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Terri Dente

Vice president for mission integration, St. Joseph Health–Sonoma County

1165 Montgomery Dr., Santa Rosa 95405; stjhs.org

Age: 56

Residence: Santa Rosa

Professional background: I have 16 years of healthcare experience, including my most recent role as Vice President of Mission Integration (interim starting July 2014 and permanent as of November 2014). This includes leadership positions during the preceding 8 years as director over Mission Integration and Spiritual Care. Earlier management and clinical roles included Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and Nutrition Services Manager.

Education: M.A., health care mission, Aquinas Institute of Theology; B.S., nutrition, and graduate certificate in dietetics with a specialty in older adults and HIV/AIDS, San Francisco State University.

Staff: about 2,200 in Sonoma County; about 25,000 systemwide.

Tell us about yourself and your company: I am vice president of mission integration for St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County, with executive responsibility for the organization’s community benefit, mission, clinical ethics and volunteer services, among other duties rooted in our health system’s commitment to continually reinvest in community-based programs to meet local needs.

St. Joseph Health is a not-for-profit provider of integrated health care sponsored by the St. Joseph Health Ministry. In the North Bay, it serves communities out of 70 sites in Sonoma County alone. Its mission is to extend the healing ministry of Jesus in the tradition of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange by improving health and quality of life in the communities it serves.

Sonoma County entities include the 278-bed Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, our region’s Level II trauma center; 80-bed Petaluma Valley Hospital, which St. Joseph Health leases and operates; Memorial Hospice, Hospice of Petaluma and North County Hospice; St. Joseph Urgent Care centers in Windsor, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa; and St. Joseph Home Care Network.

Both through its extensive community outreach programs and its award-winning acute, outpatient and primary care services, St. Joseph Health is the leading provider of care to the uninsured and underinsured in the North Bay. Santa Rosa Memorial treats the most complex, critically ill patients in the region, representing the sole receiving center to be jointly designated to care for patients experiencing life-threatening trauma, a heart attack or stroke. It is also the county’s lone provider of oncology care accredited by the Commission on Cancer.

Words that best describe you: Positive, enthusiastic, effective, goal-driven, empathetic, “not just smart and hard-working but with a great attitude,” spiritual seeker, hospitable and caring, according to others I asked.

What is a major accomplishment in the past year or so?: I’ve brought or helped bring these programs into the hospital:

No One Dies Alone volunteers sit at the bedside of dying patients who lack the companionship of family or friends when they are dying.

We Are the Mission helps frontline staff connect to their vocation and the history and legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.

Schwartz Center Rounds are listening tours that help and support health care providers to reconnect to their compassion and empathy.

Project Nightingale Phase II is a medical respite program for homeless patients in collaboration with Catholic Charities, Sonoma County public health, Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health.

What achievement are you most proud of in your career?: Changing careers to health care and going back to school — becoming a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator — after my two children were born. Then being invited into the mission integration work and earning the master’s degree in health care mission.

What is your biggest challenge today?: Health care is changing so rapidly and our systems and structures are in flux. This makes the environment quite difficult for the people who work in all areas of healthcare. With reduced reimbursement from all types of insurance, everyone is tasked with doing much more with far fewer resources. As a result, a big challenge is to help staff connect to the heart of what they do in this ever-changing, incredibly fast-paced and demanding environment. The other is to try to imagine what can be done rather than simply reacting to these external pressures.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?: My current profession – Mission Integration - is unique to Catholic healthcare. As the Catholic sisters who were instrumental in creating large healthcare institutions face declining numbers, they are handing off their roles to people like me who are “partners in Mission.” I have a specialized theology degree for Catholic healthcare and it is my job, among many other things, to be a bridge between the Sisters and our organization, which we refer to as a ministry. As the Sisters continue to age and decline in numbers, it will be incumbent upon me, along with all of the leaders in my organization, to remember our mission to serve our community by providing not just excellent quality care, but compassionate care that takes into account the whole person, body, mind and spirit; that we focus on the poor and vulnerable; and that we are here to continually improve the quality of life of the people in the communities we serve.

As a successful female professional, what have been the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?: Being both a professional and a mother provides especially difficult challenges, as one naturally desires to be the best in both worlds, and yet there is a finite number of hours in a day. I don’t know that I overcame the obstacles; I just did the best I could, along with the help of my husband, Jim, whose support has been invaluable. I would not be here if it were not for his loving support and participation in our family and home.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?: Find a mentor, someone she admires and trusts, who will give her honest and constructive feedback and advice to help her grow into her potential. Don’t be afraid to take some risks, as they often come in the form of opportunity.

Current reading: I just finished reading “My Struggle,” by Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard; “Being Mortal,” by well-known surgeon and author Atul Gawande; and am now reading “Tinkers,” a Pulitzer Prize winning first novel by Paul Harding.

Stress-relievers: Petting my two dogs, especially my 13-year-old lab; it makes us both feel good!

Favorite hobbies: I like to read, cook, bake, entertain, walk my dogs, and play golf (when I have the time).