Fabian Fregoli, chief medical officer of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, recently spoke with iHeart Radio about the need to remove barriers of care for socio-economically challenged individuals living in our community. Doing so, he said, can help people access a COVID-19 vaccine if they want one. He also addressed vaccine hesitancy among some and the ongoing efforts of Saint Joseph Mercy Health System to provide support and education to the community.
OAKLAND – A key challenge in distributing COVID-19 vaccines is ensuring that the most vulnerable in our community have adequate access. Some may be interested in the vaccine, but do not have transportation to a clinic. Others simply do not know how to sign up for the vaccine, or do not have a computer to search for appointments.
To help reach these vulnerable populations, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland has partnered with several community organizations, including Lighthouse Oakland County, Forgotten Harvest, Freedom Road Transportation, and Faith Community Nursing.
On April 5, 2021, St. Joe’s Oakland hosted a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for vulnerable populations, and distributed nonperishable food from Forgotten Harvest to participants. SJMO’s Community Health and Wellbeing team was able to pre-register 95 individuals. SJMO also partnered with Freedom Road Transportation to provide transportation at no cost to attendees.
“We serve seniors, people with disabilities, and low income populations,” said Karen Boice, Executive Director of Freedom Road Transportation. “These are people that have no access to public transportation or are unable to use it. Our program is provided at no cost. It’s important because people who are isolated, disabled or senior need access to transportation so that they can be social, access basic needs and stay healthy.”
SJMO held a second vaccine clinic on May 3 at Mercy Place. Again, participants received a free box of non-perishable food and transportation assistance as needed. Roughly 55 individuals were served at this clinic with a high turnout from the local Hispanic community. Second dose vaccines of Moderna were distributed June 2 at Mercy Place Clinic. St. Joe’s Oakland is now also accepting walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccines from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on days the clinic is open.
Helping vulnerable populations get access to vaccines is crucial, as these groups face higher risks of complications or death if they contract COVID-19. St. Joe’s Oakland is proud to work with local partners to help address the needs of the most vulnerable in our community, and is excited to continue these efforts.
For sisters Megan Clemence and Kristen Clark, having similar careers in nursing has always been a blessing.
“A lot of people in our family work in the medical field, which is nice,” said Megan. “With Kristen, we talk regularly and support each other. We have a greater understanding of the challenges of nursing and what each may be going through.”
Megan, a nurse practitioner with Clarkston Internal Medicine, rounds regularly inside St. Joseph Mercy Oakland to check in on her patients, including many on units managed by Kristen.
Kristen, a nurse manager on 5S and 4G, agrees that having a sibling work in the same hospital is a unique circumstance not many get to enjoy.
“Knowing Megan is here, close by, gives me strength,” says Kristen. “It’s really cool to have someone to speak with, and that can listen. My sister understands what I’m taking about because she has similar feelings and experiences.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Michigan in March of 2020, Megan and Kristen came to rely on each even more.
“In the beginning of the pandemic we each experienced increased anxiety and fear of the unknown, but we found strength in each other,” said Megan. “As things have evolved, we both find that the safety protocols and processes in place make us feel much more at ease. We know our patients are safe, we know we are safe, and that has given us each the peace of mind needed to focus on our jobs.”
When the vaccine became available to health care workers in late December, Megan and Kristen were among the first to volunteer to get it.
“We talked about it at length but, in the end, it really wasn’t a difficult decision for either of us,” said Kristen. “The vaccine has been thoroughly tested by medical experts and is needed to help bring the pandemic under control. We both recommend the vaccine to friends and family, and when it becomes available we hope they all sign up to get it.”
Kristen, who received her COVID-19 vaccination first, was asked to staff one of St. Joe’s Oakland’s earliest vaccine clinics. Fate would have it that these two sisters would be brought together once again, this time with Megan as the patient, and Kristen the nurse administering her vaccine.
“I trust my sister,” said Megan. “We both believe in the vaccine and she would never have vaccinated me if we didn’t both wholeheartedly believe it was the right thing to do for each other and our family. Kristen and I have been through this experience together, as sisters, and I love her with all my heart. So it was nice for her to have been the one to administer my shot.”
My mother fell ill and was taken by ambulance to St. Joe’s Oakland. I’ll be honest – I had it in my mind it wasn’t the right place to go. But I was wrong.
The staff treated us like family and kept us informed at every turn. I was so thoroughly impressed. The care… The kindness… The facility was incredible – beautiful and new. The atmosphere was intimate; they have advanced technology and compassion. My mother, 97, ended up passing away in the loving care of her family, the doctors and staff. St. Joe’s should not be a “best kept secret.” The way they treated us during such a difficult and sacred time is the reason I recommend St. Joe’s to everyone.
