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On the Road: Practice Greenhealth partners with Dignity Health

By Iqbal Mian, Practice Greenhealth member engagement manager

The first time I saw Sister Mary Ellen Leijewski, Dignity Health’s vice president of corporate responsibility, was at CleanMed a few years ago. Along with fellow CleanMed participants (I worked at a fellow Practice Greenhealth member health system at that time), we listened intently to Sr. Mary Ellen’s inspirational message on the intersection of sustainability and the respect for life through the value of stewardship.

At that time, I worked at Ascension Health/Ministry Health System guiding over a dozen hospitals and 46 clinics in Wisconsin to move the needle on conservation and migitaging harmful impact through the use of process improvement tools.

It wouldn’t be for a few more years before I would get to work with her in person thanks to a strategic deployment event between Practice Greenhealth and Dignity Health. Along with Hermine Levey Weston, my charismatic colleague and co-facilitator, we walked Sr. Mary Ellen and a group of twenty other leaders through a series of exercises to strengthen Dignity’s 15 sustainability goals.

At one moment in the midst of brainstorming and thoughtful conversations, Sr. Mary Ellen re-centered the group by handing each of us a blue marble. Next, we were instructed to hold the blue marble up against sunlight and suddenly it looked as if we were holding the earth in our fingertips...a moment that every leader took with a humble breath as Sr. Mary Ellen continued to read a poem to remind us that this is how the astronauts saw the earth as they traveled towards the moon. This little blue object is so precious and full of life, and happens to be a place we call home.

It was with this perspective through which we continued the event, conducting brainstorming sessions around Dignity Health’s impact around several strategic areas in the communities they serve. Another valuable exercise included building a sense of urgency in which leaders were asked think of the present and future in which the organization achieved their sustainability goals and what that landscape looked like. The dialogue in the room was critical, realistic, and enthusiastic, highlighting how many organizations today need some self reflection about their competing goals and what’s good for the patient and community.

Strategic deployment is more effective when leaders and culture are empowered and aligned. I came to know Dignity Health as a leader when they eliminated their investments in fossil fuels. In a time where health care as an industry faces numerous uncertainties and leadership changes, we have examples like Sr. Mary Ellen who continues to anchor to organizational values and show us that being an environmental leader can be as simple as reaffirming to community betterment through sustainability.

To see more, watch the video to view a recap of the event.

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