Enhancing Our Shared Culture and Values

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Our UH culture is a major reason for our success in confronting COVID-19

By Cliff Megerian, MD, President, University Hospitals

A couple of months ago, when everything was different, I wrote about the importance of culture and how it can propel success.

Cliff Megerian, MD Cliff Megerian, MD

Not long after that came the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to afflict patients here and around the world. We have persevered through this crisis, and at some point, it will be behind us. Our UH culture is a major reason for the success of our response to date.

What do we mean when we say “culture” at UH? It’s the way we bring our core values – excellence, diversity, integrity, compassion, teamwork – to life. It’s about how we transform them from aspiration into action, which has never been more visible than in recent weeks. 

Many years ago, we only had one campus, and further back, only one building – and that was the place where UH ‘culture’ lived. 

Now, we have distinct cultures at every one of our sites, and many of those are highly desirable and effective. I have seen this in rounding with staff at our hospitals in the past month. The culture at UH Parma is different than at UH Geauga, just as the communities around them vary from suburban to rural. Those hospitals developed as their communities grew. People who lived near them felt ownership and connection to those hospitals, and they still do. We see this as so many residents come forward to show their support for our caregivers.

So the notion that culture must be monolithic and homogenous is not valid – we want to promote the diversity that exists within our region and within UH. Each of our facilities has a special blend of history and of teams who work together uniquely.

At the same time, our organization as a whole is bound by some key principles of culture and behavior that are consistent. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, the power and resources of a unified health system bring research, abilities to test and treat, and innovations that simply could not happen at one free-standing hospital, let alone quickly.

And consistency is crucial to our patients. Why? Because patients have expectations of UH regardless of where they receive care. I know from friends, my family and my patients that the caregivers who interact with our patients, in every location and at every touch point, determine their UH experience – from the call center representative who schedules the patient, the valet parking the car, the front desk clerk giving directions, or the surgeon talking to the family. Ultimately, culture is about consistency in how we care for our patients, care for each other, and do what we do.

To that end, I’ve appointed Jeanne Lackamp, MD, Director of the UH Pain Management Institute, as the lead on our cultural evolution at UH. She will work alongside Heidi Gartland, Vice President, Government and Community Relations, who is focused on translating our culture to best help our communities.  

With Jeanne and Heidi as guides in this journey, we will redefine our values, our behaviors, and ultimately the common cores of culture that we can all embrace – while maintaining the nuances that are unique to where we work and serve.  

Culture is based on what we have in common. Our shared goal is to make UH the most trusted health care provider in the region, and the best place for the careers of our caregivers. We will do this together.

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