– Darlene Sullivan
OAKLAND – Sean McCusker, a 51-year-old husband and father of three from Livonia, has faced immense challenges in the last six months. Diagnosed with both COVID-19 and a stroke at the same time, he lost his ability to walk and speak fluently, and has battled hard to recover. His determination, along with caring staff members and loved ones, have made his recovery possible.
Sean’s journey began in late March, when he first experienced symptoms of COVID-19. After a telemedicine visit with his primary care provider, he was instructed to quarantine at home, as his symptoms were generally mild. He had a low-grade fever, which dissipated after roughly ten days of quarantine. On the thirteenth day of Sean’s quarantine, he was home with his children when he suddenly began to have difficulties speaking and moving his right arm. He was taken by ambulance to St. Mary Mercy Livonia, where staff determined he had suffered a stroke.
Sean was transferred to St. Joseph Mercy Oakland for stroke treatment. While there, he also tested positive for COVID-19. It remains unclear if his stroke and COVID-19 diagnosis were related, though there is some evidence that COVID-19 may increase stroke risk. Sean required ventilation support for a few days, and then moved to the ICU. His wife Marla shared how difficult this time was, as COVID-19 restrictions meant visitors were not allowed: “It was so hard to not be able to see him. The staff was amazing though; they’d put on PPE and hold a phone up to him so we could FaceTime.”Continue reading “Sean’s Recovery Journey: Fighting COVID-19 and a Stroke with Help from St. Joe’s”
OAKLAND – At St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, the Life in Community team is working tirelessly to reach out to the area’s most vulnerable in their time of need.
The chaplains, mission specialists, Faith Community nurses, and community health workers collaborate with the local health department and other hospital programs to call people who are involuntarily isolated. This call list contains 1,700 people, with some in the hospital and some at home. These include former volunteers who can no longer come to the hospital, Senior Fit class attendees, cardiac rehab participants, patients and families of patients.
Referrals come daily for people in these circumstances. It is a remarkable telephone ministry offering spiritual care, emotional support, prayer, connection to resources and healing conversation.
These phone calls are making a real difference. Last week, a chaplain and mission colleague worked together to get an isolated community member the prescriptions he needed. The elderly person did not have transportation and was not confident taking the bus, given the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the team members were able to arrange for the prescription to be delivered.
Another weekly volunteer who is now isolated at home was running out of food. This volunteer usually eats at the hospital and relies on that for at least two daily meals. The Life in Community team arranged for food delivery for the volunteer.
The Life in Community team is working behind the scenes to continue to connect people to each other and the resources of daily life they need, including conversation, social connection, prayer, and love.
Robin and Jim Henderson chose St. Joseph Mercy Oakland as their hospital to deliver their four children in the 1970s, and have given generously to support vital expansions and innovative programs throughout the hospital for more than three decades.
“Our four kids were born at St. Joe’s. And, since then, we’ve been able to watch the hospital grow and progress over the years and have seen the way it helps people and saves peoples’ lives,” explained Jim as he and Robin accepted the hospital’s Mercy Legacy Award this year, presented by Shannon Striebich, President, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland.
Throughout the years, the Hendersons have maintained a close relationship with the hospital and made gifts to support areas of great need.
As part of the 2002 West Wing Campaign, they made a generous gift that allowed St. Joe’s to establish the “Robin L. & James E. Henderson Medical Clinic,” a teaching clinic for residents and fellows at St. Joe’s. The Clinic provides primary care and specialty services such as cardiology and pre- and post-surgical care to more than 1,000 patients each year.
When St. Joe’s Oakland launched the Future is Now capital campaign, the Hendersons were among its biggest supporters. The Campaign helped fund the new Patient Tower, Surgical Pavilion and leading-edge technology that has garnered six consecutive annual awards as the “Most Wired” Hospital by the American Hospital Association.
The Hendersons’ insightful giving toward the Campaign allowed St. Joe’s to implement an incredible technological feature, the Surgical Pavilion’s Patient Tracking System to transform the waiting experience for family members who are given regular updates via a screen in the waiting room. Each patient is assigned a number to protect privacy and when the surgery is complete, the surgeon provides a personal update.
“It’s just a short period of time in the hospital, but it’s a very emotional and intense time,” said Jim regarding the wait family members have during a loved one’s surgery.
