Winners strive to fulfill the ministry's promise to continually improve health care

July 1, 2022

TOMORROW'S LEADERS

By KATHLEEN NELSON

The specialties of CHA's 2022 class of Tomorrow’s Leaders are diverse: pharmacy, ministry, nursing, advocacy, community health, communications and operations. But they share a commitment and career trajectory: shaping the future of Catholic health care.

Here is a look at each of Tomorrow’s Leaders, age 40 or younger at the time of their nomination in late 2021.


Dave Benner

Dave Benner
Chief ancillary officer
CHRISTUS Health, Irving, Texas

Starting his career in pharmacy, Dave Benner has branched out. In addition to being president and chief executive of CHRISTUS Health's Trincare Clinical Laboratories, he is the system's chief ancillary officer and so functions as a chief operating officer for the system's pharmacy, radiology, laboratory and oncology service lines. He also supports dialysis, respiratory and physical and occupational therapy service lines. Having joined CHRISTUS in 2018, he directs about 3,000 employees.

"I like the variety and autonomy," says Benner, 37. "I get to provide strategic planning, business development, operations, clinical and technology support for my designated areas. I'm most proud of the fact that I can deliver value regardless of the discipline."

Under Benner's guidance, CHRISTUS opened a specialty pharmacy for people with complex chronic conditions. The pharmacy employs liaisons to aid patients in securing financial assistance, navigating insurance benefits and help in the overall coordination of care.

Benner also was involved in the procurement of a single medical imaging system across CHRISTUS, which reduced complexity and generates $4 million in annual saving. He helped guide a redesign of the radiation oncology program to standardize equipment, treatment planning systems and brachytherapy systems, and unify the oncology-based electronic medical record system. He also oversaw a retooling of dialysis services that saved about $2.5 million in annual operational expenses.

During the pandemic, Benner's work enabled CHRISTUS to be one of the first systems in the nation to assess and use COVID-19 antibody testing. Benner also was responsible for the health system's deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Dave is a strong, dynamic leader who is passionate about ensuring the integration of faith, medicine and technology into the experience of operational excellence and patient quality," says Dr. Sam Bagchi, senior vice president and chief clinical officer for CHRISTUS. "He has made sure through his leadership that we deploy successfully technologies and make sure we have solid relationships with people who can assure we are better and do better for others."


Jacquelyn Bombard

Jacquelyn Bombard
Executive director of federal relations
Providence St. Joseph Health, Renton, Washington

Since childhood, Jacquelyn Bombard has thought about health care as a mission. Her father was a physician, her mother a nurse. She accompanied her father when he volunteered at a clinic for low-income families.

"Most of our dinner table conversations were centered on their work," says Bombard, 31. "Their unwavering passion to care for others and desire to do more inspires me every day."

Rather than follow them into clinical care, though, her path led to the law and advocacy. She has become a voice for care providers seeking health equity in the U.S. "The thing I love most is the privilege to advocate for improvements to policy and protecting programs serving our poor and vulnerable populations," she says.

As the first U.S. health system to knowingly treat a COVID-19 patient, and one of the first to be in an epicenter of the pandemic, Providence helped shape the federal response to the crisis.

Bombard and her team developed an online tool used to urge passage of the CARES Act. In just five days, Providence's caregivers and patients emailed more than 20,000 letters to Congress supporting the legislation, which provided billions of dollars in health care aid and relief to providers, patients and families.

"Her advocacy for polices that impact more than just the physical health of patients and communities has proven her to be a leader beyond traditional means," says Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, president of clinical care at Providence.

The COVID-19 waiver flexibilities in the CARES Act allowed Providence to provide more than 2 million virtual visits. Bombard is advocating to preserve the access and trajectory of telemedicine. "We have seen firsthand the benefits of providing care to our frail and vulnerable where they want it the most, in their home," she says.

Among her other priorities are legislation that would advance maternal health, mental health and substance dependency care, common sense gun safety rules and environmental stewardship.


Amanda Bottolfson

Amanda Bottolfson
Director of medical/surgical, swingbed, ICU and PCS staffing
Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, Yankton, South Dakota

Amanda Bottolfson is a hometown girl. As a youngster, she saw her mother work through nursing school, then began her own career as a certified nursing assistant at Avera Sister James Care Center. She went on to earn bachelor and master of science in nursing degrees. After a brief stint in clinical management in Sioux Falls, she returned to Yankton.

