Words of appreciation: Thank-you notes from 15 health system CEOs

The week before Thanksgiving provides an especially appropriate time to express gratitude. In honor of this season, Becker's asked hospital and health system CEOs to share notes to their staff, team members and families.

Michael Apkon, MD, PhD
President and CEO of Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children (Boston)

We are entering the season of reflection and gratitude, and I am extremely fortunate to have many things to be thankful for this year.

As a Boston area native, I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to come back home to lead an amazing, innovative organization in Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children, at a critical time in healthcare — both here in Boston and nationally, where discussions are underway at the highest levels of our government on how to make health care more accessible, more affordable and more impactful for everyone.

I am thankful for all the skilled, dedicated and compassionate employees of Tufts MC and Floating Hospital. Our employees are always thinking ahead and routinely go above and beyond to ensure that our patients receive both the very best care and an outstanding patient experience. This collaboration and commitment of our entire team — from doctors, nurses, and scientists to administrative professionals and environmental services employees — is the lifeblood of our organization and makes me extremely proud and grateful to be a part of it.

And finally, I am thankful to the people that place their trust in us every day for their care or the care of their loved ones. We see some of the sickest, most challenging and most complex patients in the country and it is an honor and a privilege to provide them with the high-quality care and emotional support they deserve and expect from us.

Lloyd H. Dean and Kevin E. Lofton
CEOs of CommonSpirit Health (Chicago)

Dear CommonSpirit Health,

As 2019 comes to a close, we want to take this moment to thank everyone in the CommonSpirit community as we continue to form our new health system.

We believe the opportunity to improve the health of more than 20 million people in the country is a great gift.  

Each of us has chosen to work in health care for different reasons, yet we all share a desire to serve our communities. We see patients in the happiest of moments when a new life comes into the world and we see people when they are at their most vulnerable. 

For more than 150 years, the people of our health ministries have been called to serve with compassion. To provide the high-quality, affordable health care to the many. To reach deep into our communities and collaborate with local organizations, working to address the underlying causes of illness. To partner and innovate in the delivery of health care, removing friction points in your workflow and using advanced technologies to improve outcomes and the patient experience.

As we create a new health system together, there will be bumps along the way, but we also see nothing but possibilities ahead. Let us move forward together to achieve health equity in our great nation and share our caring hearts with all who we serve.

Marcy Doderer
President and CEO of Arkansas Children's (Little Rock)

Dear fellow Arkansas Children's team members,

I am inspired by the gratitude I see so many of you practice every day. Whether it's a sincere "thank you" to a teammate who helps you pick up dropped items or a thoughtful recognition of a colleague's contributions to a team success, your actions help us create a culture where our values of safety, teamwork, compassion and excellence thrive.

As we enter this holiday season, I want to take a moment to share with you the reasons I'm so appreciative of this Arkansas Children's team. 

First, I am thankful to work alongside team members who embrace and embody our mission of championing children to make them better today and healthier tomorrow. We will achieve unprecedented child health with dedicated, mission-driven individuals like you.

I'm grateful for the open and transparent conversations around safety and commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity. I’m surrounded by a team who wants to make a difference. I see you strive to do more tomorrow than we did today. This is such a distinguishing characteristic of Arkansas Children’s culture, and it’s a credit to you, our team.

I'm thankful for the tremendous partnership we have with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the faculty who work with us. They are great caregivers, teachers and scientists who have tremendous impact on the kids of Arkansas. I am grateful we can change lives alongside them.

I'm amazed every day by the teamwork and compassion I see. Our days are filled with little moments with tremendous impact: team members escorting a family to a clinic or a provider getting down to eye level to talk with a child. These moments improve the patient experience, but more importantly foster connection and reflect our authentic culture.

I see excellence every day in our strong, talented people working diligently to provide the care needed by our patients regardless of the time of day. When a family faces a health concern or crisis; excellent care and service is ready for them at Arkansas Children's.

Finally, I’m grateful for your leadership.  There are leaders with servant hearts in every corner of this organization – regardless of title. Thank you for stepping up to make life better for our patients and each other.