The Hendersons have been true partners in St. Joe’s mission providing support for advanced medical services as well as compassionate and spiritual healing. Following their gift for the Surgical Pavilion, they made a gift to name the “Robin L. and James E. Henderson Reflection Garden.”
“This is one of my favorite spots on campus… it’s just so beautiful. If you haven’t visited the reflection garden, I invite you to discover the peace and tranquility that patients, colleagues and guests have come to know,” said Shannon. “The Henderson Reflection Garden is an outdoor sanctuary.”
Most recently, the Hendersons made a transformational gift to name the “Robin L. and James E. Henderson Dental Center,” celebrating an ongoing partnership with the hospital, and meeting one of our community’s greatest needs.
The Hendersons’ inspirational giving has allowed St. Joe’s to expand and enhance our patient-focused dental center – one of only a few hospital-based dental centers in the state, providing specialized care to those with disabilities as well as serving families who are uninsured or financially insecure.
Their gift was the capstone of a two-year campaign to raise funds to expand the dental center. The expanded clinic has five treatment rooms, a laboratory workspace for the dental residents, a complete instrument sterilization area, and a private consultation/classroom area. One of the treatment rooms has a floor-mounted hoist that can lock into a wheelchair so it can be tilted back like a dental chair to enhance comfort and safety for patients while they are receiving dental treatment.
“Regular dental care and good oral health are essential to overall health, self-esteem and quality of life,” said Craig C. Spangler, DDS, Program Director Emeritus for the General Dental Residency. “The Hendersons, and all those who have supported the clinic, have made it possible for those patients with barriers to dental care to receive comprehensive dental treatment while training the dentists of tomorrow.”
The Henderson’s generous gift is making a difference for the 600 patients who visit the Dental Center each year. Some of these patients have not had dental treatment in many years, and present with treatment challenges that may be treated in the clinic, or require treatment in the operating room under general anesthesia.
Jim has shared, “Robin and I view our contributions to St. Joe’s over the years as something we just wanted to do because we thought we could help a few people be a little better off than they otherwise would have been. We’re delighted St. Joe’s has been able to provide that help to so many people in need.”
“Having philanthropic partners like the Hendersons allows St. Joe’s Oakland to be an innovative leader in health care and to sustain our commitment to serve all those in need,” said Shannon. “We are grateful and inspired by Jim and Robin’s vision and ongoing investment in St. Joe’s, our healing mission, and the patients we serve.”
To make a gift today, visit: giving.stjoeshealth.org/oakland
To learn more about St. Joseph Mercy Oakland and ways you can support our healing mission, please contact The Office of Development at:
Jill Schubiner, Gift Officer
248-858-6146 or Jill.Schubiner@stjoeshealth.org
OAKLAND – Shannon Striebich, president of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, was honored this morning with the Healthcare Leadership Award, a recognition given by The Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) during its annual membership meeting held on Mackinaw Island. Shannon was selected for the award based on her proven record of providing exceptional leadership to St. Joe’s and her strong commitment to the health and well-being of communities served by the hospital. In addition to the award, MHA also donated $1,000 to Grace Centers of Hope, a charity chosen by Shannon.
Since joining the St. Joe’s administration in 2002, Shannon has held positions of increasing responsibility. In 2016 she was appointed president of the hospital and tasked with completing its $300 million campus rebuild. She was the lead executive on construction of the hospital’s $145 million South Patient Tower and $60 million Surgical Pavilion.
Beyond facility improvements, Shannon has increased St. Joe’s footprint throughout Oakland County. This includes strategic investments into the Clarkston Imaging Center, Waterford Medical Complex and growing the hospital’s physician network — known as the St. Joe’s Medical Group.
During her tenure Shannon has promoted population health through innovative partnerships and improved collaboration with EMS agencies, adoption of award-winning telemedicine technologies, support for the hospital’s Faith Community Nursing Program, and funding of Mercy Support programs, which offer assistance to low-income residents with barriers to care.
Striebich is a servant leader and staunch supporter of the hospital’s 2,500 colleagues. She has helped establish the conditions for their success by developing an award-winning culture, which includes implementation of workplace safety programs, improved colleague engagement, and creation of mutually supportive relationships throughout the hospital.
Shannon has served on the MHA Legislative Policy Panel for three years, is a member of the MHA Keystone Center Board of Directors, and has served on the MHA Quality and Accountability Committee.
With a commitment to education and helping others, Sue and Ray Baber built a legacy of supporting St. Joe’s Oakland, most notably as volunteers and through gifts to establish the Suzanne and Raymond Baber, Jr., Endowed Fund for Nursing Education.
