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'We can’t fund our future as we have funded our past ...'

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
April 15, 2013

I’ve asked St. Luke’s Health System Vice President of Government and External Affairs Jeff Cilek to share his perspectives on the importance of community involvement and support to St. Luke's. His thoughts are presented here. You’ll be hearing more from Jeff and other members of our executive team in this space in the future.

I want to start with part of a note we received from the very grateful mother of a boy whose life was saved by the skilled clinicians at St. Luke’s MSTI Pediatrics:

“It’s an honor for us to participate in the MSTI Pediatric expansion project as we know first-hand that St. Luke's will do an amazing job with this facility. Your mission to help families in our community is so important, and we thank you for all the work you’re putting forth to this end.”

St. Luke’s is grateful for this family’s financial support. And St. Luke’s MSTI Pediatrics, and the young patients who turn to our MSTI physicians and staff members for help and treatment, especially benefit from this family’s involvement.

This mother’s kind words speak volumes about the benefit of aligning all efforts behind a shared vision and being part of something bigger than any one individual effort, and reflect why I do what I do.

The opportunity to participate in something as significant as transforming health care is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and a once-in-a-lifetime challenge.

My passion in the transformation effort is to expand community involvement at the highest level. It’s a passion hard-wired into me by my parents when I was growing up. 

My great-grandfather emigrated from the Czech Republic in the early 1900s and opened a hardware store in Iowa City, Iowa. Since then, at least one member of the Cilek family has been the owner of a hardware store. 

My parents followed this path in 1962 when they moved from Iowa to Twin Falls so they could have a hardware store of their own. During the next 30 years, they had three successful stores.  

Growing up Twin Falls and working in the hardware business taught me the importance of excellent service for the customers and strong service for the community. Every good businessperson knows that a vibrant community is good for businesses.

This common theme of strong businesses supporting a strong community has been prevalent in the Magic Valley, and the results of this culture are visible when you walk the campus at the College of Southern Idaho, shop at the downtown mall, or marvel at the new St. Luke’s Magic Valley facility.  

My parents were leaders in the Magic Valley. My father was Idaho’s Small Businessman of the Year, chairman of United Way, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, and an active member of Rotary. 

For years, my mother chaired the annual UNICEF Halloween campaign and was very active in politics. And at the urging of my father, she served on the board of Magic Valley Memorial Hospital. 

I remember asking my father why he wanted Mom to join the hospital board. His response was simple. “The community needs to own the hospital, not the county,” he said. And he was right; it just took 20 years.

I’m also a product of my college experience and years in Washington, D.C. As a student at the University of Iowa, I became fascinated with the presidential caucuses. A few months later, Ronald Reagan and George Bush took over the White House and I had a degree in finance. At the time, the economy was a mess and there weren’t very many jobs, especially for a 21-year-old with a finance degree. The prime rate was 18 percent, inflation was 12 percent, and the unemployment rate was heading toward 10 percent. 

I went to work in Washington, D.C., as a senior staffer for Sen. James A. McClure. I served as his legislative director and then as staff director of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, one of the 13 appropriations subcommittees in Congress. Leading an appropriations subcommittee with authority over $12 billion of taxpayers’ money and 31 different agencies of the federal government was an education in itself.  

After 12 years in Washington, the bloom had faded. I joined The Peregrine Fund, a remarkable conservation group with headquarters in Boise and projects around the world. The organization had one simple objective: Recover the peregrine falcon. And their approach was equally simple: Rally stakeholders behind the vision.

I still try to keep it simple. My objective as vice president of External/Governmental Relations for St. Luke’s Health System is straightforward; I build community support around St. Luke’s.  

What does this mean? The more engaged community leaders are in St. Luke’s vision, the easier it will be for them to advocate for St. Luke’s with policy-makers, support us philanthropically, and seek opportunities for St. Luke’s to be the provider of choice in their health plans.

We all know that health care is complicated and challenging. And it isn’t getting any easier. Since St. Luke’s is a community-owned, not-for-profit organization, it’s important for community leaders to understand what St. Luke’s is doing and why. Our elected officials need to understand how passionate St. Luke’s boards and community leaders are about St. Luke’s vision. 

One of our major challenges is funding. Simply put, we can’t fund our future as we have funded our past. To implement St. Luke’s vision, we will invest more than $1 billion over the next few years in new life-saving technology and work on our campuses. Important community partnerships will generate $100 million of this amount in philanthropic investment. 

One of the keys to success is to continue to seek opportunities to expand the level of engagement. St. Luke’s is fortunate to have a very smart cadre of board members, physicians, nurses, administrators, and others who are passionate about patient care.

It’s an honor, as our grateful donor put it, to participate in the amazing job that St. Luke’s does.

About The Author

David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.

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