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In its Dec. 4 issue, Modern Healthcare released the 2023 list of individuals who are deemed by their peers, and the magazine’s senior editors, to be the most influential in health care leadership and impact.

Kaiser recently completed a term as board chair of the Catholic Health Association. She also is a member of the American Hospital Association’s board of directors.

She has repeatedly been honored as one of the Top 25 Women Leaders by Modern Healthcare as well.

Dr. Oruwari has been practicing as an Oncologic Breast Surgeon in St. Louis since 2001. She is the St. Louis Regional Medical Director for Community Breast Health for SSM Health, and the author of a newly released book titled, Black Girls in White Coats. Dr. Oruwari launched the monthly AARP “Walk with a Doc” program in Forest Park and has been Master of Ceremonies for St. Louis’ Sista Strut for the last 10 years. She works closely with the American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink – North County Chapter and is a St. Louis Crisis Nursery member. She is also on the board of directors for the Gateway to Hope organization.

Passionate about health and wellness, Dr. Oruwari educates her patients and those in the community on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Her full proclamation reads:

WHEREAS, diversity and representation are essential in all fields, including medicine, to ensure equitable patient care and better health outcomes for all; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Jovita Oruwari, a distinguished breast cancer surgeon and advocate for increasing the representation of Black women in medicine, has made significant contributions to the medical community; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Oruwari's commitment to empowering and inspiring the next generation of Black girls to pursue careers in medicine is evident through her book, "Black Girls in White Coats," which features the stories of Black female doctors, providing guidance and encouragement to aspiring medical professionals; and

WHEREAS, her efforts in building trust among Black and African American patients, especially during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, have demonstrated the importance of representation and the positive impact it can have on patient outcomes; and

WHEREAS, studies have shown that having a diverse medical workforce, including more Black primary care doctors, leads to improved population health measures, including higher life expectancy in communities; and

WHEREAS, we recognize her outstanding contributions to the field of medicine and her relentless pursuit of increasing diversity and representation in the medical profession;

NOW, therefore I, Sam Page, St. Louis County Executive, do hereby proclaim Wednesday, October 4th, 2023, as Dr. Jovita Oruwari Day in St. Louis County, Missouri.”

SLUCare Physician Group and SSM Health have partnered for decades to provide exceptional medical services to patients at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital and most recently at Saint Louis University Hospital. SLUCare’s more than 600 faculty, other academic medical professionals and staff will now become a dedicated academic physician division within SSM Health - St. Louis and continue their work as researchers and educators. They will collaborate with SSM Health Medical Group’s more than 600 community-based providers to deliver care at more than 50 physician office locations as well as through comprehensive virtual and digital health services.

By fully integrating SLUCare Physician Group into the SSM Health care network, patients will experience improved and seamless access to all levels of care, including highly specialized procedures and clinical trials with the potential to deliver breakthrough life-saving treatments. The agreement also represents a significant investment in the Saint Louis University School of Medicine to expand clinical research, medical training and education across the region.

A 60-minute version of the documentary aired on Thursday, Oct. 14 in primetime from 7-8 p.m. on NBC-TV affiliate stations in Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Jefferson City, and Paducah. The film also featured on SSM Health internal and external websites. 

Behind the Mask features some extraordinary stories of courage, resilience and sacrifice that have occurred across our healing ministry throughout the past 18 months. 

“The documentary calls all of us to remember those we’ve lost and those who are still suffering,” said SSM Health President and CEO Laura S. Kaiser. “Most importantly, these stories remind us to join our hearts in gratitude for one another, and all those who walk with us in this journey.”

Behind the Mask honors SSM Health’s heroic team members who are following in the footsteps of its five founding sisters who arrived in St. Louis nearly 150 years ago, initially serving amid a devastating smallpox epidemic. The SSM Health team has carried their perseverance, dedication and compassion forward to the present day by caring for more than 80,000 people with COVID-19, while simultaneously bringing hope and healing to countless others.

