Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

November 2014 Feature: Carousels, Concerts and Clubs

Our health systems find creative ways to engage their communities, but their mission remains the same: to treat the whole patient—mind, body and spirit

Story by Taashi Rowe/ Cover Photography by Paul Morigi/AP Images

We don’t treat leukemia in our hospitals,” says Chaplain Larry Kositsin. It’s an odd statement for someone who works at Kettering Adventist HealthCare (KAHC), one of the largest hospital systems in southwest Ohio. Add to that, in recent years, Thomson Reuters named KAHC one of the nation’s top 10 healthcare systems three times. • Kositsin, who is based at the system’s flagship facility, Kettering Medical Center (KMC) in Kettering, explains, “We treat the person. There are several things we consider when a patient comes to us. One of those things is how is the procedure going to give them back their future? We want to give them hope—immediate hope and ultimate hope.”

Michelle Dawes found hope and comfort during a successful gallbladder surgery at KMC in August. Her grandmother passed away just before Dawes was admitted. “I couldn’t be at the funeral because I was obviously in the hospital,” she recalls. “My boyfriend, Mike, was with me. He knew I was upset that I couldn’t go to the funeral. It was a Friday evening and we were getting settled in a private room when he said, ‘Listen.’ At first there was soft singing that got louder and louder. It was ‘Amazing Grace.’ I said to Mike, ‘This is real, right?’ They played that same song at my grandmother’s funeral that day. And then, Mike looked out the window and saw a rainbow. We were both so deeply touched.”

What Dawes and her boyfriend heard was a group from various local Seventh-day Adventist churches that sing for patients on Friday evenings. “Outside of what I was physically going through, those singers coming through the hallways was such a special thing to me,” Dawes shares.


Kettering Adventist HealthCare staff praying Kettering Adventist HealthCare staff praying

Making Positive Impressions

Staff members across Kettering’s eight hospitals and 90 outpatient facilities hear stories like Dawes’ every day because the healthcare system is intentional about treating the whole patient. “Positive impressions are made by creating patient experiences that give hope and healing when people need it most,” states Fred Manchur, CEO of KAHC. “Our mission to improve the lives of those we serve is sacred work. We can make a difference in our community by making a positive impression.”

It also puts staff at all levels of these Adventist-run facilities in a position where they can work to fulfill the gospel mission in a medical setting. Kettering has an extensive menu of services to heal the whole patient. In addition to making spiritual literature easily available to patients, there are 10 chaplains, an annual Week of Prayer, a prayer phone line and they distribute a prayer booklet to patients at all their facilities. Since the booklets have been so popular, KAHC has taken it one step further and partnered with local Adventist churches to fulfill the hundreds of Bible study requests they’ve received.

For Dave Weigley, president of the Columbia Union Conference and board chair of both healthcare systems inside the union—KAHC and Adventist HealthCare (AHC) based in Gaithersburg, Md.—the connection between physical and spiritual healing is clear. “We’re very intentional about expressing the Adventist mission of hope and wholeness to people. We are not about just healing the body but … the entire person,” he says. “This mission, as Adventists, makes us uniquely different than other healthcare systems.”

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Spreading the Word

Getting the word out about KAHC’s approach to healthcare is a top-down effort that involves the system’s leadership, trickles down to the staff and radiates out into the various communities.

While they have effective marketing and advertising efforts to help with this process, they also utilize community partnerships that generate goodwill. One involves the Mission Warehouse in nearby Moraine, Ohio, where local church members can repurpose medical supplies and equipment for their mission trips. “These items would otherwise be thrown out, but this way we are able to support several ministries. This is definitely a win-win,” explains Jarrod McNaughton, the system’s vice president for missions and development.

Click here for ways you can help "spread the health."

KAHC also partners with local churches, both Adventist and other denominations. For instance, just this past summer they hosted Gospel Fest that featured local Christian bands at an outdoor amphitheater in Kettering. For about six hours, some 4,000 people enjoyed the music and the message while staff from the hospitals offered various free health screenings and distributed free health goodies, like sunscreen and hand sanitizer.

How exactly do these efforts bring people to their facilities? “In some cases, during community outreach events or during the screening process, we literally find people who have an immediate need and we have to admit them into our facilities,” McNaughton explains. “In some cases, we are planting seeds with folks.”

