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Board Chair Julia Cormier fuses business focus with compassion

Q. How did you connect with JourneyCare?

A. Reflecting on the path that ultimately led me here, I suppose it started with my desire to participate in the service of others that makes a very direct and significant difference. I grew up in Arlington Heights but early in my professional life I moved to London, where I lived and worked for many years. Thinking back on my volunteer activities while there, I realized I was drawn to helping vulnerable people in ways that offer them dignity, a voice and a choice. For example, tutoring adults in literacy was gratifying because the simple act liberated them, and their lives were transformed. For similar reasons, I enjoyed helping build homes for families in poor communities in England and Nicaragua. It actively involved the families, and empowered them to obtain a basic human need. I also got my first experiences visiting elderly residents in long-term care facilities and observed that compassionate care made a positive difference for them. When I moved back to the Chicago area I was seeking to contribute to my local community in a way that meshed with those values of providing dignity, voice and choice. I came across an advertisement for training to be a patient care volunteer with what is now JourneyCare’s Glenview location and have been consistently involved for over 10 years. I’ve seen how this work is transformative for patients, their families and their legacy, and it is an amazing experience.

Q. Since you were already involved as patient care volunteer, what motivated you to expand your service to our Board of Directors?

A. By visiting patients and being a member of the interdisciplinary team, I saw the positive impact palliative and hospice care had on patients and their families. My business background is in financial services but I didn’t know the “business” of palliative and hospice care, and wanted to understand more about how all aspects of our care are delivered and how more patients could be served. That led me to the Board, which I joined about five years ago, with the goals of learning and contributing as much as I could to ensure that the compassionate care we deliver is able to continue indefinitely. I continue to be amazed and inspired by the leadership of JourneyCare. We are very fortunate to have such widespread talent and dedication from the agency Board of Directors and JourneyCare Foundation Board of Trustees. Members represent all of our legacy organizations and the blending of the groups has been deliberate and very constructive. All are committed to the mission and are very focused on running a fiscally sound organization. We are grateful that our stakeholders across all our combined regions, especially donors, have been incredibly supportive of our future. We are committed to being good stewards of their generosity.

Q. If you look at JourneyCare through your business lens, what do you see as some of the challenges and goals ahead?

A. Healthcare is a complex industry with fiscal pressures and the demographics of the U.S. will increase future challenges. But challenges create opportunities, and we’re mindful of the former, but focused on the latter. There is tremendous opportunity for growth in our approach to care and we are focused on implementing our strategy of being an innovative leader in successfully. One of the benefits of our merger was to broaden and deepen our services to our communities and with our integration well underway, there has been immediate benefit to the patients served. It’s also critical that we continue to innovate and lead in providing compassionate care which is centered on what is best for the patient, rather than doing things to the patient. In America, we often have a “fix it” mentality when it comes to traditional healthcare. But we have an opportunity to expand the discussion about what that means. Research shows that palliative and hospice care increases quality of life, and increases length of life, at a lower cost. That’s compelling from a compassionate and business perspective.

Q. JourneyCare aims to remain a leader in setting the standard for patient care. What does that leadership look like?

A. It looks a lot like what we are doing today: aligning our mission, vision and values, By setting high standards and committing to excellence in everything we do, we create a culture that engages and empowers us all. We are interdependent in the best possible way – accountable to our patients, each other, and our communities. That’s incredibly powerful.

Q. You have supported many causes, but you have committed to hospice and this organization for more than a decade. Why does it remain so dear to you?

A. Because it is so authentic; it makes life better; and has a tremendous return to our communities. I don’t mean to glamorize it. Dying is difficult. But it’s when things are difficult, and we are at our most vulnerable, that how we are cared for matters most. As a patient care volunteer, one of the things I cherish is the privilege of entering venerated space with another human being. It requires empathy, humility and courage and enriches the present and the future. There is no greater gift.

 

– By Elisabeth Mistretta, JourneyCare Content Specialist
Originally published in Together to Care, Spring 2016

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