The mission of the CHIME "Healthcare's Most Wired" program is to elevate the health and care of communities around the world by encouraging the optimal use of information technology. The program does this by conducting an annual survey to identify, recognize, and certify the adoption, implementation, and use of information technology by health care provider organizations. The results are intended to improve patient safety and outcomes by driving change in the health care IT industry.

“Now more than ever, innovation and advancements in technology are crucial to our ability to provide the safest, most accessible health care services for those we serve,” said Randy Combs, SSM Health’s Chief Financial Officer. “For eight years, this prestigious recognition has served as a testament to SSM Health’s investment in leading technology, as well as the exceptional work of this team and many others across our health ministry who are setting the highest standards in our industry.”

The intense survey process assessed the adoption, integration and impact of technologies in health care organizations at all stages of development, from early adoption to industry leading. Each participating organization receives a customized benchmarking report, an overall score and scores for individual levels in eight segments: Infrastructure; Security, Supply Chain; Analytics and Data Management; Population Health; Patient Engagement; Clinical Quality and Safety; Innovation and Emerging Technologies. Participants can use the report and scores to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement.

Congratulations to our IT team for this well-earned recognition. A special kudos to David Knickmeyer, Manager of Enterprise Information Technology; Jessica Sharp, Manager of Applications – EpicCare Ambulatory; and Lori Jerome, Manager of Applications – Billing, Claims, Tapestry; for their tireless work on the survey process.  

“This past year has further demonstrated the important and influential role that health care systems can and should play in shaping local communities and society at large,” Joe Hodges, Regional President, SSM Health in Oklahoma. “SSM Health is proud to join this pledge and will continue taking bold steps to ensure better health for all – particularly those who are economically, physically and socially marginalized.”

Collectively, SSM Health and the other Catholic health organizations that have signed the pledge employ nearly a half million people across 46 states and the District of Columbia, and care for almost four million patients annually.

Recognizing that racism is an affront to the core values of Catholic social teaching, CHA members joined in solidarity to promote the common good and seek justice by being actively anti-racist and accountable in effecting positive change in the communities we serve.

Four focus areas

Act for COVID-19 equity: Members commit to ensuring that testing for COVID-19 is available and accessible in minority communities and that new treatments are distributed and used equitably as they become available. Members will also work for prioritization of vaccinations for those individuals and families at higher risk — elder populations and communities of color, including Native American communities.

Enact change across our own health systems: Members are examining how their organizations recruit, hire, promote and retain employees; how they conduct business operations, including visible diversity and inclusivity at the decision, leadership and governance levels; and how they incentivize and hold our leaders accountable.

Advocate for improved health outcomes for minority communities and populations: Members agree to promote and improve the delivery of culturally competent care and oppose policies that exacerbate or perpetuate economic and social inequities, including such issues as education, housing and criminal justice reform.

Strengthen trust with minority communities: Members will continue to foster, strengthen and sustain authentic relationships based on mutually agreed goals to better understand the unique needs of their communities.

Kaiser and other Catholic health care leaders who have signed the pledge recognize that collectively they are in a unique position to bring about overdue change to policies and practices that have allowed systemic racism and health disparities to continue in the United States.

To hold itself and its members accountable, CHA intends to provide updates on the commitment progress annually.

The completion of the new hospital comes five years after SSM Health announced plans to build the new facility next to the existing hospital, marking an expanded partnership between the University and SSM Health.

A virtual celebration, hosted by KSDK’s Rene Knott and Allie Corey, was held Tuesday night. Guests at the event included University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.; Robert Wilmott, M.D., dean and vice president of medical affairs for the School of Medicine; Kevin Elledge, CEO of SLUCare Physician Group; Steven M. Scott, president of SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital; Laura Kaiser, president and CEO of SSM Health; and Candace Jennings, regional president of SSM Health - St. Louis.

Pestello reflected on the decision to partner with SSM Health, a decision made early in his tenure at SLU.

“It was one of the first decisions I had to make as we were looking for a partner, and it became clear to us that SSM Health was the partner for us, sharing our Catholic values and mission,” said Pestello. “These two organizations always put patients first. So our patients will continue to get cutting edge medical care by compassionate clinicians in a state-of-the-art facility.”

