CHA and its members became nimbler and worked doubly hard during pandemic

July 1, 2021

Julie Manas
2020-2021 Chairperson
CHA Board of Trustees
President, North Region
Ascension St. Vincent,
Indianapolis, Indiana

When I began my service on the CHA board seven years ago, I was honored and humbled to be given such a sacred responsibility, but I certainly never would have imagined the depth and breadth of those blessings, nor pictured the experience of serving as board chair during a pandemic. As with the rest of the health care industry, CHA members persevered, became creative and nimble to respond to the challenges, and worked doubly hard to accomplish our goals. CHA's work continued as well.

Below is a summary, not meant to be all-inclusive, of CHA's efforts this past year. The association:

  • Developed, signed, then rolled out nationally the Catholic health ministry's Confronting Racism by Achieving Health Equity pledge, and launched to highlight our commitment, and share resources and stories of our members' work on diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Finalized the 2021-2023 CHA Strategic Plan, with four main focus points: access to care, enhancing the health and well-being of our communities, bolstering members' ability to thrive, and strengthening the Catholic identity of our health ministries.
  • Integrated Catholic CEO Healthcare Connection, CCHC, into CHA, transitioning to CHA's CEO System Affinity Group.
  • Transitioned the Supportive Care Coalition to CHA operations, and began significant work developing a strategic plan to enhance palliative care services to CHA members.
  • Commissioned a dues task force charged with fully discerning our current dues structure and the ways we can continue bringing tangible value to our members.
  • Held a two-day virtual retreat with a special deep dive on Catholic social teaching as the foundation of equitable health care policy, financing and delivery, facilitated by Michael Naughton, a professor who directs the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas, as well as Carrie Meyer McGrath, CHA's director of mission services, and Diarmuid Rooney, CHA's senior director of ministry formation.
  • Convened a Well-Being Task Force, composed of clinicians, human resources/learning and development, mission and spiritual care leaders to cascade learnings to the wider ministry in support of associate well-being and resiliency.
  • Launched the "Love Thy Neighbor" campaign, first to help promote mask-wearing and physical distancing, and later to promote COVID-19 vaccine acceptance.
  • Issued a request for proposals to conduct a data-driven analysis of Catholic health care's impact on the communities it serves. Over the coming months, the chosen consultants will focus on four key areas: access and services, patient complexity, community impact, and organizational efficiency.

As my term winds down, I would be remiss not to mention the enormous, talented team putting in the necessary hours on behalf of our ministry. Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, although in only her second year as CHA president and chief executive officer, has performed admirably in all aspects of her role as a true advocate for health care access, a passionate voice for the poor and vulnerable, and a seasoned convener on many important issues. Of particular note, Sr. Mary was recently named by Pope Francis as a member of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, a testament to her talents and abilities.

The CHA staff has also been incredible, quickly pivoting to a virtual workplace without missing a beat. Finally, a board is only as strong as its members, and CHA has been blessed with an extraordinary board: Cynthia Bentzen-Mercer; Damond Boatwright; John Capasso; Fr. Joseph P. Cardone; Elizabeth Dunne; Jane Durney Crowley; Cathleen Eldridge; Sr. Sharon Euart, RSM; Dougal Hewitt; Orest Holubec; Joseph Impicciche; Lydia Jumonville; Laura S. Kaiser; Dr. Rhonda Medows; Dr. Stephanie Mills; Dr. Carolina Reyes; Darryl Robinson; Gabriela Saenz; Lawrence Schumacher; Kevin Sexton; Bob Sutton; Bishop George Leo Thomas; Episcopal Liaison Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski; and participating observers M. Richard Coll; Sr. Donna Markham, OP; John Ruetz; and Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ.

It is nothing short of awe inspiring to reflect upon the challenges that our industry has faced this past year and how clinicians, support staff, leaders and communities have worked together to meet these challenges. No matter the circumstances — countless hours, long days, difficult situations — the strength of character and resilience of our health care heroes continues to shine through. We are truly blessed to be witnesses to something so special.

I look forward to the bright and dynamic road ahead with confidence that we will continue the work to reduce health disparities and bring forward new ways to improve access for those who are marginalized and disadvantaged, giving voice to the voiceless. COVID-19 has shed light on this long-standing issue, and I know that we can, we must, and we will do better.

As I pass the torch to Dr. Rhonda Medows, incoming board chair, I know I'm leaving the chair responsibilities in more than capable hands. I wish her, and all in Catholic health care, much success.

In closing, I offer a reading from Jeremiah, the same passage Sr. Mary recited a year ago during my installation:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

May we all have hope for our future as we leave a difficult year behind.


Copyright © 2021 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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