Written by Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, on May 2013 at the Induction in the College of Fellows
Anthony R. Tersigni, husband and father, corporate leader, innovator in health care, advocate of the poor and vulnerable, loyal son of the Church, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology salutes you.
“I was ill and you cared for me,” Our Lord explained to the elect and to his disciples he commanded, “Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God is at hand for you.'” On many occasions Jesus relates the proclamation of the Gospel to the cure of the sick. This is, perhaps, due to the fact that, as is stated in the Charter for Health Care Workers of the Holy See:
Health care activity is based on an interpersonal relationship of a special kind. It is “a meeting between trust and conscience;” the “trust” of one who is ill and suffering and hence in need, who entrusts himself to the “conscience” of another who can help him in his need and who comes to his assistance to care for him and cure him. …Scientific and professional expertise is not enough; what is required is personal empathy with the concrete situations of each patient. …Service to life becomes a ministry of salvation, that is, a message that activates the redeeming love of Christ.
The religious who founded the Catholic hospitals in this country were well aware of the relationship that pertains between the care of the sick and the proclamation of the Gospel. But the very success of their work has provided our generation with the particular challenge that you have undertaken: it is now necessary to operate on a scale that was unimaginable to them.
As President and Chief Executive Officer of Ascension Health Alliance, you preside over the world’s largest Catholic and non-profit health system. Approximately 150,000 health care workers affiliated with Ascension Health serve in over 1,440 separate centers with an annual operating budget well in excess of $21 billion. It is difficult to conceive that any organization operating on that scale could avoid an impersonal, bureaucratic approach to health care.
You have specifically challenged the many affiliate organizations that you oversee to develop trust-based relationships:
For Ascension Health, this means a radical departure from a focus on providers delivering episodic medical services to an emphasis on developing trust-based relationships with people. This shift transcends an individual health care encounter and promotes spiritually centered, holistic approaches to people's broader health and well-being needs throughout their lifetimes.
Your management style has reflected that emphasis:
…The first thing I do when visiting a health ministry is to let the CEO know I’m coming. Then, about a half hour before my appointment, I walk through the hospital and talk to employees, patients…really any people that I come across. Here's what I'm trying to get a feel for: Are we continuing to do what our mission calls us to do? To be more specific, I want to see we're taking care of everyone—and still devoting special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable. It’s my way of staying grounded and addressing one of the biggest fears I have of running a $21 billion dollar enterprise: Can we get too far removed from the person we are trying to help?
Your concern for each person and your solicitude especially for the poor and vulnerable have born fruit. Each year Ascension Health Alliance, through its subsidiary Ascension Health, provides more than $1.2 billion in care of persons living in poverty and community benefit programs. More than this, you have been a major figure in institutionalizing a corporate level spirituality within Catholic Healthcare.
In sum, you have created a modern corporate infrastructure for Catholic Healthcare leading the way to integrate efficiency, innovation and quality control even while creating a corporate culture that exemplifies a healing ministry of Jesus in the largest Catholic Healthcare System in the world.
Your influence has extended beyond even the hospitals and clinics affiliated with Ascension Health Alliance. You serve as the speaker of the membership assembly of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, you are the chair of the board of the Healthcare Leadership Council, comprising CEOs from the nation’s leading healthcare companies and organizations, you sit on the board of the Coalition to Protect America’s Healthcare and on the board of the National Catholic Bioethics Center. You are regularly listed as one of Modern Healthcare’s 100 most powerful people in healthcare.
Without question yours is one of the most prominent and significant voices in the shaping of healthcare policy in this country. We are honored that you have consented to join with us in discerning the signs of the times as a member of our College of Fellows.
Therefore, as an expression of our esteem and gratitude, and in virtue of the authority invested in me by the Board of Members of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, I am privileged to bestow upon you, Anthony Tersigni, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa, and to name you a Fellow of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.