The $550 million SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital features more than 800,000 square feet of space, 316 private patient rooms, an expanded Level I trauma center and emergency department, larger intensive care units, expanded patient parking, green space and areas for future campus expansion.

“It’s transformational,” said Wilmott. “The students, the medical trainees and the faculty will be working in really outstanding brand-new facilities with state-of-the-art equipment, new technology.”

Construction on the project began in 2017. In 2019, SLU and SSM Health buried a 100-year time capsule at the site to be opened by future nurses and doctors in 2119.

The new campus elevates the patient experience and enhances the clinical offerings of SLUCare, the University’s academic medical practice.

Elledge, who joined SLUCare earlier this year, said the passion of the SLUCare and SSM Health teams has impressed him. “I’ve never been involved in a place that brings that loyalty and passion to the job every day,” he said.

SLUCare Physician Group also provides pediatric and maternal-fetal medicine services to patients at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital.

A History of Care

The relationship between SSM Heath and the University extends back more than a century. In 1903, SSM Health’s founding congregation, the Sisters of St. Mary (now known as the Franciscan Sisters of Mary) welcomed SLU School of Medicine students into their hospitals for education and training.

In 1928, the University and the Sisters worked together to establish SLU’s School of Nursing. In 1933, the Sisters and SLU opened the hospital on South Grand Boulevard today known as SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.

Saint Louis University hospital continued to be owned and operated jointly until 1959, when the Sisters donated their share to the University. SLU sold the hospital to Tenet Healthcare Corporation in 1998.

In June 2015, SLU announced it would reacquire the hospital from Tenet Healthcare Corporation and would contribute the facility to SSM Health in exchange for a minority financial interest and governance rights in SSM Health St. Louis. The deal became official in September of that year.

Center for Specialized Medicine

The state-of-the-art Center for Specialized Medicine is an outpatient hub for SLUCare’s primary care providers and specialists. It is located on Grand Blvd., beside the new SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.

The Center for Specialized Medicine houses SLUCare providers’ offices which were formerly in the Doctors’ Office Building on Vista Ave., Salus Center on Lafayette Ave., or in the SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital - South Campus building on Grand Blvd. at Interstate 44.

We continue to take every precaution to ensure the health and safety of our patients, visitors, employees, physicians and communities. SSM Health has a dedicated and talented team of experts leading our preparedness and response – and we continue to coordinate our efforts with federal, state and local government and health officials, first responders and other health care providers to ensure we're all following the most up-to-date guidelines and remain prepared across our communities.

Despite stay-at-home orders, we know you and your loved ones still need access to high-quality health care services. If you need to visit one of our hospitals or physician offices, we have extensive precautions in place to keep you safe during your visit. SSM Health is also offering telehealth appointments for both new and current patients. During a telehealth appointment, you can connect with a primary care provider or specialist, via video chat or, if necessary, a phone call to receive a diagnosis, treatment, education or prescription. Call your SSM Health provider to schedule a telehealth visit today or find a provider nearest you. If you’re concerned you may have symptoms of COVID-19, you’re also invited to schedule a free virtual evaluation.

It’s a challenging time, but I continue to be inspired by the countless examples of generosity and caring across our communities. In fact, we’ve been creating weekly videos for our employees and physicians highlighting the many heartwarming ways our friends and neighbors have rallied around our team.

Let us continue to keep each other, our loved ones, friends and neighbors in our thoughts and prayers – that God’s healing presence might be revealed to all those in need.

Laura S. Kaiser, FACHE
President and Chief Executive Officer, SSM Health

“The next 10 days to two weeks are critical. A surge is coming,” Garza said in a news release. “Our hospitals are already working to save lives and doing heroic work. But what we do as individuals — whether we stay at home, practice social distancing, wash our hands — will directly reduce the number of patients into our health-care systems and impact whether our health-care providers are able to manage the curve. What we do as individuals will affect how many people get sick, and how many people are able to recover.”

Along with SSM Health, BJC HealthCare, Mercy and St. Luke’s Hospital have joined the task force.