"I'm really proud of the fact that I work in the community where I was born and raised," says Bottolfson, 40. "I am proud of the fact that I work with a phenomenal group of people and can serve my friends and my family. For me, it's also about our mission: that we are committed to a Christian ministry and serving a population that maybe nobody else will."

Since joining Avera Sacred Heart six years ago, Bottolfson has helped drive change. Working with Lindsay Flannery, vice president for patient care services and a 2020 Tomorrow's Leader honoree, Bottolfson crafted a plan to combine nursing staffs and the comingling of medical and surgical patients on one floor of the 99-bed hospital. Bottolfson convened meetings with staff members, listening to concerns, building relationships and cross-training staff to build skill sets.

She introduced quiet hours for patients to rest with minimal to no interruptions and has developed a sepsis checklist and sepsis team that led to a drop in sepsis and secondary infections.

Bottolfson also led the hospital's transition to an upgraded electronic medical record platform. Success and lessons learned at Sacred Heart made it easier to adopt systemwide.

"She does all of this with profound grace, dedication to Jesus' healing ministry and desire to be of service to humanity," Flannery says. "Amanda has a unique ability to draw out the good in others and inspire them to perform at the top of their abilities."


Ashley Brand

Ashley Brand
System director, community health, integration and housing
CommonSpirit Health, San Francisco, California

A close classmate in high school who was housing insecure. Villagers living in extreme poverty in Tanzania with whom she volunteered. Families sheltering on skid row in Los Angeles. The common thread and inspiration for Ashley Brand is their resilience.

"They all overcame their challenges to show up every day," says Brand, 41. "They made me want to perform with even more intention and commitment to our work. If they show up, given their challenges, I better show up."

Brand works to build relationships — with the people CommonSpirit serves and with providers of community resources. She directs CommonSpirit's Homeless Health Initiative, which integrates physical health care for people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity with behavioral health, wellness and social services, as well as expanded programs in emergency, transitional and permanent housing.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Brand guided CommonSpirit's quick-response funding, creating the COVID-19 Response Fund in California, and deployed $3.8 million to community-based organizations. Instead of a lengthy grant application, community partners in need wrote a one-page letter seeking funds. "They needed money for food, shelter and PPE right away," she says. "We realized we needed to listen and respond quickly. That was a shift in thinking."

Brand also directs the health system's Research, Equity and Advisory Council on Housing Insecurities in California, comprised in part of people who have lived experience with homelessness and substance dependence. "We want to listen and be challenged in the way we create programs," Brand says. The goal is to create a safe space for these advisers to help build strategies and share the decision-making power.

"One just needs to see Ashley in action to witness the grace and deliberation she demonstrates in her work and with her colleagues," says Tom Kopfensteiner, chief mission officer for CommonSpirit. "Ashley has a way to bring partners together to brainstorm and solve problems while leveraging the assets of each stakeholder."


Andrew G. Ochs

Andrew G. Ochs
Regional director of mission integration
SSM Health, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

As Andrew Ochs pursued degrees in theology, philosophy and business, a career in health care never crossed his mind. Only when an MBA career fair proved fruitless did a professor point him to mission leadership.

"I didn't know the career existed," says Ochs, 33. "My heart came alive, and I took it to prayer. I saw it as a really beautiful way to bring all my education together. This work of healing is the role of the church in the world today."

Since joining SSM Health in Oklahoma in 2019, Ochs has developed formation programs and reinvigorated ethics committees, according to Michael Miller Jr., SSM Health system vice president of mission and ethics and a past recipient of the Tomorrow's Leader award.

Ochs also has guided community health activities. Partnering with a local food bank, Ochs established a food pharmacy program called Loaves and Fishes at the SSM Health Medical Group Family Medicine Center clinic in midtown Oklahoma City to increase the percentage of patients who are screened for food insecurity. The screening rate increased to 72% in 2021 from 18% in 2020, and the program has been replicated at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital-Shawnee.

