Episode 66:
The Thanksgiving Special: Resilience, Compassion and Dedication
Marna Borgstrom, Joe Impicciche, Mitch Daniels, Sarah Krevans, and Chris Howard
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In this episode of Fireside Chat, we catch up with some former guests of the show to find out what they are most thankful for personally and professionally this Thanksgiving season.


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Gary Bisbee 0:03
2020 will forever be known as the year of COVID. It’s been a challenging year for all and transformative for many. In the face of the demands brought by COVID, we’re thankful for the bravery, resilience, compassion, and dedication of our frontline and all healthcare workers. In this episode, we’ve asked five leaders, all of whom have appeared previously on this show, to share with us what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving. I’m Gary Bisbee and this is Fireside Chat.

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln expressed gratitude for the Union Army victory at Gettysburg by announcing the creation of an official Thanksgiving holiday. It’s appropriate in the year of COVID that our national Thanksgiving holiday was created to celebrate a battle. For my conversation, the CEOs have indicated that the COVID surge and resulting demands on our health systems have been uniformly thought of in military terms as a battle. This Thanksgiving Special honors the physicians, nurses, and other caregivers who work in uncertain and challenging circumstances, much like that required in battle. We also recognize and acknowledge those leaders in healthcare and higher education who made decisions of enormous consequence with very little data or formal preparation for a viral pandemic. For my part, I’m thankful for my family and close friends whose support never seems to waver. I’m grateful to you, my extended family of listeners, for your willingness to tune us in and your ready advice. Now, on to our guests. We’ll hear first from Marna Borgstrom, President and CEO Yale-New Haven Health System.

Marna Borgstrom 1:50
Thank you for having me, Gary, because I’m honored to do this. And I think my answer is going to be similar to other people that you may be speaking with because in my professional life, what I am most grateful for is working with an assembled team of exceptional leaders who are also wonderful, caring, feeling human beings in what they do professionally and in how we treat one another professionally and personally. And you can do an awful lot in this very complicated field that we work in if you are surrounded by people who are not only intelligent, motivated, hardworking but who are also genuinely good people. So I am most grateful for the people I have the privilege of working with. On a personal level, it’s just a pivot off of that because how can you not be most grateful for your family and good health. In spite of a raspy voice and a very unusual bronchitis, I have enjoyed great health and I have family who have lived long and productive lives. My father died just a few days ago, almost on the eve of his 98th birthday. I’m thankful that I had him for so long and that I could talk with him and learn about his experiences, his values, how he navigated difficult situations because all of those discussions and stories were life lessons. I’m grateful that I have two sons who still like to come home and spend time with mom and dad. And I’m grateful that I’ve tricked my husband into staying with me for 42 years of marriage.

Gary Bisbee 3:37
Joe Impicciche is president and CEO of Ascension.

Joe Impicciche 3:40
Well thanks, Gary, and I’m happy to be with you today. Well, first, I’m really thankful for our associates and caregivers. And I’ve been part of Ascension for more than 15 years now. And this year in particular has underscored the bravery, resilience, compassion, and dedication of the men and women who serve our ministry and I couldn’t be any more proud. When most were asked to stay at home and socially distance from one another, our associates continued to show up on the front line, some even volunteering to travel and serve in markets that were hit the hardest by COVID. The challenges have been many, but it’s brought us together in unexpected, meaningful ways and I’m grateful for the solidarity we share. And I couldn’t be any more proud of how our ministry has responded. I’m thankful to God for watching over our ministry during these most challenging times. I’m also grateful to our Ascension board and sponsor whom I’ve gotten to know very well over the last year. Our partnership has grown stronger as a result of the pandemic. And when COVID really began to take hold in our ministry, we came together to respond and our leadership and governance teams agreed that our two main priorities would be taking care of our patients and taking care of our own associates. The unity and singular focus has made, I believe, all the difference. And then finally, on a personal level, I’m thankful for my family and the support they’ve provided me over the past 18 months. Their love and support and understanding is very dear to me and it’s been so important during this very difficult time.

Gary Bisbee 5:12
Mitch Daniels is president of Purdue University and two-term governor of Indiana.

Mitch Daniels 5:18
Like I suppose most people, I have to start with the personal, which is that my family is well and my wife and I are each healthy, and that we’ll have a chance to be together with them. I’m thankful, secondly, for the fact that, at least at the institution I’m responsible for, we have operated almost as intended during this very difficult time, under conditions of safety for our students and our employees. A lot of education has taken place, the young lives have not been interrupted, and yet there have been absolutely zero cases of severe illness as a consequence. And finally, I’m thankful, with all the terrible setbacks we’ve experienced, we still live in a prosperous country, in a free country, and in a country, and this I’ll express as a hope as I can’t yet prove or demonstrate it, but a country that shows signs that it still has some balance in its outlook, that it still is populated by people who care about each other and are prepared to understand and work with each other and are not moved to extremes or to measures that would undermine all that’s given us a country to be so thankful for.