The Path to Giving Sue grew up in a small farming village near Grand Rapids, but as an avid reader, her mind and dreams were expansive. Her interests led her to Central Michigan University where she majored in English and teaching, and later to University of Michigan for a counseling degree. For tuition, Sue relied on scholarships and work study roles like cafeteria dishwasher. Her commitment paid off with a 19-year career in her beloved fields. Fortuitously, Sue also led a Future Nurses Club at the high school where she taught.
During his life, Ray Baber was an avid supporter of education. Ray served as a United States Navy Pilot, led General Motors Truck and Assembly and was the Vice President for Campbell Ewald’s Chevrolet account team. He knew the value of good training and accredited education for much of his success. The couple generously supported Kettering University and Central Michigan University as well as other organizations.
When they retired in 1996, Ray and Sue wanted to give back to the doctors, nurses and hospital they trusted with their health. They began to volunteer at St. Joe’s. Ray was a greeter, and Sue was assigned to the ICU. At first she checked people in and out, but her diligence and good nature quickly led to greater responsibilities on the unit. It was during that time Sue began to bond with the nurses.
Making a Difference
“When I was with the nurses in the breakroom, many shared their interest in education like seminars or advanced degrees, wishing they had the means. And, I always wanted to do something to help,” explained Sue. “As patients, Ray and I noticed the staff was very caring and we were impressed by the hospital’s investment in making staff feel confident in their roles. We wanted to build on their commitment because nursing education benefits the nurse, their colleagues, and the patients.”
The Babers’ support has strengthened the nursing education program, funding an onsite annual conference, off-site seminars, certifications, and advanced degrees (see sidebar).
“I started at St. Joe’s as a patient care tech, and Sue always encouraged me to continue my education and broaden my career,” said Nick Nickolopoulos, Director of Nursing – Medical-Surgical/Critical Care/ Nursing Resource Pool. “She is inspiring. And, Sue and Ray’s gifts have strengthened the skills and passion of many nurses at St. Joe’s.” Nick is among the many nurses who became friends with Sue.
And, Sue feels the same way about them. “When I lost Ray in 2005, returning to my volunteer work at St. Joe’s was really important to me. I don’t have any siblings – the nurses are like my family.”
Today, at 90 years old, Sue has retired from volunteering and saves her energy for tai chi and aqua aerobics, “it keeps me going,” she says. She has stayed connected to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Lake Orion, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and St. Joe’s McAuley Club. And, of course, she continues to read a lot, visit St. Joe’s (she’s especially fond of the Robin L. and James E. Henderson Reflection Garden), and remains in touch with many of the nurses at St. Joe’s.
“Our nurses, and ultimately, our patients, are so fortunate for the Babers’ generosity,” said Dawn Hanson, Nurse Manager ICU and Scholarship Committee Co-chair. “Sue taught me to be a mentor. It’s an honor to hold true to the integrity of the Babers’ intentions to help nurses build resilience, compassion, and expertise. Both personally and as a nurse leader, I’m extremely grateful to Sue for her friendship and time and to her and Ray for their foresight and gifts.”
Since the article was written, The Suzanne and Raymond Baber, Jr., Endowed Fund for Nursing Education was recognized at the 2019 McAuley Club and Mercy Heritage Society Annual Appreciation Dinner for its ongoing impact, benefitting more than 50 nurses this past year through support for ongoing education including scholarships, graduate residency support, trauma symposiums and national conferences. Nick Nickolopoulos was promoted to Chief Nursing Officer of St. Joe’s Oakland sister hospital St. Mary Mercy Livonia.
Nursing Education Achievements 2016-2017
- 35 Nursing Scholarships (July 2016 – November 2017)
- 180 nurses attending bi-annual Emergency and Critical Care Conference – onstie at the hospital
- 3 ICU nurses attended the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Comprehensive Unitbased Safety Program (CUSP)
- 2 nurses became Certified Emergency Nurses
- 2 nurses became Critcal Care Registered Nurses
To make a gift to St. Joe’s Oakland, visit:
Or, contact the Office of Development
Jana McNair, Regional Director of Major Gifts, at 248-858-3556 or Jana.McNair@stjoeshealth.org
Craig Peiser, Director of Major Gifts, at 248-858-6142 or Craig.Peiser@stjoeshealth.org
Jill Schubiner, Gift Officer, at 248-858-6146 or Jill.Schubiner@stjoeshealth.org
(Source: “Gift of Health” Spring 2017)