Connect Live @ Adventist Health

Connect Live | January 27, 2022
Story 81

This week's episode features Judy Leach, Administrative Executive at Adventist Health Mendocino Coast, with updates from coastal Northern California and the story of her journey from communications to hospital leadership. Also, hear the latest about CEO Kerry Heinrich's 2022 Connect Tour, and get acquainted with what it means to be a chaplain with Adventist Health.

Joyce Newmeyer: Welcome to Connect Live at Adventist Health. I'm Joyce Newmeyer, the Chief Culture Officer at Adventist Health and your host for Connect Live. Live this week, the 2022 Connect Tour, critical care at Mendocino Coast and transformative love. The 2022 Connect Tour – Kerry Heinrich, the Chief Executive Officer at Adventist Health, has begun his 2022 Connect Tour this week, visiting two of our hospitals, Adventist Health Glendale and Adventist Health White Memorial. Engaging in several one-on-ones with leadership and walking the patient units to learn more about how our care teams are taking care of their communities in this pandemic, Kerry is being true to his word.

He has shared how committed he is to learning about our communities, listening to leaders and their teams, and supporting and inspiring their continued commitment to mission and a re-energized vision for the future. Kerry said our frontline lives out courage and dedication. The associates, physicians, nurses, support services teams, and leaders at Adventist Health Glendale and Adventist Health White Memorial love with utter abandonment of self. They are living God's love 24/7. Stay tuned here on Connect Live in coming weeks as we share over the next 90 days the latest moments of the 2022 Connect Tour with Kerry Heinrich. Today, I am delighted to welcome Judy Leach, the executive leader at Adventist Health Mendocino Coast. Judy, thank you for joining me today.

Judy Leach: Well, what a joy to be with you today. Thank you so much for having me.

Joyce Newmeyer: Well, Judy, Adventist Health Mendocino Coast is the newest hospital to join the Adventist Health family. So tell us about what life is like at a remote critical access hospital on the Northern California coast.

Judy Leach: Joyce, life on the Northern California coast is unlike anywhere I have ever lived. So imagine the mesmerizing coastline that hugs a stratosphere. Getting here is not for the faint of heart. We're talking windy roads that hug the coastline. There's about 20,000 people who live on the coast in our service area. And this is an area where fishing and logging and agriculture is just thriving. It's not a place that's easy to get to. In fact, we're the only hospital between Eureka, which is on the Oregon-California border, and San Francisco. And this location is designed specifically for people who want to live life in a very different way. What we've learned through the pandemic is that people now can live and work just about anywhere. And it has drawn people here from the San Francisco bay area to call this place home. But this is a region where artisan wines and baby goats and private sea coves, redwood forests, hiking trails, hidden beaches, all come together to create a magical experience.

Joyce Newmeyer: Well, I've seen pictures that you've shared with me of that area, it's absolutely stunning. As a person who spent most of your life and career focused on communication and communication strategy, why have you chosen to with great passion step into this challenging work of bringing on a new hospital?

Judy Leach: This is very sacred work for me, and I find it to be work that is very purpose-driven. I've been in healthcare most of my life. I come from a family of seven physicians. Healthcare is in our DNA. You may hear some roaring sounds behind me right now. It is a chopper that is landing here on our campus as we speak. The work that I do is a calling, and it's a personal calling because of what I experienced in healthcare. Several years ago, I saw healthcare delivered in a way that I would hope wouldn't happen for other people. And that personal experience has caused me to live a life of purpose and meaning so that it improves the lives of other people. I have seen healthcare delivered beautifully, compassionately ,full of grace and full of quality intention. I have also seen it where there are opportunities for families to be engaged in decision-making process, for patients' voices to be what matters the most, for the communication between caregivers to be enhanced and for the purpose to be clearly articulated.

All of that has caused me to move into this space with a passion for improving the lives of others. And here in Mendocino County, Joyce, we are blessed. We have three hospitals in Adventist Health. We have Howard Memorial, Ukiah, and Mendocino Coast. We are located an hour away on a very windy road. Again, not a road that most people would drive on any given day in order for us to get to the closest hospital. And to put things into perspective, if a person living on the coast wanted to make a trip to Costco or their local home Depot, that would be about an hour and a half in planning to get there. If you had specific needs that caused you to need to get to, let's say, a courthouse or any major place of business, plan for about an hour and a half on your drive. Living here and providing healthcare on the coast is very intentional.

If it wasn't for Adventist Health Mendocino Coast, the people of these rural coastal communities, again about 20,000, would not have access to care close to home. And the chopper that you just heard a few minutes ago landing, well, we're lucky it's a beautiful glorious day on the coast. The sun is shining brightly, but I will tell you in the evenings, the fog starts rolling in. And so if you need to get people to a higher level of care than our 21-bed critical access hospital can provide, we've got to be able to provide that care close to home, because choppers cannot get to us. And on days where there is difficult climate conditions, our ambulance crew – which we're very blessed to have our own ambulance crew – is unable to get over that mountain range. So having care close to home is imperative for the people of the Northern California coast.

Joyce Newmeyer: Wow, that sounds exciting, and quite rural. A lot of people may not understand just how far away you are from other services. Tell me about how your life has been impacted by the journey of leading this hospital, this new addition to Adventist Health.

Judy Leach: My life has been blessed as a result of the privilege of serving here on the Mendocino Coast. On any given day, we are engaging in conversations with our local community. I'll give you an example of one that just happened in the last 24 hours where a local resident came and told me, if it wasn't for what was happening here locally in healthcare, I would not be alive today. And she said, I will tell you this story happens on a regular basis. Well, for me, that's purpose-driven, lifelong passion of serving and making a difference in people's lives.

We had two people who set out on a sailboat, not so long ago from close to the Oregon border and their intention was to come into the harbor here in town. Well, guess what? Things went very wrong in that ocean, and they were stranded for two days. Had it not been for this hospital being where it is today, those two young people would not be alive. And so what drives the work that we do and what drives this journey that I am on to make a difference on this earth is to be able to tangibly wrap my arms around someone and say, "Your life matters. It matters dearly, and we're here to make sure that we can do everything we possibly can to improve your quality of life."

Joyce Newmeyer: Judy, thank you for being with us today. Thank you for sharing that story and for giving us all a glimpse of what life is like on the Mendocino Coast. We're glad that this hospital and the people there are a part of Adventist Health and glad that you're leading there.

Judy Leach: Thank you, Joyce.

Joyce Newmeyer: Our final story today is Transformative Love. Chaplains fill a unique professional role in the healthcare setting, especially at Adventist Health, where our mission is founded on the teachings of Jesus and is a contemporary expression of this healing ministry. Our chaplains are meeting the growing and diverse spiritual needs of patients, their caregivers, families, and even our own associates. In this week's featured story, read about how they are bringing together a clinical and pastoral approach to provide something that can be truly transformative. You can read this story and many others at Friends, thank you for connecting live and we'll see you here again next week. Until then, let's be a force for good.