Honoring Healthcare Trustees Who Honor Their Communities

Hospitals and health systems today are looking for high-powered, high-energy boards to help them deal with the seemingly unlimited challenges brought on by healthcare reform. They require healthcare trustees with exceptional talents and commitment. “Yet when it comes right down to it, healthcare is still about people and communities,” writes Charles W.B. Wardell III, Witt/Kieffer CEO, in the introductory note to this year’s Modern Healthcare Trustee of the Year awards feature. “Even the most sophisticated board must have a laser-like focus on its organization’s mission, values and constituents.”

The three Trustee of the Year honorees for 2014 are living proof:

Debbie Dudley Branson (not-for-profit health system): After assuming a board member position at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas little more than three years ago, Branson was quickly named chair and has spearheaded a monumental effort to not only bring Parkland from the brink of extinction but to restore its relevance and respect among Dallas citizens. She has worked tirelessly to oversee the implementation of a corrective action plan and improve the system’s quality outcomes and financial stability—all while helping to engineer a gradual CEO transition at the organization. Highly recommended listening is this podcast interview between Branson and MH’s Jessica Zyglund.

Billy Ocasio (large hospital): Ocasio has been instrumental in saving Norwegian American Hospital—where he was born—in Chicago’s working-class Humboldt Park neighborhood. Norwegian American, too, was at risk of shutting its doors, when Ocasio got involved and, just as importantly, got the largely Puerto Rican community involved in rejuvenating the hospital. “I have a holistic approach to dealing with healthcare,” Ocasio tells Modern Healthcare’s Sabriya Rice. “We don’t just want to deal with illness, we’ve got to deal with the whole person” . . . and the community as well.

Harold Walker (small hospital):
Walker also helped engineer a reclamation project—this one of Marion, North Carolina’s 49-bed McDowell Hospital. Walker used his background in banking to help shore up the balance sheet and his smarts to turn around the small facility’s quality of care. He helped to rebuild the community’s trust by participating in “fireside chats” with residents. “Healthcare is changing and a lot of people don’t know what those changes are,” he says. “The hospital has to be the leader in educating the community.”

Witt/Kieffer has always been a proponent of healthcare leaders who have their communities’ best interests at heart. We are proud to support the Trustee of the Year program. As Wardell writes, “These awards are a rare chance to recognize individuals who demonstrate duty of care through great leadership and board service—all for the good of others.”

By Paul Thomas, Senior Writer

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