As a young woman living in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Corinne Francis, 38, knew a degree in business would help her escape poverty. But after two profoundly spiritual experiences, Francis decided to combine training in business with theology.
That decision eventually led to her current job as vice president of mission integration at 370-bed St. Anthony's Health Care in St. Petersburg, Fla., part of 25-hospital Catholic Health East in Newtown Square, Pa.
Her co-workers say her commitment to weaving Catholic teachings into the everyday work of the hospital inspires them. Francis "has an ability to size up and understand the group she is talking to and to speak in the language of the group," says Sister Juliana Casey, executive vice president of mission integration at CHE.
Francis' journey to St. Anthony's began when she attended spiritual exercises offered by a Catholic religious order in St. Croix. She also spent several weeks as a volunteer at Camp Andrew Jackson in rural Jackson County, Ky., sponsored by the Christian Appalachian Project. "I found that my life's meaning and purpose was possibly more than just myself and getting out of poverty by getting a business degree," says Francis, who was born in Dominica and moved to St. Croix with her family when she was 18.
That realization led her to Pittsburgh, where she graduated with a degree in theology and sociology from Carlow University. Her next stop was Chicago, where she earned a graduate degree in health administration and policy from the University of Chicago as well as a second graduate degree in divinity from the Catholic Theological Union.
Before she joined the executive team at St. Anthony's in July 2005, Francis had been vice president of mission services for CHE's St. James Mercy Health System in Hornell, N.Y.
While at St. James, Francis was in charge of a CHE program called "Values in Practice," focusing on excellence in patient, employee and physician satisfaction. Francis says she taught employees to "integrate those concepts of excellence in business with mission." Francis describes the mission of Catholic healthcare as a commitment to treat with compassion and respect not only patients' physical aliments but also their mind and spirit.
At St. Anthony's, Francis launched an inspirational class in June to explain the business and religious values at St. Anthony's as well as the history of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, the founder and religious sponsor of St. Anthony's. Francis also talks about how each team member's unique gifts contribute to the mission of caring for patients.
Ford Kyes, president and chief executive officer of St. Anthony's, says: "I just got such positive feedback--even from some of the more grizzled nurses. Creating culture is really a tough thing, but that is Corinne's strength."