THE VALUED VOICE

Vol. 65, Issue 18
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Thursday, May 6, 2021

   

Boatwright Reflects on Service to SSM Health and WHA, Looks Ahead to HSHS Board

Member participation "makes WHA the strongest hospital association in the country."
SSM Health Wisconsin’s Regional President and Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) Board Member Damond Boatwright accepted the CEO position at Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) in March. In his new role at HSHS, based in Springfield, Ill., Boatwright will oversee system operations of 15 hospitals, numerous community-based health centers and clinics that employ nearly 2,300 physician partners and more than 13,000 associates in Wisconsin.
 
Before his departure from SSM, The Valued Voice asked Boatwright, who has been a member of the WHA board of directors since 2015 and served as board chair in 2019, to reflect on his accomplishments at SSM and to share his thoughts on the importance of advocacy on behalf of the state’s hospitals and health systems.
 
Boatwright received WHA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2020 for his exemplary commitment to both WHA and the communities it serves and the 2021 WHA Advocacy All Star Award at this year’s WHA Advocacy Day in April.
 
The Valued Voice:
What goals did you prioritize upon your arrival at SSM in 2014, and what progress did you make toward them?
 
Boatwright:
When I arrived in Wisconsin, the first time in my life along with my family, I wanted to embrace the opportunity to live and work in this great state. I had a strong feeling there was more to love than cheese, beer and brats. Professionally, my priority was to understand the history, culture, the practices and norms of our organization. In my humble opinion, it is difficult to add value to something if you have no idea what the current value is.
 
Integrating disparate parts of what is now our Integrated (Care) Delivery Network was a priority. Part of this work meant personally and professionally seeking to understand before recommending any changes, connecting with others and developing deep friendships and working relationships that would facilitate that integration.

Personally, coming to Wisconsin and making it my home meant finding and creating a welcoming community for my family where we would not just fit in, but flourish as individuals.

I truly hope that my time here reflects that the mission was accomplished!

The Valued Voice:
You have served as a leader not only to SSM, but to Wisconsin’s health care system more broadly as a WHA board member and officer as well as through service on key WHA committees. Why do you feel it is important to lean in so intently on collaborative industry initiatives?
 
Boatwright:
One of the first things I was excited to discover in Wisconsin was an existing culture of cooperation and collaboration among the health care systems across our state—rural and urban; systems and independent hospitals; academic medical centers and community hospitals. We truly have the same goal—helping our patients and all Wisconsinites build healthier lives. Because our systems are interwoven in many ways, collaborating means providing better care and improving the quality of life for all Wisconsinites. To accomplish this, I truly believe that we are stronger together.
 
The Valued Voice:
Having served in a number of states, what advice do you have to hospital leaders for engaging with their state hospital associations? And why is member participation so important to WHA’s work?
 
Boatwright:
My advice to hospital and health system leaders is to get involved and stay involved. I once heard Assembly Speaker Robin Vos say, “Success in government happens when people show up and participate at all levels… state, county, city, local, etc.” Member participation is what makes, in my opinion, the Wisconsin Hospital Association the strongest hospital association in the country. It’s through all of our collaboration and participation that we can enact necessary changes that benefit our organizations, our patients and our state as a whole.
 
The Valued Voice:
SSM received this year’s WHA Advocacy All Star Award, and you chair WHA’s Advocacy Committee. Tell us about the role you feel advocacy plays in maintaining and extending health care excellence?
 
Boatwright:
Receiving this recognition is incredibly meaningful to me and to our organization. We know the value and importance advocacy plays in making meaningful, positive changes for not just our health organizations, but for our patients and our communities.

While we all learned many valuable lessons over the past year, we learned that even in the most uncertain times, our health care workers are true heroes. As Dr. Brian Calinawagan wrote, “We, the healthcare workers are NOT your frontline any longer. We are your LAST LINE OF DEFENSE.” This is an accurate reflection of where we are today. It is through our grassroots advocacy work that we can influence policy that supports the physical, mental and emotional health of our teams.

Additionally, it is through our advocacy that we can lift up our public health partners, ensuring that together hospitals and public health departments throughout the state can and do coordinate efforts with maximum efficiency and effectiveness to ensure the health and safety of our communities.

I will continue to advocate for a more inclusive, fair and just business environment where any individual who has the capacity and capability to work, is motivated to seek out employment. But not just find a job, but a job that truly values their contribution and allows them to fulfill their true potential.

