Jerry Galipeau, D. Min.

Jerry Galipeau is a doctor of a different kind. He…

December 6, 2021
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Article By Margaret Burke

Jerry Galipeau is a doctor of a different kind. He graduated with a Doctor of Ministry with a concentration in Liturgical Studies from Catholic Theological Union at Chicago. Dr. Galipeau is Executive Director for Mission Integration and has been a member of the executive leadership team at Saint Francis Hospital since 2017. He notes that this role is unique to Catholic hospitals but not specifically to Trinity Health. He explains how this role came to exist by using Saint Francis Hospital as an example. It is illustrative of what has happened in most Catholic hospital systems.

The Beginnings of Saint Francis Hospital

Saint Francis Hospital was started in 1897 when the Bishop of Hartford invited three religious sisters from the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Chambery, France to travel to Hartford to establish a hospital. The hospital was intended to tend to the poor and those considered as the throwaways of society. In the late 1800s, this primarily meant the large Irish immigrant population living in the surrounding area.

The sisters arrived in Hartford, identified an old dilapidated building on the corner of Woodland and Collins streets on August 25th, and on August 27th were caring for the first patient. The hospital grew as the need continued through the years, though the particular population served changed as new waves of immigrants arrived.

Today, Saint Francis Hospital is the largest Catholic hospital in New England. It remains in the same location, albeit with a much larger footprint. It serves all people, of course, but continues to focus on the needs of the poor and those at the margins of society. Dr. Galipeau points out that the campus is perfectly located for this purpose. He notes that in the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital, approximately one-quarter to one-third of the people live below the poverty level.
For decades, the Sisters of Saint Joseph ran the hospital serving as administrators, educators, and nurses. From the 1920s through the 1950s, there were hundreds of sisters working at the hospital. During this time, Dr. Galipeau says “the Catholic identity of the hospital was always right up front.” However, from the 1960s onward, the number of women (and men) entering religious life began to decline, and the number of lay individuals working at the hospital steadily increased. There was a growing concern among the United States Catholic bishops that because of this demographic shift, especially at the leadership level, hospitals like Saint Francis might begin to lose their Catholic identity.

Executive Director for Mission Integration Role

It was this concern for the potential loss of Catholic identity of the hospital that drove the decision to create the position of Executive Director for Mission Integration.

The Executive Director for Mission Integration “is the person who makes sure that Catholic identity still remains foundational for the hospital, that the Mission and Core Values are the driving force behind decisions that we make and the way we treat patients,” Dr. Galipeau explains.

The Mission and Core Values of Trinity Health are:

Mission – To serve together in the spirit of the Gospel as a compassionate and transforming healing presence within our communities.

Core Values:

  • Reverence: We honor the sacredness and dignity of every person.
  • Commitment to those who are poor: We stand with and serve those who are poor, especially those most vulnerable.
  • Safety: We embrace a culture that prevents harm and nurtures a healing, safe environment for all.
  • Justice: We foster right relationships to promote the common good, including sustainability of the Earth.
  • Stewardship: We honor our heritage and hold ourselves accountable for the human, financial, and natural resources entrusted to our care.
  • Integrity: We are faithful to who we say we are.

Dr. Galipeau clarifies that his duties pertain to Saint Francis Hospital only and not the entirety of Trinity Health Of New England. Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury and Mercy Hospital in Springfield Massachusetts, both part of Trinity Health Of New England, have their own Executive Directors of Mission Integration. In fact, there are many individuals in this role across the national Trinity Health network. Their overall mission is the same, but the specific initiatives they are pursuing at each hospital may differ. They routinely communicate with, learn from, and support each other in their efforts.

Mission Integration in Action

Dr. Galipeau provided a few examples of how his role plays out in day to day operations of the hospital. In recent years, there have been many mergers or partnerships among healthcare entities. A few years back, Saint Francis was considering a partnership but discovered that the other organization did not accept Medicaid payments. Since this was not consistent with their value of serving the poor, Saint Francis Hospital chose not to pursue this partnership.

The Blue Hills neighborhood clinic serves as another example. Its finances and the number of patients seen at the clinic had been in decline over a period of eight to ten years. It was clear some action needed to be taken. Options included closing or selling the clinic. However, the hospital decided not only to keep the clinic open but to reinvest in it to maintain their presence and commitment to that community. Again, their Core Values drove this decision.

Changing Course, Sort Of

Dr. Galipeau did not originally set out to work in healthcare. He grew up in a large family in the Boston suburb of Woburn, Massachusetts. He studied for the priesthood for eight years, though he was not ordained, and he completed his Masters in Divinity from Saint John Seminary in Boston.
He lived in Florida for several years after leaving Boston and then moved to Chicago where he completed his doctoral work and became the Vice President and Chief Publishing Officer for a large Catholic music and publishing company. He led this company for nine years. He attributes the company’s success to clearly articulating their mission for the business early in his tenure. “I discovered that unless an organization is laser focused on its mission, that it’s more like a ship without a rudder,” he explains. This focus allowed the managers and employees to act proactively and ask the right questions about the direction they needed to take to align with their mission.

It was as a leader of the publishing company that Dr. Galipeau was first introduced to the concept of mission integration within healthcare. His company provided liturgy and music work for another large Catholic healthcare system’s annual leadership conference. While at these conferences, he began to listen to the talks being given and realized how intentionally mission focused this organization was. It was also here that he learned that specific job roles dedicated to mission integration existed.

While Dr. Galipeau’s background was not specific to healthcare, he had a significant background in leadership and he says “I had been immersed in the Catholic experience my whole life.” So, taking on the role of Executive Director for Mission Integration at Saint Francis Hospital seemed like a natural fit. He feels all his experiences to that point led him to his current role.

Dr. Galipeau didn’t think he would ever return to New England. After living in downtown Chicago for twenty-five years where five coffee shops were within walking distance of home, he considered himself “a real city guy.” (Although he admits that when he first lived in Chicago, he would get in his car about once a month and drive to Iowa just to be in the cornfields and away from the intensity of the city.) He finds it ironic that this “city guy” now lives on a few acres of land in Hebron, and the nearest coffee shop is a twenty-minute drive! He says “I think Connecticut is just beautiful, the rolling hills, the streams, and the woods, especially at this time of year when everything is changing colors. There’s something magical about the place.”

Successes and Challenges

Dr. Galipeau points to the COVID-19 pandemic as one of his greatest challenges and also greatest accomplishments in his current role. His colleagues have expressed to him just how important the presence of the mission person has been to accompany both the clinicians and leadership through the enormous staffing and financial challenges the pandemic inflicted.

He says it is difficult to predict what the next challenges may be because they can vary day to day. He explains, “Change is a constant in healthcare, it seems.” He is concerned that the inability to orient new employees in person could result in a dilution of the message of a mission driven focus over time and plans to work hard to prevent that. But whatever the challenges, Dr. Galipeau says, “I take daily inspiration from the story of those pioneering women who started the hospital.”

Margaret M. Burke, Pharm.D., BCPPS, is a freelance medical writer with more than 25 years of clinical pharmacy experience, including board certification as a pediatric pharmacotherapy specialist. She lives in Manchester.

Photography by STAN GODLEWSKI

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