In midtown Oklahoma City, near St. Anthony's main campus, Ochs fostered a partnership with a neighborhood church to establish an urban farm on the hospital campus. He also helped organize a face shield assembly operation to provide PPE to caregivers and to keep staff working who otherwise might have been furloughed during the pandemic.

"I knew our ministry would benefit from his theological insights and his keen formation skillset," Miller says. "I did not, however, anticipate that Andrew would quickly become a dynamic leader in new areas, like community benefit and conducting community health needs assessments, be embraced by his peers throughout the ministry and become a trusted thought partner. I continue to be impressed by his occupational acumen."


Sarah Reddin

Sarah Reddin
Vice president, ministry formation–mission integration
Ascension, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Sarah Reddin came to ministry formation after years as an operations manager in Ascension Wisconsin's medical group. She had experience in fundraising and community programming. "The close proximity to patient care and our clinical teams made an impression on my understanding of our ministry that shapes how I serve and lead," says Reddin, 41.

Much of her work bridges the gap between the spiritual and clinical concerns of caregivers. She led an initiative to embed bilingual wellness prayers and meditations in messages on Ascension's COVID-19 hotline. She also has promoted and guided listening sessions for Ascension employees on nurturing reconciliation and healing.

She says she is most proud of her team for innovations in how formation is provided through programs, resources and services. "Formation is about human flourishing and the integrity of our ministry identity. Expanding equitable access for all associates, clinicians and leaders is both an urgent priority and a lasting promise for the ministry's future," she explains.

Reddin shares leadership in the aligned culture initiative that is part of Ascension's strategic plan to equip employees and leaders with best practices for serving low-income patients. Working with her Catholic parish and the Islamic Society of Wisconsin, Reddin also helped organize Black Lives Are Sacred weekly prayer and community witness. The prayer gatherings have been held on different street corners in southeast Wisconsin since the summer of 2020.

"She looks at each situation and opportunity with a fresh, creative perspective. She does not stop at what is asked of her, yet pushes to create operational excellence," says Tracie Loftis, Ascension's senior vice president of mission integration. "She possesses an innate inclination for mentoring and seeks to bring others to their best."


Andrew Ritz

Andrew Ritz
Vice president of operations
Mercy Hospital, Durango, Colorado, a member of Centura Health, part of CommonSpirit Health

The son of a hospital administrator, Andrew Ritz has carried on the family business — starting from the ground floor. His father, Robert Ritz, is chief executive of MercyOne in Iowa. As a student, the younger Ritz did an internship in a hospital facilities department, "fixing toilets and viewing the mission through the lens of the amazing people who come together to make a hospital work." He enlisted in the Navy, where he participated in a mission in the Caribbean and Central America aboard the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship.

In 2017, he joined Centura Health, a 19-hospital system in Colorado and Kansas,as an administrative fellow. "I gained an 80,000-foot-view awareness of how the whole system works and our place in the ecological neighborhood," says Ritz, 32.

Ritz then worked for four years as director of operations at Centura Longmont United Hospital, about 40 miles north of Denver. When he arrived, Longmont represented less than 4% of Centura's revenue and expenses but the following year it realized 34% of the system's expense reduction.

At the same time, Longmont cut patients' length of stays and received an "A" from the Leapfrog Group, which tracks improvements in protecting patients from errors, injuries, accidents and infections.

Ritz also helped coordinate the Longmont Food Rescue partnership, which provided fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers to families in need.

"On his last days at Longmont, I was shocked at how many people came to say goodbye because of his unique personal touch," says Dr. Antony Pearson, chief medical officer at Longmont. "Because of his ability to connect, his knowledge, and his compassion for patient and community care, I believe Andrew's potential is unlimited."

His goals at Mercy, in the Four Corners region of Colorado, "are to design and inspire progress." Ritz says, "I'm not an expert in anything, so I love to partner with clinicians and caregivers to help them do their jobs better every day."


Heather Runnels

Heather Runnels
Vice president of patient care services
Our Lady of the Lake Ascension, Gonzales, Louisiana

Heather Runnels felt a calling to be a nurse mentor to student nurses and nurses who are continuing their education.

"A legacy of education and development is what I hope to accomplish," says Runnels, 41. "I am most proud of having leaders that reported to me complete their master's degree program. And when I was promoted, they were elevated to the next level."