The task force will coordinate the supplies, hospital beds and other critical assets needed to treat COVID-19 patients. The group also will host daily news conferences.

Kidney care in the U.S. has historically been fragmented and patients have not always experienced the coordinated and personalized care they need. In fact, 90 percent of patients with kidney dysfunction are unaware of their disease and more than 40 percent of chronic kidney disease patients have never seen a nephrologist by the time their kidneys fail. The new joint venture seeks to change that by providing early intervention and a holistic approach to care.

Together, SSM Health and Strive Health will establish specialized care centers for these patients that serve as a medical home – and will also pursue the new CMS Comprehensive Kidney Care Contracting Model announced last summer. Their goal is to slow the progression of disease, prevent unnecessary hospitalization and improve each patient’s quality of life through early diagnosis and treatment, fully integrated care plans and increased adoption of home dialysis.

“SSM Health is committed to improving the lives of our patients and the health of our communities, especially those who are most vulnerable,” said Carter Dredge, chief transformation officer of SSM Health. “By partnering with like-minded organizations, like Strive Health, we are able to rapidly transform care delivery to better meet the needs of those we serve. We are thrilled to be able to offer this unprecedented level of kidney care to our communities.”

The new SSM Health Kidney Care centers, with Strive Health as the operating partner, will introduce a value-based, high-touch care model that surrounds patients with a team of specialists including nephrologists, nurse practitioners, dietitians, pharmacists and social workers to develop integrated care plans and provide education to patients who often suffer from other conditions like diabetes and hypertension.

“Strive’s mission is to deliver expert and compassionate kidney care,” said Chris Riopelle, chief executive officer of Strive Health. “By combining Strive’s specialized kidney care model with SSM Health’s innovative mindset and broad community-based network of providers, we can develop a comprehensive and integrated delivery system that transforms the patient journey across the continuum of care.”

In addition to world-class care, this new, value-based partnership seeks to bring hope to patients, since early intervention is key to giving people time to seek a living donor among family members and others who may be a match.

SSM Health Kidney Care will open its first centers in St. Louis later this spring and explore opportunities to expand to SSM Health’s other markets in Illinois, Wisconsin and Oklahoma over the next year.

SSM Health and Navvis share a vision for an entirely new and holistic model of care – one that is fueled by data, clinically-driven and patient-centric – eliminating the barriers that fragment care. While SSM Health is well-known for providing high-quality and compassionate community-based care, Navvis brings important population health services and enabling technology to the health system. This includes an advanced care management platform that integrates data from electronic health records, claims and other sources to keep healthy people healthy, address modifiable lifestyle risks and help providers identify high-risk patients needing appropriate interventions. This platform serves to optimize SSM Health’s value-based care delivery and compensation models.

“At SSM Health, we are striving to provide the best possible care at the lowest possible cost, because we believe everyone should have access to high-quality affordable care,” said Laura Kaiser, FACHE, president and CEO, SSM Health. “By partnering with like-minded organizations, such as Navvis, we can rapidly transform care delivery and better meet the needs of our patients and communities, including our most vulnerable and underserved populations.”

Both organizations believe this partnership will serve as an example of the innovation and collaboration needed to improve the health and well-being of Americans while making health care more affordable and sustainable for everyone – patients and their families, employers and their employees, providers and payers.

“The industry needs to take bold and big steps to advance and capture the promise of population health,” said David Nash, MD, MBA, Founding Dean Emeritus, Jefferson College of Population Health. “We applaud the vision and capabilities that SSM Health and Navvis are bringing to market to improve health and lower costs. This type of holistic approach is the future of population health and it portends a system that will achieve substantial and scalable results.”

“To truly make impactful change in health care takes insightful and strong leadership and we are honored to work with the entire team at SSM Health as we reinvent the health care experience and create an ecosystem that never stops caring,” said Mike Farris, chairman and chief executive officer of Navvis. “This work will enhance and expand SSM Health’s mission for generations to come and will unlock new sources of value for everyone who touches the system. This transformational approach will serve as an example of change for health systems across the country.”

SSM Health will implement this new value-based care model in 2020.

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