Gary Bisbee 6:28
Sarah Krevans is president and CEO of Sutter Health.

Sarah Krevans 6:33
I have so much to be thankful for in my life. Professionally, I work with over 50,000 of the most caring people I’ve ever met. I think our employees have been incredible during this pandemic. They were incredible before this public health crisis, but the way they have shown caring and compassion for our patients and their families and for one another is really inspiring. And I would say the same thing about our physicians and our other clinicians that it’s just been amazing to see the real sacrifices that our healthcare heroes have made. And that’s true if their support staff working behind the scenes and it’s true if they are our clinical teams that literally, early on in the pandemic were taking care of patients with not a lot of knowledge about this disease and whether they were personally putting themselves at risk. I’m thankful every day for our people in supply chain who got the protective equipment that keeps our caregivers safe. Thankful for the people in our laboratory, in our pharmacy who get us needed testing and medication. There’s so much to be thankful for at work. And I’d like to say that I’m also thankful for our public health officials. I think public health officials around the country in so many locations, their jobs have become literally dangerous at times. And I’m thankful for those that have acted responsibly and continue to follow the science and have spoken up on the sacrifices that people need to make to keep our community safe. And on a personal note, we’re always thankful for our family and friends. I have a very close family. Both my wonderful three children, two of whom are in medical school, who I worry about, of course, every day, they’re in their third year and so they’re in clinical rotations. But I’m thankful for my wonderful family and extended family and for my friends. They have been so supportive of me as we have together across the country as healthcare systems faced challenges that we’ve never had before. And whether it was my friend that would drop dinner off at my house when I was at work for 20 hours a day during the early days of the pandemic or somebody who just called to say, “How are you doing?” I think we’ve seen a lot of challenging things in this country, but we’ve also seen how generous people can be — generous with their time, generous as donors when we’ve needed it, and just generous with their love.

Gary Bisbee 8:59
Chris Howard is president and CEO of Sharp HealthCare.

Chris Howard 9:04
Well thank you, Gary. And before I begin, let me wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Gary Bisbee 9:10
Thank you, sir.

Chris Howard 9:11
So this Thanksgiving, professionally I have so much to be thankful for. Being a part of the Sharp HealthCare family since I arrived and especially this past year, has been so richly rewarding for me. To see all parts of our organization rallying together in the face of what has no doubt been extreme circumstances, making sacrifices for one another in the name of serving a greater good, while ensuring we take care of one another day in and day out has made me thankful each and every day to be here and be part of the Sharp family. I’m also thankful to be part of the San Diego healthcare community of providers and systems that have remarkably rallied together in responding to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. Working with county and state officials to do what we can collectively to protect and care for the communities we serve. We’ve been sharing information, best practices, and even resources without regard to competitive pressures and that’s made me so thankful to be a part of our healthcare community here in San Diego. And truly, when you look out and about beyond here, I mean, the same is true for the gratitude I hold to be a member of our nation’s healthcare providers. Groups that have responded, organized, provided essential care to our communities under extraordinary circumstances, doing everything within our power to protect those we serve to the highest degree possible in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. I mean, for that, I’m incredibly grateful. Over on the personal side, I’m thankful for the health of myself and my family. We have family members scattered from San Diego to Washington, DC, Oklahoma, and all parts in between and we realize our family has its health when so many others do not and have not during the course of COVID-19. We literally pray each and every day for those who are less fortunate than us. And I’m thankful for this upcoming year, which I firmly believe will be the antithesis of what we’ve experienced since our pandemic broke. A return of good health for those currently living in fear or isolation within our country, a return of our economy and the livelihoods of many who’ve lost business and economic security this past year, and the return of life’s experiences that we’ve all been forced to postpone or cancel in the name of health. But most of all, I’m thankful for the opportunity our country has to unite for the common good of humanity, building bridges between distinct opinions and views, where we can enjoy the full scope and synergy that a united United States affords us. So for that and so much more I am so very thankful. And I wish everyone a safe, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving.

Gary Bisbee 12:01
Fireside Chat with Gary Bisbee is a Health Management Academy podcast produced by Think Medium. Please subscribe to Fireside Chat on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening right now. Be sure to rate and review Fireside Chat so we can continue to explore key issues with innovative and dynamic healthcare leaders. In addition to subscribing and rating, we’ve found that podcasts are known through word of mouth and we appreciate your spreading the word to friends or those who might be interested. Fireside Chat is brought to you from our nation’s capitol in Washington, DC where we explore the strategies of leading health systems through conversations with CEOs and other interesting leaders. For questions and suggestions about Fireside Chat contact me through our website firesidechatpodcast.com or gary@thinkmedium.com Thanks for listening.