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Xavier program trains healthcare executives in mission integration

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February 25, 2011

By David Eck

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES DEANERY — In today’s competitive business environment, it’s important for Catholic healthcare institutions to maintain or even strengthen their mission of extending the healing ministry of Jesus, reaching out the to the poor and underserved and being true to Catholic social teaching.


Training administrators to integrate that mission in Catholic healthcare is the goal of a new graduate program at Xavier University. The master of arts in healthcare mission integration program currently has one student enrolled.


The program requires 18 credit hours of theology courses along with 15 credit hours of hospital administration classes. An internship in healthcare mission for three credit hours is also required. The program blends existing theology and healthcare administration courses.


The degree is designed primarily for people who are already working in a Catholic healthcare facility in institutional mission or for those who want to become more active in mission integration. With fewer men and women religious serving in Catholic healthcare facilities, more laypeople are taking on the work of maintaining the faith-based mission of Catholic hospitals.


“The idea is you still have to be carrying forward that mission,” said Marie Giblin, an associate theology professor at Xavier. “They want to do good medicine, like all hospitals do, but they want to do it in a way that represents the mission of Jesus. They want to do it with care for the more vulnerable, care for the poor.”


Mission directors bring to Catholic institutions an understanding of ministry, spirituality, Catholic theology and ethics. Catholic healthcare goes beyond medicine by being holistic, taking the person and Catholic traditions into consideration, Giblin said.


While hospital executives deal with the ongoing pressure of competition, advances in medicine, health insurance and government regulations, administrators who are also trained in mission ensure Catholic facilities don’t lose their Catholic traditions in the face of business concerns.


“They have to come in with more than theology,” Giblin said. “They’ve got to understand what the other executives are up against.”


Sister of Mercy Doris Gottemoeller, senior vice president for mission integration at Catholic Health Partners, worked with Xavier officials to develop the new graduate program. Mission leaders need to be educated in the business side to be credible, but they must also have theology in order make their unique contributions to leadership, she said.


“It’s not just learning two disciplines. It’s learning how they relate to each other,” Sister Doris said. “It’s social ministry. You need people who understand healthcare operations and also how the church’s teachings are relevant to that.”


The mission leader’s overall responsibility is to make sure the Catholic identity is incorporated throughout the entire organization, Sister Doris said.


Catholic mission includes making decisions in a mission context, analyzing Catholic social teaching, Catholic core values, the impact on the community and the standpoint of the religious communities sponsoring the institution. Other elements are maintaining spirituality in the workplace and beginning meetings with prayer.


“You must weave it into everything so people can understand this is why we’re here,” Sister Doris said. “We’re not entitled to call ourselves ‘Catholic’ unless we live by it.”


David Pike, director of mission integration at Mercy Hospital Western Hills, is currently the sole student enrolled the Xavier program. He hopes his studies will help him bring a broader vision to hospital leadership.


“In short, it’s living our mission without compromising quality,” Pike said. “[The program] provides a unique experience in looking at the discussion within both the framework of the health administration…along with the theological side of things. It’s an interesting mixture of viewpoints and priorities and values that point to the tension between our operation as a business and our operation as a ministry in the church.”

David Eck can be reached at: [email protected].

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