Voices of Hennepin Healthcare: Jennifer DeCubellis, CEO, introduces an exciting planning process to accelerate the organization’s run toward change
Hennepin Healthcare recently launched a planning process to advance health equity within its system to improve care for the community and entire region. This planning process aims to reimagine the health system entirely — by advancing equity — and helping all team members work more effectively to deliver what the community needs.
“Hennepin Healthcare is not just a safety net hospital,” asserts Jennifer DeCubellis, CEO. “It’s an incredible resource to the community, state and entire region. We are well positioned to create the future of what healthcare should be.”
Lead, Partner, Disrupt
“COVID hit two weeks after I became CEO,” reflects Jennifer. “As soon as that happened, everyone really began running in the same direction. It didn’t matter: titles, training, hierarchy. Everyone focused on our community. We wanted to be the response that our community needed.”
Now, Jennifer asserts that she and her fellow team members at Hennepin Healthcare are committed to staying the course — all running in the same direction, propelled by a passionate commitment to the community they serve.
She sees that Hennepin Healthcare stepped up to be a health equity leader, partner and disruptor since the early days of the pandemic. One example is Hennepin Healthcare’s vaccine distribution. “A lot of healthcare systems competed to do it fast,” she explains. “We led by saying that we can do it right.”
Hennepin Healthcare did not distribute vaccines to everyone with a rapid-paced, first-come-first-served approach. Instead, they prioritized those with the greatest needs and launched the vaccine mobile Hennepin Healthcare also strengthened partnerships, often hosting pop-up vaccination events and partnering with community and faith-based organizations. “We looked to them how we could show up differently, show up how they need us to,” she says.
It didn’t stop there. Hennepin Healthcare gathers and studies data — and continuously shares learnings. “We are the disruptors who called out what the data showed us,” asserts Jennifer. “It’s about challenging the status quo and speaking up and being loud about what must change.”
There’s No Better Time Than Right Now
Jennifer sees a unique opportunity now — despite the challenges, restrictions and fatigue of the ongoing pandemic — for this planning process.
“When I think of the incredible healthcare disparities,” she continues, “Minnesota is at the bottom of the nation for racial disparities. This drives us to urgent action. Our healthcare system was built a long time ago. It’s rule based and regulatory driven. Healthcare, in general, is at a turning point. The healthcare system of today isn’t working. We have an opportunity to turn [it around].”
“We own that there is a problem in healthcare,” she asserts. “This is beyond hashtags and headlines; it’s about actions. It’s easy to say that it’s a police problem, an education problem, a government problem — but we own our role. Our healthcare problem.”
Also, she recognizes that several Hennepin Healthcare buildings are aging or failing. “Every bed and every unit matters now,” says Jennifer. “We have an urgency because of the age of our buildings, but an even stronger urgency hand in hand to address structural racism and healthcare inequities.” We cannot fix one without fixing the other.
“The reason I came here was because of the hearts and minds of those at this organization. Everyone leads with mission and values and community is at the forefront of those — and I feel very strongly that if anyone can figure it out, it’s Hennepin Healthcare,” she emphasizes.
A Planning Process to Empower Healers to Heal
Jennifer emphasizes that the planning process is not a project or a plan for the buildings. Instead, she declares, “It’s truly our future. It’s building the future of healthcare together. If we do this right — create a strategy that is built by and for the community we serve — we will have a future, a facilities plan that will help us achieve that future and an economic engine. Most importantly, we will see a healing environment where healthcare is successful and our community is successful.”
“What is possible,” says Jennifer, “is endless.” She sees a future where all team members have the tools they need to provide care in the way that is best for their patients. Based on what patients need and what matters most to them. She also sees a future in which everyone not only feels seen, heard and honored, but also trusts Hennepin Healthcare to be a force for health and healing for the entire region.
“We recently experienced a tragic loss of life in our community. Our community members rallied and supported the entire family by putting up a tent outside the hospital for community to grieve together and receive support,” she recounts. “They shouldn’t need to be outside. They should be within our walls. Imagine a system where our space is community space, where we have dedicated spaces for healing — together.”
More than ever, asserts Jennifer, there is an “awareness that each one of us can’t be healthy unless the people around us are healthy and have the same access to healthcare.”
“We understand that we need to invest more into the longer term health and wellness for our community. Hennepin Healthcare has been here for over 130 years; it’s a staple in the community. Sometimes we forget how essential it is. Imagine a world without Hennepin Healthcare here?” she asks. “Now imagine a world in which we all invest in the health of Minnesota and Hennepin Healthcare. This planning process is just that — an investment in the wellness of Minnesotans and all of our futures.”
Learn more about the planning process and sign up for monthly updates from Jennifer DeCubellis, CEO at hennepinhealthcare.org.