MH: Please talk about your management style and how you stay in touch with your people in the trenches.
Tersigni: If I've had any successes in my management career, it's because I hire people smarter than me, give them the resources necessary to do their job, and get the heck out of the way. Ascension Ventures is a perfect example. We recruited a team of young individuals from the investment management world, including a biomedical engineer. We go out and recruit subject matter specialists for our subsidiaries, and we hopefully provide the resources necessary so that they can do their job. The way I keep connected is through my various meetings with our senior leaders across the country and in my visits. I'm out of the office almost every week visiting either one of our ministries, trying to stay in touch with not only what we're doing, but making sure that we're true to the mission of Ascension. What I find is that our associates are looking for some really basic things from our leaders, and that's what I'm hoping I and our leaders are providing. No. 1 is predictability. No. 2, they want to understand what we're doing. They want compassion and respect. Those are part of our values. They want to be able to see where the accountability falls. They want us to function with integrity. And they are concerned about safety and quality of care for the people we serve.
MH: You just turned 65. Have you talked about any kind of succession plan?
Tersigni: Several years ago we launched the Ascension Leadership Academy focused on forming not only my successor, but the successors to all 150,000 of our associates across the country. We set out to identify talent across the country and nurture that talent. I review all of the talent across the country twice a year. And we try to give people the opportunity and the skill set necessary to allow them to grow.
We have done formal succession planning for me. We know who would step in if I got hit by a truck today. And then we have a formal process that is ongoing where we identify a pool of candidates, both internally and externally, for the board to continue to review as we move into the future. We're looking at succession planning across all of the senior positions all the time. Our ministry is 200 years old and we have an obligation to make sure that it survives another 200 years.
MH: Please talk about Health City Cayman Islands, a large hospital in the Cayman Islands in which Ascension is partnering with an Indian company. What's the purpose and how might that tie into your U.S. operations?
Tersigni: Health City Cayman Islands is a 2,000-bed tertiary-care hospital, the first of its kind in the Caribbean, and its opening in March marked the beginning of a new healthcare delivery system, not only for the Caribbean, but also South America. It's a long-term vision to bring enhanced healthcare to the people living in the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean region and the Americas.
The opportunity for Ascension was to learn from Dr. Devi Shetty, the chairman and founder of Nayarana Health in Bangalore, India, about his methods of providing high-quality healthcare that is accessible and affordable to all, including those who are poor. We recognize the tremendous opportunity this partnership provides us to learn new ways in caring for people we serve.
Dr. Shetty has come up with a number of innovative ideas that have worked in Bangalore. We're trying to take what worked in Bangalore and see how many of those techniques and ideas are applicable there in the Cayman Islands. We hope to learn from that and bring some of those efficiencies back to Ascension facilities in this country. It's a grand experiment of learning and working with three different cultures.
MH: In seeking partnerships and acquisitions around the country, some Catholic systems have encountered occasional conflicts involving the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ethical and Religious Directives. Ascension recently faced some issues in Bartlesville, Okla., with the Jane Phillips Medical Center and the medical staff there regarding doctors prescribing birth control sevices. Has this been an issue for your system, how do you resolve it, and how do you persuade communities that the directives won't get in the way of medically necessary services?
Tersigni: Occasionally we find that confusion can arise about what we can and can't do as a faith-based Catholic institution. We work hard to avoid that kind of confusion. We've worked with our colleagues in Tulsa to ensure that there's clarity in this particular case, and we regret that communication probably wasn't more clear at the outset. We have continued to work on clarification of what we can and can't do there.
MH: So the physicians in Bartlesville are not under any constraints in ordering birth-control services for their patients?
Tersigni: I think it's fair to say for us that we don't believe in the corporate practice of medicine, and so we rely on our physicians to do what's in the best interest of the patients that they serve.