I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on our country this week, thinking about a time when our country seemed more united than ever before. I had the privilege of examining that time in my former career as a network news producer when I traveled back with World War II veterans to their foxholes in Belgium 40 years after they fought the turning point Battle of the Bulge as part of “our greatest generation.” The families they left here on the home front and the soldiers themselves were all an inspiration to me then and now.
Now, in my role supporting our healthcare provider customer Ascension, I am once again reminded of that generation and the price these veterans paid to help us enjoy the lives we lead today here in our country.
Ascension, has been rolling out a very moving initiative to help U.S. veterans receive healthcare in Ascension ministries. Just watch this ninety-second video of their doctors and nurses (who happen to be veterans helping veterans) and try to keep a dry eye. After seeing this video, I wanted to learn more about the Ascension employees in the IT area (my area) along with their NTT DATA Services (formerly Dell Services) colleagues (my teammates) that support the caregivers helping veterans.
Today, leading up to Veterans Day, I feel doubly privileged as these front line caregivers are helping our troops who’ve served us on the front lines as a member of our armed forces.It was hard for me to keep a dry eye after speaking with David Poynter, Infrastructure Director for St. John Providence in Detroit, Michigan, part of the Ascension healthcare family. He leads a team that supports more than 15,000 computers at five hospitals, more than 200 ambulatory facilities (including clinics, doctors’ offices and surgery centers), as well as two corporate facilities. Poynter is also a military veteran, having served in the 82nd Airborne and deployed to, among other places, Egypt, Israel, Honduras and Panama.
I asked him about the importance of the work St. John Providence does, and how it relates to his former work in the military.
”If a computer went down and you couldn’t ship a part to troops in Afghanistan or Iraq, that’s critical,” he said. “Here, we’re highly aware that the technology and systems we support impact friends, loved ones and family members who are receiving care at often critical times in their lives. We are supporting lives.”
“I feel that every day. We impact patient care,” he said. “In today’s world, doctors don’t do anything without something computerized. It may seem small but — but if I can shave fifteen seconds off the time it takes a doctor to log on to the computer for every patient interaction — that adds up to critical minutes he or she gets to have on patient care each day. We never forget that. We are here for one thing only — and that is for those patients in those rooms.”
He said that singular focus and the passion for patients is something he sees in the military veterans who work with him to support Ascension’s IT needs.
He said the bond between the veterans who work with him as that ‘band of brothers’ still exists today as they singularly focus on supporting patient care.
One of those brothers is Bob Stavale.
“I literally love the guy, I don’t just like the guy, I LOVE him,” Poynter said.
He started to get emotional describing how Stavale leads his team to finds ways to get things done for the Ascension team, how he quietly comes in sometimes even on Saturdays, to work whether it’s his project or not. If it impacts patient care, he is there to help, and how Stavale’s word is his bond. It’s been that way for the 16 years he has worked with Poynter — ever since their days together working at a defense contractor before St. John’s Providence.
“When you’re in the same military branch, no matter where you are in your life, you’re bonded together as you relate to life and death trials you’ve had in the service. When Bob gives me his word, it’s his word. I don’t ever doubt him,” Poynter said, his voice breaking. “If he tells me he’s going to do something, then it’s done. He leads by example.”
Stavale works with me at NTT DATA Services as the Field Delivery Lead of the team that supports Poynter. You could say that helping people in critical situations has been a common work theme for Stavale since he was 22 years old and entered the service back in Detroit. He went from basic training to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.
Among his many assignments, he served two tours with the Second Infantry Division in the Republic of South Korea. As the Battalion Motor Officer in both the 1-72d Armor (1976-77) and 2-72d Armor (1978-79), he was responsible for the preventive maintenance, repair and combat readiness for an M60 A1 tank battalion as well as an M48A5 tank battalion not far from the DMZ at Camp Casey.
“I like to think that helping a doctor who needs technology working to perform a critical operation is very similar to having a tank combat ready for the soldier in the heat of battle,” Stavale said. “It’s just a different size machine. But the need is just as critical and the speed and urgency in which I must act is the same.
Little did he know then that his more than two decades of active duty would become the foundation for his eventual career in IT services supporting Poynter and his team.
“I’ve been out of the armed services for more than 25 years, but now it’s my turn to help the hundreds of thousands of veterans who came after me,” Stavale said. “I take great satisfaction in knowing that, with our technology services, we’re helping Ascension providers to positively impact loved ones, friends and veterans to get the best care available.”
And, how did Poynter (pictured above, left) feel about their collective effort, Stavale’s (pictured right), his and their entire IT team including fellow military veterans, now playing some part in Ascension’s effort to give care to our veterans?
“We are passionate about our jobs,” he said. “And I am very passionate about the military, about the patient care we provide. When I talk about my people it never fails — I tear up. My people mean a lot to me. They are included in everything we do. And the fact that I get to work for a Catholic-based organization and now, on top of it, one that has this campaign to help veterans? I believe wholeheartedly in this Ascension program and I will never leave this company.”
And may the positive effects of this band of two brothers reach to veterans far and wide.