of equitable health," Kaiser said. "Given the role we have in our communities, Catholic health care can lead needed changes to reduce environmental impact.  

"Our voice can be loud as advocates for smart policies, alternative energy sources and greening our communities." 

Kaiser said that it is clear that the nation's health care system is struggling, and plotting a sustainable path forward for Catholic health care will require "reimagining our sacred work."

She said to transform health care delivery, Catholic health care will need to continue to collaborate intentionally, inviting health care providers, payers, pharmaceutical companies, tech giants, market disruptors, community leaders and elected officials to join in shaping the change.

SSM Health uses the term "disruptive collaboration" to describe how it solves problems through partnerships. Kaiser pointed to the work of SSM Health and others involved with the nonprofit Civica RX generic drug company as an example of disruptive collaboration. For five years, Civica RX has manufactured and sold generic drugs to inject competition and bring down the price of essential drugs used in hospitals. Recently CivicaRx announced that within two years it will produce and sell insulin at no more than $30 per vial — a fraction of the costs paid by patients today.

Kaiser said that the ministry has much to celebrate including colleagues' "wide array of talents, skills and personalities that enrich us,"  the congregations that founded and built Catholic health care and the loved ones who support ministry associates in their work.

"The challenges and opportunities ahead are real. Working together, I am confident we will rise," she said.

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