Thank-you notes from the C-suite: 9 health system CEOs express gratitude to staff

Thanksgiving reminds us to pause and reflect on all there is to be thankful for, and to show gratitude to others. In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, nine health system CEOs took the time to write thank-you notes to their staff, family and friends.

John B. Chessare, MD, president and CEO of GBMC HealthCare System (Baltimore)
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to take a moment to thank all of our people in the GBMC HealthCare System for their great work at moving us toward our vision of a value-driven community health system capable of treating every patient, every time — the way we would want our own loved ones treated.

Serving patients in their time of need is a gift that brings us joy, but the work is hard and requires tremendous resiliency and stamina. I am grateful for all those that live a life of service providing care at all hours of the day and night. I want to extend a special thank you to those who work on Thanksgiving, as holiday work is a special gift of time and energy to those we serve.

Thanksgiving Day is a great time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. For me, the list is very long. The GBMC family has a lot to be thankful for as well. We have a beautiful campus, state-of-the-art technology, and great doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and support staff working in our hospital, our advanced primary care and specialty physician practices (GBMA) and in our hospice and elder service organization (Gilchrist Services). We are grateful for all of our volunteers, from board members to doulas sitting with dying patients and those doing many other tasks.

We are also grateful to the CMS Innovation [Center] for working with the State of Maryland to create a Medicare waiver that has brought us hospital global budgets that give us the freedom to align the resources to drive toward the triple aim: better health, better care and lower costs.

Again, I hope everyone in our GBMC family has a happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday! Thank you for your dedication to our vision.

William P. Thompson, president and CEO of SSM Health (St. Louis)
I want to take a moment to wish all of my friends and colleagues at SSM Health a blessed holiday season. I also want to extend a heartfelt thank you for your continued hard work and commitment to our mission and those we serve across Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. It's not always easy, and I am grateful for your service.

This holiday season is particularly poignant for me, as it will be my last at SSM Health. In June, I announced my plan to retire next year. As a result, I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my 36-year career with SSM Health. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have spent my life's work doing something I love, while also working alongside so many talented and compassionate men and women whom I admire and respect.

Healthcare is more than a career, it is a calling. I am blessed to have been able to serve within this incredible ministry founded by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary more than 144 years ago. The sisters have had a profound impact on me and so many others across our system. They taught us you can be kind, compassionate and caring, but also be tough and assertive when necessary. They taught us that it's important to have a sense of humor and continually find ways to reflect and refresh your soul. Most importantly, they taught us to remain focused on our mission and the people we serve — at all times, in all circumstances.

The sisters have permanently shaped SSM Health's culture as a mission- and values-driven organization committed to quality and excellence; an organization that has touched millions of lives in a deep and lasting way. I am thankful for the more than 33,000 dedicated SSM Health employees, physicians and other partners who are continuing the sisters' legacy by providing exceptional care and service each day. It is reassuring to know that the future of our mission is in your strong and capable hands. 

Thank you for all you do! 

A. Marc Harrison, MD, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City)
Thank you to all those who have stopped somewhere along the path of their lives to ask: What can I do to serve others? It's humbling to be surrounded by people who've embraced that question and woven it into the fabric of their lives.  

When I accepted the position of CEO of Intermountain Healthcare this year, it signaled a return to an organization that nurtured me as a pediatric resident and fellow in pediatric critical care more than two decades ago. My wife Mary Carole and I were trainees at Intermountain's Primary Children's Hospital. While there we learned valuable lessons that have carried us throughout our careers. Throughout my career I've seen dedicated caregivers working to perfect their skills and abilities in order to heal patients with excellence and compassion. I've watched people stretch beyond areas of specific responsibility for better answers to tough challenges. I've learned from those who tirelessly answered the call to help create organizations worthy of the trust the people in our communities place in us.

Intermountain and its medical community helped shape my life. Returning to help create the future of the health system where I trained as a medical resident is an incredible honor. 

I'm looking forward to doing all I can to advance Intermountain's mission of helping people live the healthiest lives possible, a purpose that is dear to my heart. There is untold opportunity in healthcare to serve. To never stop improving our quality. To find ways to expand our access. To pay close attention to what people want and need from us, and to protect their resources by making our services as affordable as possible. To personalize their preventive and acute care.

Early in my practice as an intensivist I learned  my ability to contribute as an individual was limited. Without the nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, secretaries, biomedical engineers and other caregivers who comprised the team, I couldn't really accomplish much. When we worked together, almost anything was possible. 

