The Class of 2018 profiles the women and men who joined the AHA board this year.

 

It’s the laying on of skilled hands carried out in the finest ethic of curing and caring that makes hospitals the special places they are, says Randy Oostra, president and CEO of ProMedica in Toledo, Ohio.

But he worries that too much of today’s health care seems to be focused on performance-oriented care models and metrics that diminishes the individual stories of the people on the front lines of care.

“It does a disservice to the men and women who give their lives to serve patients,” says Oostra, who joined the AHA board in January. “I understand that we want to talk about pay for value and bundled payments and so on, but it still comes back to the ability of our health care organizations to serve people and improve lives.”

For example, he recounts having breakfast recently with some of ProMedica’s veteran frontline caregivers. “It was incredible to hear their stories and what their lives are about, and they weren’t talking about bundled payments,” he says. “They were talking about their experience in helping people.”

He sees the AHA as the “voice of all that care and compassion that goes on in America’s hospitals.”

And not just in the hospital. Oostra talks about the importance of hospitals helping to build healthier communities by, among other things, addressing the social determinants that influence the health of the people they serve. Such factors as educational and job opportunities, exposure to crime and violence and poverty affect health outcomes and health care, he says.     

ProMedica pays special attention to hunger as a health issue. About 15% of Americans have trouble putting food on the table, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means about one of every six Americans worries about hunger.

OostraIt’s why ProMedica advocates for ending hunger on a national stage and funds numerous anti-hunger programs. As part of that effort, the health system has partnered with the Alliance to End Hunger, as well as myriad local, state and national organizations to host a series of “Come to the Table” summits across the country. In addition, ProMedica and co-founder AARP Foundation established the Root Cause Coalition, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the root causes of health disparities by focusing on hunger and other social determinants.

Near downtown Toledo, ProMedica – supported by philanthropist Russell Ebeid – recently opened the Ebeid Institute for Population Health, which includes a ground-floor grocery store. While there are markets in nearby neighborhoods, they are several miles away, making shopping for those without transportation difficult. The institute’s mission is to improve the community’s health by providing easy access to healthful foods, nutrition education and job opportunities for residents.

“It’s not just about what happens inside the four walls of the hospital,” Oostra observes.   

He’s heartened by the AHA board’s commitment to vulnerable people and communities, as represented in initiatives like its #123forEquity Pledge to Eliminate Health Care Disparities. “I’m impressed with the board’s concerns about vulnerable people, vulnerable communities and vulnerable hospitals,” he says. “The AHA is showing strong leadership” in getting hospitals to play a more active role in addressing the social determinants that affect peoples’ health.

Oostra has served as ProMedica’s president since 2009, and joined the organization in 1998. The health system serves communities in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. The health system includes 14 owned or managed hospitals, more than 800 employed providers, continuum care services and the Paramount health insurance company.

Oostra says his service on the AHA board has given him a deeper appreciation of the association’s ability to lead a broad and diverse membership. The AHA “takes very seriously its role … how it serves as the voice for all hospitals and how hospitals impact people,” he says.

Asked what he enjoys most about serving on the AHA board, he says “working with a group of very talented people who represent different parts of the country and different types of organizations, but who all share a commitment to making peoples’ lives better.”