MHA Hosts Valuable Advocacy Events

The MHA participated in several advocacy events in September, providing opportunities for MHA members to share their experiences with both current and future decision-makers.

Several MHA staff helped lead a virtual advocacy event Sept. 9 for the Michigan Organization of Nurse Leaders (MONL). Nearly 100 nurse leaders and students from across the state gathered to discuss important issues facing nurses and advocate for legislative solutions. The Health Policy Committee Chairs of each chamber, Rep. Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian) and Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington), joined the group to provide legislative updates, outline future priorities and share their insight on the remaining legislative term.

Dr. Cynthia McCurren, dean of nursing at U-M Flint, and Brandy Johnson, president of the Michigan Community College Association, also joined the MONL event to provide an overview of a new model that will allow for community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees in nursing. The new funding will go toward community college and university partnerships that will allow Associate Degree in Nursing graduates to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at a community college campus. Participants also received a crash course in how to advocate as a nurse and were able to earn 2.5 continuing education credit hours for their participation.

The MHA helped prepare Michigan’s next generation of leaders Sept. 16 and 17 by leading a Healthcare Weekend for the fellows of the Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP). The weekend event was held in Grand Rapids and organized in partnership with the Michigan Association of Health Plans (MAHP). The MPLP fellowship is made up of a diverse group of Democrats, Republicans and Independents from around the state who all have an interest in running for office.

The MPLP fellows received a Healthcare and Lobbying 101 from Dominick Pallone, executive director of the MAHP, and Marc Corriveau, vice president of government affairs at Henry Ford Health, as well as participated in a healthcare bill exercise designed to mimic health policy committee work. The fellows also visited Hope Network in Grand Rapids and learned directly from Megan Zambiasi, chief development officer of Hope Network, as well as Mark Eastburg, president and CEO of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. Lastly, the MHA convened a lawmaker panel of Sen. Mark Huizenga (R-Walker) and Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) to speak on how to run a successful campaign.

Brian Peters presenting Sen. Jim Stamas with his Special Recognition Award that was originally announced July 2022.

The MHA held Sept. 21 their first ever Rural Hospital Advocacy Day. Leaders from rural hospitals across the state joined MHA staff in Lansing to meet with lawmakers and share the unique challenges they are facing. MHA members were able to meet with lawmakers that are local to their hospital service areas, as well as key legislative and health policy committee leadership. The rural advocacy day came at an important time to impact decision making during lame-duck as the MHA expects several bills directly impacting rural hospitals to move before the end of the year. Some of the key issues discussed included continued hospital staffing challenges, preservation of the 340B drug pricing program and opportunities to address emergency department crowding through behavioral health investments at the state level. During the event, Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland) was also presented with his Special Recognition Award that was originally announced July 2022.

The events would not have been possible without the assistance of MHA partners and members who helped make these advocacy events a success. Members with questions about future advocacy days may contact Sean Sorenson-Abbott at the MHA.

Healthcare Advocates Honored with MHA Special Recognition Award

The MHA announced four winners of its Special Recognition Award during the Annual Membership Meeting June 30, recognizing them for extensive contributions to healthcare. Each of the winners has uniquely influenced healthcare in Michigan. The winners include Jean Anthony, recently retired CEO of Hills & Dales General Hospital, Cass City; Nancy Graebner-Sundling, recently retired president of Chelsea Hospital; Terry Lerash, recently retired CEO of Scheuer Health, Pigeon; and Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland).

Jean Anthony was recognized for 47 years at Hills & Dales General Hospital, beginning as a licensed practice nurse and retiring Jan. 3 as CEO. While working, she earned associates and bachelor’s degrees in nursing and a Master of Arts in Organization Management and advanced to such roles as quality improvement/risk management and director of clinical services. She was promoted to chief operating officer in 1996 and appointed CEO in 2014.