Runnels spent 15 years as senior director of nursing before taking over her current position in November. She helped guide such innovations as:

  • Upgrading 700 communication boards across the health system, tailoring them to meet the needs of specific patient populations. Working with nurses and the patient and family advisory council, Runnels helped develop three versions: one for inpatient rooms, one for emergency rooms and one for ambulatory care.
  • Developing a process to identify, protect and provide care safely for patients at risk for suicide while receiving care and after discharge. This plan has been recognized as a best practice by The Joint Commission.
  • Coordinating multiple new safety procedures that reduced falls by 40% in one year.

"Working at a large Catholic health care facility has helped me understand the importance of a multidisciplinary team," she says. "It has also assisted me with understanding the groundwork that needs to be laid in order to have a successful operation."

She earned the title "hard hat director" for her work as nursing liaison for construction projects in patient care areas.

"Her joyfulness of spirit and her humility stick out to me as strengths," says Jason Rogers, vice president of nursing at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, the parent of Our Lady of the Lake Ascension and a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System. "Her ingenuity and problem-solving abilities are elite."


Ryan E. Stuhlreyer

Ryan E. Stuhlreyer
Vice president, service line strategy
Bon Secours Mercy Health, Richmond, Virginia

Ryan Stuhlreyer relies on his experience on the front line as an emergency medical technician to guide his view from the top.

"I recall what a hospital can do to serve members of the community during a time of personal vulnerability," says Stuhlreyer, 35. "Remembering the impact that can have on a person, on a family, on a community reminds me of the bigger purpose we serve in fulfilling our mission. Being an EMT constantly pushed me outside my comfort zone because no call was the same as the last. I believe this helped prepare me as a leader to remain calm under pressure and adapt to ever-changing situations."

Since joining Bon Secours in 2009 as an administrative intern, Stuhlreyer has helped develop patient satisfaction initiatives that led to an overall increase from the 76th to 84th percentile in a national database kept by the Department of Health and Human Services. He also assisted with the planning for Bon Secours' free-standing emergency department and ambulatory campus in suburban Richmond, the first facility of its kind in central Virginia.

"Ryan is able to see that health begins where one lives, works, plays and worships," says David Belde, vice president of community health at Bon Secours Mercy Health. "He sees the connection, as well as the impact, that the social determinants of health have on individual and community well-being."

Since 2019, he has led five service lines in the Bon Secours Richmond market: oncology; neuroscience; cardiovascular; women's and children's health; and orthopedics.

"This gave me the chance to work with a number of physician leaders, hospital leaders and medical group leadership that I may not have otherwise had the chance to develop relationships with," Stuhlreyer says.


Adrienne Webb

Adrienne Webb
Director of national communication, issues management
Providence St. Joseph Health, Renton, Washington

When the first U.S. patient with a known COVID-19 case was admitted in January 2020 to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington, Adrienne Webb became Providence's public information officer for what would be a yearslong campaign against a deadly virus. She developed protocols to triage hundreds of requests. She helped teams across the system respond to questions from the local and national media. She launched campaigns to help educate the public about COVID and dispel misinformation. She consulted with and convened experts to solve problems as the crises evolved.

In the process, she provided a blueprint for her communications colleagues across the country on how to deliver the facts of the most monumental health crisis in a century.

"It has been the most challenging work I've ever done, but hands down the most rewarding," says Webb, 35. "I could not be more proud of how Providence St. Joseph Health leaders and caregivers have navigated the crisis and for the work they continue to do to care for our communities."

Handling the crisis was less difficult because tools she had helped develop and put in place allowed the organization to more rapidly scale its communication.

In addition, Webb has served as a steering committee member for a leadership and networking program and as a mentor through Providence caregiver resource groups. She also recently completed an advanced certification in corporate social responsibility and volunteers her time with nonprofit organizations focused on youth programs, animal welfare, STEM and anti-violence efforts.

"I admire her tenacity and consistent mission-based approach to health care to ensure our communities' needs are always top of mind," says Mark Gross, associate vice president and Providence's chief communication officer for Washington and Montana. "Adrienne never fails to be innovative in creating solutions, policies and procedures that will ensure a clear call to action when a crisis arises."

 

Copyright © 2021 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.