Together we are safer.
Together we are stronger.
Together we make a difference in the lives of our patients and families. 
Together we will fulfill our promise: Unprecedented child health.  Defined and delivered.

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do as champions for children as we work together to advance child health in Arkansas.

David Entwistle
President and CEO of Stanford (Calif.) Health Care

Dear colleagues,

As we enter the holiday season, a time for reflection and giving thanks, this year I am especially grateful to our incredible employees at Stanford Health Care and the many members of our diverse and vibrant community.

On Nov. 17, we officially opened the new Stanford Hospital, a facility that will shape the care that we provide to patients and their family members for generations to come. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the timing is fitting, as there are, indeed, so many people to thank.

This endeavor, which began more than a decade ago, took the combined efforts — literally millions of hours — of our dedicated employees, leaders across Stanford, community members, government representatives, construction teams, and countless others who made this moment possible. Together, we have built a brighter future for patients, offering them hope in the face of a difficult diagnosis and a setting that honors the vital role of human compassion in healing and recovery.

Healthcare is inescapably personal. When we return home from work every day, we can proudly say that it made a difference in someone’s life. That is both a rare privilege and a profound responsibility — one that I know drives many of you to dedicate yourselves to the highest standards of care for our patients.

And it shows. Your lived values shine clearly in all of the incredible achievements of this past year, from our national recognitions in care quality to the pioneering medical discoveries we brought to the patient bedside. But just as important, it shows in the thousand small things you do each day to support our patients and embrace their family members as part of the care team.

For these reasons and many more, I am deeply grateful to all of you and feel honored to work alongside you. I wish you a happy Thanksgiving next week and a special thanks to those who will be caring for our patients over the holiday.

John Fox
President and CEO of Beaumont Health (Southfield, Mich.)


I truly appreciate all you do every day at Beaumont Health. Whether you deliver direct patient care or support those who do, your work is vital and meaningful to those we serve. This is particularly true on Thanksgiving, when many of you are working a shift while others are celebrating the holiday with friends and family.

You do this because you know our patients and families rely on Beaumont to be there when they are hurt, ill, scared or in pain. Your dedication and support help them weather tough circumstances, and your compassion brings warmth and light to those who are far away from those they love. I often hear about how grateful our patients and families are for your care, and I know you often shrug off the thanks by saying, "It's just my job." Take it from me, you deserve the thanks. You have a challenging job, and you do it so well and for so many.

Thank you for all you do for our patients, families and each other. May you and yours enjoy a happy holiday season.

Julie A. Freischlag, MD
CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Health and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

It’s been an amazing year of growth and opportunity at Wake Forest Baptist Health, thanks to an incredible team working every day to provide the very best for our patients and their families, as well as our School of Medicine students. The Wake Forest Baptist family is now more than 20,000 strong, and our achievements are only possible because of their many talents and dedication.

We have so much to celebrate. We opened a beautiful new birth center, offering full labor and delivery services at our Winston-Salem hospital campus and ushering in a new era of care for life. At the same time, we expanded our level IV NICU to give families private rooms to bond with their newborns. Accomplishing these goals required amazing teamwork and trust, resulting in state-of-the-art centers of care that we are all so proud of. We marked the one-year anniversary of High Point Medical Center joining our health system — and the capacity for expanded impact continues. With exciting possibilities for strategic partnership on the horizon, we envision an even greater ability to improve health and grow our research, medical education and clinical programs. It's a great time to be at Wake Forest Baptist.

Thank you to the Wake Forest Baptist team for having the grit and dedication to make opportunities reality — and for embracing the possibilities with enthusiasm and determination. It’s truly an inspiration seeing your excellence in action. YOU are what makes Wake Forest Baptist a great place to work, learn and discover, and I look forward to what we’ll accomplish together in 2020!