Bringing vaccine doses to our communities in efficient and equitable ways is vital to finding our way out of this pandemic. We can all work together to ensure that the most vulnerable and at-risk community members are given access to vaccines.

As we advocate for our organizations, we must remember to find common ground with one another, and expand that unifying bond to our elected and appointed leaders. We are stronger as One Wisconsin, and I wish that the idea that we are One Wisconsin is bigger than any one party, class, race or other secular affiliation. 
 
The Valued Voice:
How has COVID-19 and its effects on the state’s health system influenced the advocacy that needs to be done on behalf of hospitals and health systems?
 
Boatwright:
The pandemic taught us the importance of coming together to do the right thing for everyone, something that the Wisconsin Hospital Association has helped our state’s hospitals and health systems do for 100 years.
 
The pandemic highlighted challenges and disparities health care systems have faced for quite some time. We continue to have public health gaps that health providers are expected to fill but are not equipped to do so.
 
We now have an opportunity to prepare for the next inevitable pandemic by focusing our efforts on measures that will bring equitable care to our communities. We can also work as one hospital association in advocating for strong public health capabilities throughout the state.
 
The Valued Voice:
You speak often of servant leadership. What has this meant to you as you’ve risen through the ranks of health care management, and how do you envision continuing this philosophy at HSHS?
 
Boatwright:
I was blessed to have a wonderful servant leader as my mentor when I began my career in health care named Frank DeMarco. Frank showed me that truly the best way to lead is to serve those around you. He always told me that great leaders listen first to their teams, then work to solve the problems that you hear about.
 
In addition to shaping my leadership style using Frank’s philosophy, I’ve also found much comfort in the words of Winston Churchill, who once remarked, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” It has truly been an honor to give what little talents and leadership skills I have to SSM Health and the Wisconsin Hospital Association these past seven years.
 
Knowing that HSHS is a Catholic Health Care organization with similar values and a similar mission inspired by St. Francis of Assisi helped me make the difficult decision to transition from SSM Health to HSHS. It also helped to know that I will still have responsibility and connection in Wisconsin through the high-quality facilities and care HSHS provides in northern Wisconsin.
 
GOD bless and good health to all.
 

This story originally appeared in the May 06, 2021 edition of WHA Newsletter

WHA Logo
Thursday, May 6, 2021

Boatwright Reflects on Service to SSM Health and WHA, Looks Ahead to HSHS Board

Member participation "makes WHA the strongest hospital association in the country."
SSM Health Wisconsin’s Regional President and Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) Board Member Damond Boatwright accepted the CEO position at Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) in March. In his new role at HSHS, based in Springfield, Ill., Boatwright will oversee system operations of 15 hospitals, numerous community-based health centers and clinics that employ nearly 2,300 physician partners and more than 13,000 associates in Wisconsin.
 
Before his departure from SSM, The Valued Voice asked Boatwright, who has been a member of the WHA board of directors since 2015 and served as board chair in 2019, to reflect on his accomplishments at SSM and to share his thoughts on the importance of advocacy on behalf of the state’s hospitals and health systems.
 
Boatwright received WHA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2020 for his exemplary commitment to both WHA and the communities it serves and the 2021 WHA Advocacy All Star Award at this year’s WHA Advocacy Day in April.
 
The Valued Voice:
What goals did you prioritize upon your arrival at SSM in 2014, and what progress did you make toward them?
 
Boatwright:
When I arrived in Wisconsin, the first time in my life along with my family, I wanted to embrace the opportunity to live and work in this great state. I had a strong feeling there was more to love than cheese, beer and brats. Professionally, my priority was to understand the history, culture, the practices and norms of our organization. In my humble opinion, it is difficult to add value to something if you have no idea what the current value is.
 
Integrating disparate parts of what is now our Integrated (Care) Delivery Network was a priority. Part of this work meant personally and professionally seeking to understand before recommending any changes, connecting with others and developing deep friendships and working relationships that would facilitate that integration.

Personally, coming to Wisconsin and making it my home meant finding and creating a welcoming community for my family where we would not just fit in, but flourish as individuals.

I truly hope that my time here reflects that the mission was accomplished!

The Valued Voice:
You have served as a leader not only to SSM, but to Wisconsin’s health care system more broadly as a WHA board member and officer as well as through service on key WHA committees. Why do you feel it is important to lean in so intently on collaborative industry initiatives?
 
