Trinity Health
President's Letter

Judith M. Persichilli
November/December 2013

It was an offer that changed my life forever.

The Catholic Health East Board of Directors was looking for an individual to lead Catholic Health East upon the retirement of Robert (Bob) Stanek.  As many of you know, I was quite settled in as an executive vice president and anxious to fully support the next CEO of Catholic Health East; and as they say, “the rest is history”. 

Bob officially passed the leadership torch to me in 2010.  At that time, I predicted that our challenges in reform would become even greater; that transformations to continue our service to the communities we serve would continue at lightning speed; and that the stories of our Founding Congregations would continue to guide us as we made  the necessary changes in response to the needs of our communities and as we together all learned to “let go”, begin anew and move forward.

My first challenge was to build a team who along with me would work together for the common good of all.  I will be forever grateful to the courageous individuals who accepted this journey with me – Jenny Barnett, Pete DeAngelis, Clayton Fitzhugh, Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Michael Hemsley, Esq., Ray Welch, John Johnson, Nora Triola, PhD, John Capasso and Jeff Komins, MD.  We would not have been as successful as we were without the gifts they brought to Catholic Health East.  They are the leaders I had been waiting for my whole career!

My favorite quote from  St. Francis of Assisi, “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible”, represents the past four years.  Together we have accomplished much.  We developed the Leadership Academy to support the development of our future health care leaders; we joined together in partnership with others to build stronger RHMs like St. Peter’s Health Partners in Albany, New York; we worked to continue service to the most vulnerable residents of the impoverished cities of Newark, Camden and Trenton, New Jersey.  We operationalized Vision 2017’s commitment to person-centered care across the continuum and expanded our care to the frail elderly through our PACE programs.  With a focus on the needs of our communities, we completed Strategic Repositioning plans for each RHM as we moved toward sustainability in a value-based environment.  Together we achieved targeted improvements in four key metrics – operating income, colleague commitment, avoidable readmissions and completion of community health improvement plans.  Most importantly in 2012, we achieved our best financial result since the inception of our system.  The value of this outcome is our goal of strengthening our Mission, which was enhanced through our community benefit levels that have increased year over year.  We assembled a corps of CEOs who I consider to be the best in the nation.  Thanks to all of them for their hard work and commitment to our Mission.

Together we built a strong foundation with which to partner with Trinity Health to form the second largest Catholic healthcare system in the United States.  Yes, we did all of this together. And I am confident that CHE Trinity Health’s new leader, Dr. Richard Gilfillan, will continue to lead the transformation process and help guide our unified ministry to a bright future.

The changes at Catholic Health East mirror those in the nation at large.  We will never go back to what we were and neither will the U.S. health care system.  The health care system in the United States is the most costly in the world, accounting for 17 percent of the GDP.  Aging populations and increased longevity, coupled with chronic health problems, present significant challenges to our nation. Our challenge is to provide a better experience of care, while simultaneously improving the health of populations while lowering costs AND by staying true to our Mission – to be a healing, transforming presence in the communities we serve.  Our Founding Congregations have entrusted their Ministries to us.  It is a humbling privilege for all of us to carry on their work.

In his book, “Healthcare Ministry:  Refounding the Mission in Tumultuous Times,” Gerald Arbuckle suggests that the chaos, the radical breakdown of the predictable  that we are experiencing in health care today, can actually be a creative experience both personally and organizationally.  He goes on to suggest that we can use the chaos we are experiencing “to refound the healthcare ministry in ways that respond creatively to the most urgent needs for healing today, in forms that we cannot even imagine at the moment.  Chaos can be God’s gift to us”.  Yes, that is right – a gift.  A gift to re-imagine a future better than the present we live in.  If we are to produce the value equation we aspire to – better care, better health, and lower cost – we need to be the transformational leaders the nation has been waiting for.  Each and every one of you, every colleague in CHE Trinity Health has a role in this transformation.  You all will make a difference.

So, as I enter another phase in my work life, my holiday wish for all of you is that you take the time to take care of yourselves.  That you love each day; that you are passionate about who you are and what you do.  And as chaotic as things may seem – how great the challenges, how high the mountain you will be called to climb – know that you are not alone – remember that each and every day.  God is not ultimately just working on one situation at a time, but She is working with all of you, all the time. 

In closing, I just ask you to imagine a future better than the present we live in – a future full of hope for our communities.  That is powerful!

Thank you so much for allowing me the privilege to work with all of you.  With best wishes for a peaceful and joyful holiday season – I remain your servant and colleague.

Sincerely yours,
Judith M. Persichilli
CHE Trinity Health

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