“I realized that was the path I wanted to take,” he now says from his St. Louis office. “I think it’s worked out well.”
To fulfill the residency requirement that’s part of Xavier’s hospital administration program, French went back to Nashville, working at St. Thomas Hospital, a Catholic hospital that’s now part of the Ascension chain. It was, he says, a good fit. “I have a strong personal faith, and being in a faith-based environment is important for me,” he says. “But there’s just something different about a Catholic hospital. You walk in and can feel it.”
The difference is that cost is second to care. The very core of Ascension’s mission is serving everyone, with special attention to the poor and vulnerable. Last year, Ascension provided $335 million in free care at its 75 facilities, which cover 20 states and range from inner-city Detroit to rural Dumas, Ark. It’s also the central struggle French faces daily. “Balancing the needs of the poor with the rising costs is the biggest tension we have,” he says. “But we’re big and strong enough that we can weather future storms, partially because we’re living more off invested money than operating income.”
It’s a smart way of doing business—obviously done by someone who’s looked beyond the first few waves.
The following graduates are part of Ascension Health’s management team:
• Douglas French ’79, CEO
• Charles J. Barnett ’78, Sr. VP, south division
• Marsha Ladenburger ’79, Sr. VP, healthcare innovation and evolution
• Vincent Caponi ’72, CEO, Central Indiana system
• Bob Cook ’90, Director, loss prevention and program services
• David J. Boswel ’91, Director, organizational safety
• Jim Duff ’62, board of trustees
Who is Ascension? Ascension is a national Catholic health ministry with a network of hospitals and healthcare facilities that provides acute, long-term, community health, psychiatric, rehabilitation and residential care.
It is the nation’s largest not-for-profit health care organization. It has 63 acute care, three acute long-term care, 17 long-term care, five psychiatric, two rehabilitation, two adult residential and 103 community health care facilities. It has more than 1,400 physicians and 87,000 employees in 20 states.
Unlike many health care organizations, though, Ascension places a strong emphasis on serving all persons, with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable. Its Catholic health ministry is dedicated to spiritually centered, holistic care that sustains and improves the health of individuals and communities,, and through its mission is called to:
Service of the Poor – generosity of spirit for persons most in need;
Reverence – respect and compassion for the dignity and diversity of life;
Integrity – inspiring trust through personal leadership;
Wisdom – integrating excellence and stewardship;
Creativity – courageous innovation;
Dedication – affirming the hope and joy of our ministry.
To read more about Ascension, visit http://www.ascensionhealth.org/
Photography by James Visser