This month, I am celebrating two anniversaries.
At the beginning of September, I celebrated my four-year anniversary with St. Luke’s Health System. It has been a privilege to lead this great organization through four years of unprecedented change in health care.
I prayed carefully and earnestly about whether coming to this St. Luke’s from my previous St. Luke’s was God’s plan for my life. It was a big move for my wife, Lynette, who had spent her entire life in Texas, and for me, since all my family remains in Houston and I had spent the last 33 years of my life and my entire professional career there.
I saw the opportunity here in Idaho to transform health care and this opportunity drew me here, as did the organization itself and the employees and physicians of St. Luke’s. I have never regretted my decision.
And today, Friday the 13th, I celebrate a milestone that I am very proud of: my 33rd wedding anniversary.
What do these anniversaries have to do with anything?
This is a tough time for those of us who work in health care. We are going through tremendous change at an almost overwhelming pace. I read articles about physicians not recommending that their own children pursue medicine as a career; healthcare CEO turnover has increased, as more CEOs decide to retire instead of engage in the work needed to lead through this turbulent time or boards replace their CEOs as they decide that different skills are needed to take their organization through this period of transformation; I see news about nurses aging and leaving the bedside; and I hear the frustration and anxiety in healthcare workers’ voices as they express their concerns about all the changes they are being subjected to.
My decision to marry Lynette, and my decision to come to St. Luke’s in Idaho, were based on wanting to be part of something bigger than me, a union that would allow me to do things that I could not do myself, and a notion that I would be more fulfilled in the relationship than without it.
Of course, when you are in love and engaged, you are thinking about all the wonderful and exciting things that you enjoy about this person that you love more than anyone in the world. You don’t think about the hard times that will test the very foundation of your marriage and your commitment to it. When you are interviewing for an exciting job, you don’t think about the challenges to come and the difficulties you will face.
So, too, when we looked forward to our careers in health care, we were infused with the excitement of all that we were learning, and the sense that we would be able to help people in ways that most professions cannot.
Then we get into our careers and realize that not all aspects of our jobs are glamorous, not every part of our jobs is gratifying. Sometimes we have to deal with difficult people, sometimes those that we looked up to disappoint us, sometimes our jobs evolve in ways that we didn’t anticipate, and sometimes we get frustrated.
I recall challenges that Lynette and I have faced and survived as a couple – for example, the demands of my medical practice, a family member with drug addiction, and my cancer – that other couples’ marriages have not survived.
I think the difference has been our commitment and dedication to each other, a commitment to work through problems together, and the ability to keep the big picture in mind and that this is a challenge that shall pass. In each case, we have grown stronger in our relationship having faced these adversities together.
St. Luke’s is facing adversity now that is frustrating, tiring, and expensive to fight, but our team and the community have come together to stand up for what we believe is right. We are keeping our commitments to Saltzer Medical Group and we know that the people of Idaho are counting on us to fix health care.
How we deal with the difficulties, challenges, and adversities that we face in our marriages and our jobs depend upon our commitment and dedication, our ability to rekindle the original reasons for the relationship, and our ability to put all in perspective. I have recommended to people that we remember our “why” – why we committed in the first place and what our motivation is to remain engaged in the hard work.
I want to be part of transforming health care before I retire. I want to be able to feel a part of having come up with solutions that will make health care better and more affordable.
I have three more whys: my grandchildren. I want to know that they will always have access to high quality health care and that they will be able to afford it.
I feel privileged to lead St. Luke’s, and with privilege comes responsibilities. I feel responsible to make health care better.
I want to thank each of you for your commitment and dedication to providing health care to our communities, and thank you for these last four great years. It is hard work and all the change we are facing makes it all the more difficult. But, who better to fix what is wrong with health care?
Let’s all keep our “whys” in mind.
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.