Jim Hinton
CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health (Dallas)

Dear Colleagues,

Thanksgiving holds different meanings for each of us; perhaps even changing from year to year. For some, it’s about being together with family or cooking holiday favorites. For others, it’s about watching football or enjoying some much-deserved down time. Personally, it's my favorite holiday. Not just because of the food and football — although I do love those — but because the focus isn't on gifts, rather thanks.

John F. Kennedy said, "We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives."

At Baylor Scott & White Health, gratitude grows from the bonds we create as we serve faithfully, and it comes from being part of a team where we are in it together. We are fortunate to have 49,000+ on our team across our 1,100+ access points throughout Texas, all dedicated to providing safe, compassionate care to those who enter our doors. Because of your commitment, our century-long legacy continues to offer healing and hope in the communities we serve — and we are there 365 days a year.

For many of you who are providing care this Thanksgiving, you are serving alongside people who are much like family to you. And together, you will be making a difference in the lives of those who are most in need of compassion over the holidays. Our patients are grateful for your skill and attentiveness, and for your loved ones who understand and support your calling. Thank you to all who work tirelessly year-round fulfilling our Mission. You are what is right about healthcare.

Steve Markovich, MD
President and CEO of OhioHealth (Columbus), (Maj. General, USAF, RET.)

I have been fortunate throughout my career, both in the military and at OhioHealth, to have worked with people who put service before self.

At our recent Veterans Day breakfast, sitting among several hundred veterans, now OhioHealth associates, I was reminded of the commitment and dedication that these men and women, like our 30,000 other OhioHealth associates, physicians and volunteers, and like the first responders in our communities, put into their work every day.

And it's hard work, but their core value of selflessness drives them to protect us, to rescue us, to do their very best to heal us and give us our lives back.

Healthcare is at a pivotal time. Things will be changing in a big way and that will be hard work too.

But I am confident and optimistic about the future because I know that there is nothing these people can't do.

I get to work with them every day, and for that I am grateful. 

Dale Maxwell
President and CEO of Presbyterian Healthcare Services (Albuquerque, N.M.)

At Presbyterian, there are more than 13,000 incredible people who spend their days caring for our patients and members.

It is my honor to thank each one of them for that service.

These are the people who perform life-saving surgeries, coordinate care for those with complex health needs, prepare healthy food, keep our facilities safe and ensure that New Mexicans have access to care when and where they need it.

This year, our staff and clinicians accomplished amazing things across our integrated system. We are serving more health plan members than ever before while advancing how and where care is delivered in our community. Our team is answering the questions that many health care systems are asking themselves today — how do we make care better, equally accessible and more affordable?

Every day, I am surprised and impressed by our team and their belief that we can always do more for our patients and members.

I am grateful to health plan and clinical leaders who together lead us toward a new way of caring for people with substance use disorders. I am grateful for community health team members who compel us to think deeply about how to screen and address the social determinants of health among our patients and members. I am grateful to those who dig deep into population health data to determine where we can increase value while improving health outcomes.

And, I am grateful that what unites every person with a Presbyterian badge is an unwavering commitment to improving the health of those we serve.  Thank you.

Bruce A. Meyer, MD
President of Jefferson Health and senior executive vice president of Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia)


I believe in the words of Jackie Robinson: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." It is with this thought in mind that I reflect on the last few months in Philadelphia as we have responded to the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital.

Jefferson profoundly answered the call for help from our community. I am extremely grateful and humbled to be in the company of such amazing staff who selflessly dedicate themselves to others and earnestly live our values. Our staff geared up urgently to accommodate the increased patient volumes, creatively retooled dozens of patient flow processes, and limited disruption in order to provide high-quality and safe care. While this closure significantly impacted Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Abington Hospital, its ripple effects can be felt across Jefferson. Here are a few examples of staff heroics that illustrate our collective efforts to ensure no one is left behind when the public needs us: 

Experiencing significant growth in daily patient volume, TJUH's emergency department triaged via telemedicine, expanded its capability to fast track patients to shorten ED dwell times and improved the overall admissions process. Our Center City ED staff are seeing more than 40 patients daily and double the fire/rescue vehicles arriving at our doors. Other Jefferson hospitals are also managing increased volumes. The intensity is profound.

