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The Way of St. Luke: '... to see first the kindred neighbor'

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
October 13, 2014

Prior to assuming my role with St. Luke's Health System, I was the CEO of the flagship hospital for St. Luke's Episcopal Health System in Houston, unaffiliated with our Idaho organization.

I loved working with that faith-based organization owned by the Episcopal Church and chaired by the Bishop of the Diocese of Texas.  

I love that this System, too, has its roots in the Episcopal Church, and though no longer owned by the Church, that we have the bishop serving on our West Region Board and that we carry on the traditions of the historical St. Luke. 

To me, all matters are spiritual. That is why I think it is particularly meaningful, as we approach the Feast of St. Luke later this week, that Bishop Brian Thom weigh in on the significance of the remembrance, our work, and our mission. Today's guest blogger is none other than Bishop Brian Thom of the Episcopal Diocese of Idaho:

Dear friends and neighbors of St. Luke's,

The annual observance of the Feast of St. Luke provides an opportunity to honor those who have gone before us in the healing ministry of St. Luke's Hospital, and is a remembrance not so much of the actions and initiatives required or chosen by those leaders, but a summoning of the vision and values that led them through each era's challenging times. We can also take this moment to lift up our appreciation of those who journey with us now in the demanding world of 21st century health care.

Reaching back as far as we can, I'd recall for us that the historical figure of St. Luke the Physician is honored among Christian denominations as the passionate teller of the story of Jesus of Nazareth.

His commitment to the healing and reconciling mission of Jesus Christ has been honored and exemplified over the centuries as healing institutions of every stripe have taken St. Luke as their namesake and spiritual patron.

The history of our St. Luke's Hospital began humbly in 1902, when Bishop James Funsten (1899-1918) built an addition on to his home to care for ill clergy.

The need and opportunity for medical care in the burgeoning territorial city of Boise rose and rose until the establishment of a second Boise hospital became a necessity.

In 1928, Bishop Middleton Barnwell (1926-1935) cut the ribbon on the “complete” hospital, a building that now houses administrators of the West Region of St. Luke's Health System. Seven Episcopal bishops following Bishop Funsten shared their passion and values for community care in their chairmanship of the board and as corporation soles of the hospital.

In 1972, Bishop Norman Foote, observing the growing complexity of medicine, took action to bequeath St. Luke's into the capable hands of the people of Boise. His wisdom and values told him that the Church could trust the wisdom and values of the community to carry on the holy and civic traditions of St. Luke's. To this day, bishops of the Episcopal Church of Idaho sit on the board, ex officio, honoring the foundational ties between the Church, the hospital, and the citizens of Boise.

While undoubtedly present in this community hospital's leadership before my arrival, I have seen countless expressions of the original St. Luke's passion for healing and wholeness in the staffs of our hospitals and in the volunteer boards that oversee them. What I observe over and over again is a commitment by all to the best practices of medicine, as well as to the best practices of the human heart.

Our neighbors come to us from across the region, seeking relief from their illnesses and help with their physical livelihoods. Yet, even more fundamentally, I believe that they are eager for us to confirm their value as human beings, and to my sense, as beloved children of God. To those who turn to us in discomfort, vulnerability, anxiety, or mortal fear, our “best practice” is to see first the kindred neighbor, and then the malady.

For St. Luke's Day 2014, my prayer is that each of us may be inspired to reconsider our role in the healing of others – those who need our medical services or who simply walk and work beside us each day. Our empathetic gestures, our understanding words, our extra moments, or our advocacy of their health needs will do more to fulfill the values of the first St. Luke, as well as all others who have served under the St. Luke's banner, than any efficiency of process or sophistication of medical practice.

St. Luke’s Health System will succeed and persevere as a vibrant health care institution by pursuing the standards of accountable care: better health, better care, and lower cost. Of this I am confident.

However, we will succeed as healers and good community neighbors only as we remain dedicated, each day, to affirming the dignity of every human being that enters our doors in need.

May it be so.

–  Brian Thom

XIII Bishop of Idaho

About The Author

David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., previously served as president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009 and retired in 2020. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.