Boatwright:
One of the first things I was excited to discover in Wisconsin was an existing culture of cooperation and collaboration among the health care systems across our state—rural and urban; systems and independent hospitals; academic medical centers and community hospitals. We truly have the same goal—helping our patients and all Wisconsinites build healthier lives. Because our systems are interwoven in many ways, collaborating means providing better care and improving the quality of life for all Wisconsinites. To accomplish this, I truly believe that we are stronger together.
 
The Valued Voice:
Having served in a number of states, what advice do you have to hospital leaders for engaging with their state hospital associations? And why is member participation so important to WHA’s work?
 
Boatwright:
My advice to hospital and health system leaders is to get involved and stay involved. I once heard Assembly Speaker Robin Vos say, “Success in government happens when people show up and participate at all levels… state, county, city, local, etc.” Member participation is what makes, in my opinion, the Wisconsin Hospital Association the strongest hospital association in the country. It’s through all of our collaboration and participation that we can enact necessary changes that benefit our organizations, our patients and our state as a whole.
 
The Valued Voice:
SSM received this year’s WHA Advocacy All Star Award, and you chair WHA’s Advocacy Committee. Tell us about the role you feel advocacy plays in maintaining and extending health care excellence?
 
Boatwright:
Receiving this recognition is incredibly meaningful to me and to our organization. We know the value and importance advocacy plays in making meaningful, positive changes for not just our health organizations, but for our patients and our communities.

While we all learned many valuable lessons over the past year, we learned that even in the most uncertain times, our health care workers are true heroes. As Dr. Brian Calinawagan wrote, “We, the healthcare workers are NOT your frontline any longer. We are your LAST LINE OF DEFENSE.” This is an accurate reflection of where we are today. It is through our grassroots advocacy work that we can influence policy that supports the physical, mental and emotional health of our teams.

Additionally, it is through our advocacy that we can lift up our public health partners, ensuring that together hospitals and public health departments throughout the state can and do coordinate efforts with maximum efficiency and effectiveness to ensure the health and safety of our communities.

I will continue to advocate for a more inclusive, fair and just business environment where any individual who has the capacity and capability to work, is motivated to seek out employment. But not just find a job, but a job that truly values their contribution and allows them to fulfill their true potential.

Bringing vaccine doses to our communities in efficient and equitable ways is vital to finding our way out of this pandemic. We can all work together to ensure that the most vulnerable and at-risk community members are given access to vaccines.

As we advocate for our organizations, we must remember to find common ground with one another, and expand that unifying bond to our elected and appointed leaders. We are stronger as One Wisconsin, and I wish that the idea that we are One Wisconsin is bigger than any one party, class, race or other secular affiliation. 
 
The Valued Voice:
How has COVID-19 and its effects on the state’s health system influenced the advocacy that needs to be done on behalf of hospitals and health systems?
 
Boatwright:
The pandemic taught us the importance of coming together to do the right thing for everyone, something that the Wisconsin Hospital Association has helped our state’s hospitals and health systems do for 100 years.
 
The pandemic highlighted challenges and disparities health care systems have faced for quite some time. We continue to have public health gaps that health providers are expected to fill but are not equipped to do so.
 
We now have an opportunity to prepare for the next inevitable pandemic by focusing our efforts on measures that will bring equitable care to our communities. We can also work as one hospital association in advocating for strong public health capabilities throughout the state.
 
The Valued Voice:
You speak often of servant leadership. What has this meant to you as you’ve risen through the ranks of health care management, and how do you envision continuing this philosophy at HSHS?
 
Boatwright:
I was blessed to have a wonderful servant leader as my mentor when I began my career in health care named Frank DeMarco. Frank showed me that truly the best way to lead is to serve those around you. He always told me that great leaders listen first to their teams, then work to solve the problems that you hear about.
 
In addition to shaping my leadership style using Frank’s philosophy, I’ve also found much comfort in the words of Winston Churchill, who once remarked, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” It has truly been an honor to give what little talents and leadership skills I have to SSM Health and the Wisconsin Hospital Association these past seven years.
 
Knowing that HSHS is a Catholic Health Care organization with similar values and a similar mission inspired by St. Francis of Assisi helped me make the difficult decision to transition from SSM Health to HSHS. It also helped to know that I will still have responsibility and connection in Wisconsin through the high-quality facilities and care HSHS provides in northern Wisconsin.
 
GOD bless and good health to all.
 

This story originally appeared in the May 06, 2021 edition of WHA Newsletter