Medical Affairs on-boarded 78 former HUH residents and fellows who could now finish their training at Jefferson as well as midwives and obstetricians to ensure that no mother or baby was in jeopardy. And to accommodate the 30-40 percent increase in labor and delivery volume, our nursing and support staff rapidly converted a temporary MedSurg unit into an antepartum unit in less than a week.

In times of great change and adversity, we really discover who we are and what we are capable of accomplishing. Thank you — for all that you have done during this challenging period, and for all that you do every day to improve lives in the communities we serve.

Kevin W. Sowers, MSN., RN
President of Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine (Baltimore)

More than a century ago, businessman and philanthropist Johns Hopkins put in place the motions to create a world-class university and health enterprise with the goal of making a positive difference in the world. As we near the holidays, I want to say thank you to the members of the Johns Hopkins Medicine community who dedicate your time, talents and energy to further Johns Hopkins’ legacy of compassionate service to a cause greater than any one of us.

Across the nation, academic medical centers are facing challenges to achieving our tripartite missions of patient care, research and education. Yet our collective history is full of stories about triumphing over adversities. We are proud of those who came before us, demonstrating the power of partnership to develop solutions to overcome any difficulties. Their efforts continue to inspire us to solve the problems of modern medicine so that we can deliver the promise of medicine for generations to come.

To every member of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Team: I appreciate your ongoing commitment to excellence and thank you for the work you do every day to make a difference in the lives of the people and communities we serve. Happy holidays to you, all.

Chris Van Gorder
President and CEO of Scripps Health (San Diego)

This has been a tough year in healthcare, with all of the changes we are going through, as well as worry about new and proposed legislation that could have a significant impact. In addition, there's the growing concern about the stress and burnout of physicians, nurses, staff and yes, even administrators. 

Yet every day, these very same people come to work to deliver the best health care in the world.  So, I’m most thankful this year for the front-line physicians, nurses, technicians and support teams. They are the heart and soul of health care delivery — it's these compassionate professionals who care for our patients with skill and a healing touch. 

One of our Scripps employees recently had a serious traffic accident that caused the loss of his leg. When I spoke with him, he told me how important it was to him for someone to hold his hand when he was initially injured, in the trauma center and even in his room.

He told me that after he was injured, he felt himself leaving his body. But when his hand was held, he came back into his body again — he needed that human touch. So, for all those who are holding the hands of our patients during this holiday — and every other day — I'm truly thankful.

Kate Walsh
President and CEO of Boston Medical Center Health System

As families gather during the holiday season, it is very likely that the topic of health will be part of the conversation at many dinner tables. This underscores just how important the work is that we are doing across Boston Medical Center Health System, and what a privilege it is for us to be such a centerpiece of people’s lives. From having an opportunity to help confront the greatest public health issue of our time through our work with the National Institute on Drug Abuse to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts, to the daily interactions you have with people as we help them navigate a medical issue, we are helping people create a foundation of good health on which to build their lives.

I hope that you will take some time to celebrate the important work you do on behalf of the people and communities we serve. Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Penny Wheeler, MD
President and CEO of Allina Health (Minneapolis)

The disruption taking place in healthcare affirms what I know to be true in this time of Thanksgiving — the work each of you do to relieve suffering and improve the lives of those served and the support you give each other has me giving great thanks. When faced with challenges that may seem insurmountable, gratitude is the greatest antidote. 

The need for caring is something that never changes and is always deeply felt. Each day I am touched by the miracles performed by healthcare professionals, not only in saving lives but in the small things they do to show people how much they care. I give my most heartfelt thanks to our colleagues who give up special moments with family and friends during the holidays to care for others. Your care and support mean even more to patients who are missing their own families and to those who are nearing the end of life in our care.

Despite the hurdles you face, you continue to support each other and give to a grand purpose of healing others. For your sacrifices, your generosity, your expertise and your talents, you have my deepest gratitude. I am so proud to work beside you in service to those who entrust us with their care.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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