To the 38,000 caregivers at Intermountain, to all of my teachers and mentors, to my family — the deepest joy of my life — thank you for showing me what it means to serve others in a worthy cause. 

Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO of Scripps Health (San Diego)
Dear Scripps family,

Thanksgiving is upon us — a traditional time to reflect on all that we are grateful for. Like most of us, I think of my family and friends. And I think of all of you, the Scripps family. We are some 15,000 strong. And I mean strong. We, like others, are going through a time of dramatic change in healthcare. I want to thank all of you for the strength, dedication and courage you have shown in the face of this change. Your focus on delivering great care to so many in the San Diego region builds on the more than century-long legacy of service we have at Scripps. It's you who will ensure we will be here in the years to come for all our patients, as well as for our entire community, sustaining hundreds of thousands of people and playing a vital role in the economy as one of the region's largest employers. 

Our founders, Mother Mary Michael Cummings and Ellen Browning Scripps, probably could not have known all those years ago how significant their legacy would be – how many lives would be touched because of what they started. They could not have known all the changes healthcare would undergo — all the wonderful scientific advances, as well as the increasing challenges of providing care to all who need it. 

But their commitment to those they served is timeless, and they are my touchstone. I ask myself at the end of each day, "Would Miss Ellen and Mother Mary Michael be proud of Scripps today?" As I ask myself that question ahead of Thanksgiving, I know the answer is "yes." Because I see that same commitment to those we serve in all of you, every day. And I am thankful.

A joyous Thanksgiving to you all,

Chris

Darlene Stromstad, president and CEO of Greater Waterbury (Conn.) Health Network
It was 26 degrees below zero that March morning; even for the Upper Great Plains, it was unusually cold. We were gathered to bury my 91-year-old father. His final resting place was on the isolated prairie near our family's rural church in one of the country's most isolated counties. His parents, Norwegian Lutheran homesteaders, had been active members of this small congregation, as were he and my mother.

I'd flown in the day before to this quiet place, the combination of flights and drives providing me the time to reflect on my journey from here to my present life in the beauty of the Connecticut hills, not too far from New York City. I thought about the miles I've traveled over the years, the many people I've met, the places I've lived, the experiences I've had. I've enjoyed a very meaningful career in healthcare; I've had the good fortune to work with smart, talented, caring human beings. I've made wonderful friends and am comfortable navigating through various environments. I have loved and I have been loved; I have a family I cherish.

I thought of the many lives that have touched mine, of the rich diversity that surrounds me, of how honored I am to work in this caring, complicated industry. I have had the opportunity to lead, to succeed because I dared to fail. I have followed a dream; I believed that I could make a difference. I have had the courage to be bold, the bravery to step forward, and the resilience to recover. I have always had hope. And I have had the perspective to see it all as a great gift. I am humbled by the tremendous opportunities I've had along the way.

So I was thinking of this when my mother said to me that cold day, "It's time to say good bye to Dad."

I leaned over his still form and said the first thing that came to mind: "Thank you." 

Susan P. Ehrlich, MD, CEO of the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center
It is my great honor to represent the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and the outstanding team of doctors, nurses, technicians, environmental service workers, researchers and all other team members who are dedicated to serving the healthcare needs of San Franciscans.

Especially at this time of unprecedented political change and uncertainty, I am deeply grateful to serve shoulder to shoulder with people who are unwaveringly dedicated to serving all the people of this community, in all of life's moments. These moments range from what we do as a Level I trauma center, when we serve people during their most difficult and tragic times, to keeping people well as a large provider of primary care. We are passionate about and expert[s] at serving individuals and families no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status or insurance coverage.

I want to offer my personal thanks to all the members of our team for their hard work and dedication, no matter what the circumstances. Our patients, their families and the entire city are healthier, stronger and better overall because of your passion and diligence.

Every day I am amazed and moved by your work on behalf of the individuals we serve and our great community. I am very proud and humbled to be part of your team.

Mike Murphy, president and CEO of Sharp HealthCare (San Diego)
As I reflect on this upcoming Thanksgiving season and celebrate my 25th anniversary at Sharp HealthCare, I am so thankful and proud to be part of the amazing group of people who make Sharp the very special place that it is. Our physicians, clinical and non-clinical staff members and volunteers are absolutely the finest.

I am thankful that fate introduced me to the healthcare industry more than 40 years ago and led me to Sharp. I am blessed to work with people who recognize and celebrate the purpose of their work and the impact it has on those they serve.

I am thankful for all of the Sharp team members who came before us to create the components of our wonderful organization — one that has been making a difference for the people of San Diego for nearly 70 years. We have been entrusted with a great responsibility to build on their legacy, and we take great pride and honor in doing all we can to make Sharp the best it can be.

