December 12, 2019, Watsonville, California – Sister Michaella Siplak, OP, has been involved in a variety of ministries and outreach programs during her 50 years of service to Dignity Health Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California. These include nursing service with neurological patients and with newborn children and youth, diabetes prevention, tattoo removal, and work with a mobile wellness health clinic to people in underserved areas.
Yet, while Sister Michaella was recognized for these many ministries, she received the Lifetime Achievement Community Hero Award November 25, 2019, for her initiation of – and 25 years of ministry in – the Community Assessment Project (CAP).
In collaboration with the local United Way and Applied Survey Research, a data collection agency, Sister Michaella began CAP. Through this process, the community studies 10 areas that hinder or enhance the health of the community and offers an assessment of the community’s needs. The data is shared with agencies that serve the people in the community.
“She brought the concept to Dominican [Hospital], to the United Way, and other partners to commit to single-source data,” said Susan Brutschy, President of Applied Survey Research, who bestowed the honor on Sister Michaella during the ceremony at the Watsonville, California, government offices. Sister Michaella “has been a strong supporter and user of the CAP data and the continuous improvement process embedded in CAP,” Susan said. She added that Sister Michaella helped to design CAP “from data and questions, to an eye towards community benefit and linking resources, and finally with production of the focus on health document.”
In an interview, Sister Michaella recalled asking to quit her ministry as administrator of nursing units because of her desire for more hands-on ministry. That’s when she began CAP. “We started outreach [to the community],” she said. “I asked if we could do a survey and find out the needs of the community,” and then respond to those needs with specific programs.
Sister Michaella explained that the CAP process involves asking a particular set of questions of 900 people, including residents of homeless camps. “We get the results in November every year,” she said. “I look at them and see how they relate to the services offered at Dominican Hospital.” The process begins again every year in January.
The results of the project have been so positive that the supervisor has traveled to Canada, Europe, and Africa to teach local communities about the process, Sister Michaella explained.
Read more about CAP and Sister Michaella’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sister Michaella also continues direct service as a nurse. Every Tuesday night, she serves in a clinic, providing free health care to underserved people. “These are people who have nothing,” she said. “They walk into the clinic, we look at them, and they get a doctor. … We follow up on them like a doctor’s office. It’s rewarding [to serve them].”
Sister Michaella said she is the only Dominican Hospital staff member who has served at the hospital for 50 years out of the 57 years since the Adrian Dominican Congregation began sponsoring the hospital.
A pioneer in health care, Sister Michaella served Sisters in St. Clement Infirmary in Adrian while she was a postulant. She helped to start Maria Health Care Center, the successor to St. Clement, in 1965. Maria is now part of the Dominican Life Center, a continuum of care residence for retired Adrian Dominican Sisters. She is also grateful for her ministry for the past 50 years. “I enjoyed my time at Dominican, too, my 50 years of doing a variety of things.”
April 27, 2019, Santa Cruz, California – Sister Mary Ellen Leciejewski, OP, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for Dignity Health, notes in a special Earth Day article in National Catholic Reporter that the hospitals in her health care system are focusing on their responsibility to be good stewards of natural resources. Sister Mary Ellen has long been in the forefront of ecological efforts at Dignity Health, now part of CommonSpirit Health since the merger of Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives in February 2019. Under Sister Mary Ellen’s leadership, Dignity Health set a number of specific goals to “reduce its carbon footprint by 2020.” To read the portion of the article on Sister Mary Ellen and her work with Dignity Health, click here and scroll down a bit more than half way through the article.