Anthony oversaw an $8 million renovation project, completed in 2019, that included additional clinic space, updated inpatient rooms and many other facility updates. She successfully recruited physicians, specialists and nurse practitioners who continue to serve the community. She made technology a high priority and enhanced the hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. Under her leadership, the hospital achieved Modern Healthcare’s Best Places to Work designation three times.

Anthony served on the MHA Small or Rural Hospital Council for over seven years, chairing it in the 2019-2020 program year. She was a member of the association’s Quality and Accountability Committee and Physician Council and served on the Board of Trustees of the Hospital Council of East Central Michigan for seven years, most recently as secretary/treasurer. Anthony was also a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Nancy Graebner-Sundling receives the MHA Special Recognition Award.
Nancy Graebner-Sundling receives the MHA Special Recognition Award.

Nancy Graebner-Sundling served for a decade as president of what is now Chelsea Hospital before her retirement in March. During that time, she led the two-story Atrium facility expansion that enhanced the emergency department and enabled expanded therapies, added diagnostic imaging departments, and renovated the lab and pharmacy. She later managed the completion of the hospital’s comprehensive cancer program, expansion of the surgical department, increased inpatient rehabilitation capabilities and added the Michigan Medicine Hospitalist Service that enables the treatment of higher acuity patients. She oversaw the renovation of a 30-bed inpatient behavior health services wing, led the renovation of the short-stay unit and established a 24/7 urgent care unity in the emergency department. She applied community benefit funds to establish the award-winning shuttle bus between Chelsea and the communities of Stockbridge and Manchester (see related article).

Graebner-Sundling has often lent her expertise to the MHA, serving on the association’s Legislative Policy Panel for three years, the Behavioral Health Integration Task Force for four years, and a year on the Health Information Technology Strategy Committee. Many local organizations have also valued her involvement, contributing to her recognition in 2020 as Chelsea Citizen of the Year and Chelsea State Bank Woman of the Year.

MHA CEO Brian Peters and Terry Lerash, recently retired CEO of Scheuer Health, Pigeon.
MHA CEO Brian Peters and Terry Lerash, recently retired CEO of Scheuer Health, Pigeon.

Terry Larash retired June 30 after six years at the helm of Scheurer Health and a healthcare career spanning five decades. Following a tour as a U.S. Army medical corpsman, Lerash earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and worked at the Veterans Administration Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital in Saginaw. These jobs led to roles as director of nursing, director of human resources and vice president of clinical operations within Covenant HealthCare while he earned a master’s degree in administration. After a decade as president and CEO of Synergy Medical Education Alliance, Larash returned to Covenant to oversee the Department of Innovation. He was hired as chief operating officer of Scheurer in early 2016 and became president and CEO six months later.

During his tenure, Lerash established Scheurer primary care clinics in Bad Axe and Sebewaing and a Fast Care in Bad Axe, upgraded the electronic medical record system, developed new services and expanded others, created two new school wellness clinics, and added primary care providers to the team. In addition, he led the rebranding of the organization from Scheurer Hospital to Scheurer Health and implemented The Scheurer Way, a program dedicated to the customer and employee experience.

State Sen. Jim Stamas has represented the 36th District in the Senate since 2015. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 2009 through 2014 and served two terms as Majority Floor Leader. He received the award for his continued support of Michigan’s hospitals and health systems. As chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, which oversees the state budget and spending, Stamas fought to enhance Medicaid reimbursement rates for outpatient services, including a targeted increase for critical access hospitals in 2019.

Stamas also supported the healthcare workforce through a supplemental appropriation of $300 million in 2022 to recognize the impact of the pandemic on hospitals’ ability to recruit, retain and train employees.  His strong budget knowledge has been an important tool in ensuring hospital priorities have remained fully funded in the budget, and he was quick to step up and provide the funds to hold hospitals harmless when a Medicaid data error in 2021 would have otherwise caused a $160 million shortfall.

Stamas has been a true healthcare champion on policy legislation as well, recognizing the critical role hospitals play in the health and economic well-being of their communities, especially in rural areas of Michigan.