I am thankful and excited for all that the people of Sharp have done and are doing to position us as leaders in healthcare, and for always making our patients, their families and the communities we serve our highest priorities.

I have so much to be thankful for both professionally and personally. I am grateful for my family — my parents, six siblings, wife and three daughters — and many others in my life, my faith and my health. I also give thanks for our country and all who have served and are serving in our military to provide and protect our freedoms, and all of our public servants, first responders and the many others who dedicate their lives to making a difference in our communities.

I wish you all the very best this Thanksgiving and holiday season!   

Anthony R. Tersigni, EdD, president and CEO of Ascension (St. Louis)
In communities across the country, Ascension's caregivers have been entrusted to carry forward a healthcare ministry with a rich history of providing compassionate, personalized care for all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those who are most vulnerable.

The work is not easy, especially in times of significant change like those in which we are living. Yet there is a passion and a dedication present within Ascension, and the spirit of goodness is palpable. Quite often, the caregivers I meet during my travels across Ascension tell me, "I wouldn't want to work anywhere else!" Their energy around transforming healthcare is truly inspiring, as is their commitment to living Ascension's faith-based mission, vision and values.

I am tremendously grateful to everyone who plays a part in sustaining and growing the healthcare ministry that is Ascension. To our board members and all in governance roles, as well as our thousands of providers, associates, volunteers and the many partners and collaborators who contribute to and support our efforts, I offer my humble thanks for your important service. 

I am convinced that we are living in an amazing time for healthcare in the United States.  Together, as one integrated national health ministry, Ascension will continue in our efforts to transform healthcare for the benefit of all those we are privileged to serve. 

Karen Teitelbaum, president and CEO, Sinai Health System (Chicago)
For me, thank-you notes are an important way of expressing gratitude for circumstances that define who we are as a mission-driven organization that serves both individuals and communities. Thank-you notes tell recipients that you do not take your relationship with them for granted or make assumptions about them. There are three types of relationships where I feel they are especially important, but to understand why I am focused on these relationships, it would be helpful to have a context within which Sinai Health System operates.

Sinai Health System is located on the urban west and southwest sides of Chicago, among some of the City's most challenged neighborhoods. The communities  we serve have 10 times the national rate of homicides, seven times the unemployment rate of the rest of Chicago, and suffer from chronic diseases at three times the rate of that seen in [the rest of Chicago]. We have four hospitals — two free-standing general acute care hospitals, one free-standing acute care rehabilitation hospital, one designated children's hospital contained within a larger acute care facility — 15 physician clinic locations and a 250-employed physician group of specialists, sub-specialists and primary care providers, as part of a staff of 800 physicians and 4,000 caregivers. Also, we have two unique institutes: Sinai Urban Health Institute, which is a group of urban epidemiologists and community health workers focused on health and social disparities and solutions; and Sinai Community Institute, a health system-based social services provider.

Gratitude for trusting us with their lives and their loved ones

The communities we serve have abundant talent, culture and tenacity even though they might have limited material resources and we feel honored that we can serve the individuals and families who call those communities home. It is important to me to let our communities know  we appreciate their contributions to this vibrant city, and  we are privileged to serve them when care is needed.

Gratitude for our community partners

The notion of "it takes a village" is certainly true for us. We depend on our community partners to join with us in a cause that is greater than any one organization. At first, you might think this means in providing care or access to care. While that is true, there is much more to this story. For example, together we work on violence intervention and reduction. We work together to provide behavioral health services that offer options other than criminalization of mental health crises. We work together to provide economic opportunities so that our communities can grow and thrive. It is hard to say "thank you" enough to our community partners, but thank-you notes at least give us a reliable tool in the communication process.

Caregivers who are stronger and care harder

We call all of our employees "caregivers." I can't imagine any other reference since we are all connected to the care of patients, no matter if we are in accounting or the emergency department.

Our caregivers have chosen to work for Sinai among all healthcare providers in the Greater Chicago area. We never want to take that for granted. Nor do we want to make any assumptions about the level of effort required to care for our patients or clients, almost all of whom have significant prevalence of poverty-related chronic diseases or conditions.

One of my favorite things is to catch caregivers in the act of being wonderful. It happens all the time — "catching" them is not hard. Thank-you notes to those caregivers let them know too  we do not take them for granted and  we appreciate all that they do. 

An ending thought

Thank you notes are a terrific communication tool. And like any other communication opportunity, they must be genuine, specific and heart-felt.

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