Adventist HealthCare Demonstrates God’s Care

Nearly 500 miles East of the KAHC facilities, staff at Adventist HealthCare is working equally as hard to express the Adventist mission at their five hospitals. Although people generally go to one of their facilities because of a specific need or an emergency, “What makes the difference is that we treat them with compassion, respect their needs and we treat their physical, mental and spiritual needs,” says Ismael Gama, AHC’s vice president of mission integration and spiritual care.

Terry Forde, the system’s president and CEO, agrees. “God’s care and love is known through good health. That is precisely the work we are called to do! Our mission is to ‘demonstrate God’s care by improving the health of people and communities through a ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing,’” he says. “When we seek restored and vibrant health for our patients and for all who are touched by our ministry, we are truly demonstrating God’s way.”

One of the ways that AHC does this is by reminding everyone that they are a Seventh-day Adventist facility. And again, this starts at the top. “Once a year we do a mission integration retreat involving all of our senior leaders from all our entities. We go back to our roots,” Gama says. “Many of the guidelines that we use in our organizations are inspired by the guidelines of the Adventist Church. It is very important to keep the link with our church.”

Tom Grant, vice president of public relations and marketing, says AHC is really committed to caring for all of their communities and understands that it takes everyone—including businesses, churches, hospitals and schools—to accomplish that goal. One of their chief strategies is going into the communities that surround their facilities and sharing the gospel of Jesus and good health.

Joshue Song Paul, Jenny and Joshue Song on the RIO of Washingtonian Lakeside Path to Wellness. Photograph by Paul Morigi/AP Images


The Health and Retail Connection

The mall is not necessarily the first place many think of bringing up the topic of good health (food courts are certainly not known for having healthy options). However, AHC staff is dedicated to changing that perception. They’ve sponsored a walking club at Montgomery Mall in nearby Bethesda. AHC also dispatches a weekly guest speaker there to address specific health topics.

“Healthcare should not only be connected to a hospital. We also offer screenings throughout the community where we have tables with more information about achieving good health,” Grant explains. “We make sure to be part of people’s everyday activities and invite them to stop and take a breathing test, a blood test, a BMI test or even sit down with a counselor.”

Continuing with the retail theme, AHC recently sponsored the Lakeside Path to Wellness, a walking path at the RIO Washingtonian, a popular, lakefront development in Gaithersburg with shops and restaurants. At designated areas around the path, there are health tips. However, the cherry on top of AHC’s partnership with RIO is a carousel they sponsored and opened this spring. John Sackett, president of Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Md., spoke about the importance of preventative care at the grand opening. “Our goal is to put ourselves out of business,” he told the crowd.

Offering Valuable Partnerships and Care

Arthur Turner, former president of the Coalition of Central Prince George’s County Community Organizations, says AHC has helped address some particular concerns about the health disparities in the African-American community. “When we started working together with Washington Adventist Hospital [in Takoma Park, Md.], they would come to our monthly community meetings and make health presentations,” he recalls. “Early on we saw the value of the partnership. In fact, they did a very important presentation on hypertension followed by a blood pressure screening. There were several people there whose blood pressures were so high they had to go to the hospital because they were threatening a stroke.”

Tina VanDevander can also testify to the value of receiving lifesaving care through AHC. On May 25, 1998, she felt a pea-sized nodule during her routine breast self-exam. She went to see Joseph Haggerty, the medical director of oncology at Shady Grove, who diagnosed her with breast cancer. She was 30 years old.

“It was pretty much a roller coaster,” recalls Tina’s husband, Mike. “All I could think about was how would I raise my son if my wife was not there.”

Under Dr. Haggerty’s care, Tina had surgery, then chemotherapy and recovered. Four years later, she was diagnosed with cancer on her left side. Over 14 months, Tina had several surgeries. “The nurses took very good care of me and even offered a support group,” she says. “They were great.”

Haggerty says that Tina is now cancer free. “I’m in a good place now,” Tina says. “I just did everything I could to be there for my son.”

These stories are what inspire leaders at these healthcare systems to continue the century-long Adventist tradition of advocating for whole-person health. “May God continue to grant us the opportunity to demonstrate His care in powerful ways, framed by mercy and blessing,” Forde says.

Taashi Rowe writes from Takoma Park, Md.

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