A Shot of Hope

Dr. Kimberly Townsend, President and CEO, Loretto Management Corporation

Dr. Kimberly Townsend, President and CEO, Loretto Management Corporation

It is an honor and a privilege to be a trailblazer for the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 60% of the United States population is anxiously awaiting their turn. To be in an industry that is among the first to receive this vaccine is monumental. In business, being “the first” means two things: first-mover advantages, as well as pioneer costs. These two things do not exist in a vacuum – whether you like it or not, you get both.

As the President and CEO of Loretto, I am eager for my frontline healthcare workers and residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine. As a leader, I would never ask my employees to do something I am not willing to do myself. A few weeks ago, when we offered the vaccine to employees and residents, I was among the first to receive the vaccine because I want to express my confidence in research and science. At the same time, I was not eager to be at the front of the line, as I know there are those more vulnerable than I who will not have the opportunity to get the vaccine right away.

Am I grateful that I have immunity from getting very sick from COVID-19? Yes. But at the same time, my heart breaks for my mother-in-law, who is in her 80s, with pre-existing conditions. She is not among the first group because she isn’t a resident at a senior living facility or a hospital patient. It’s not enough to have a vaccine. We have to get people vaccinated.

This is where pragmatic altruism – my philosophy that doing good is good business – comes into play.

Pragmatic altruism is not charity or only doing good for good’s sake. Rather, it is doing good with a vision, a purpose; in a way that’s a “win-win” for yourself and your business. I have written two books on this topic, Lifecircle Leadership and Lessons in Lifecircle Leadership, a workbook companion released in January 2021. While the pandemic proved to be a challenging interruption to my writing, I stayed the course, as I sensed during a crisis, people needed leadership support more than ever.

It turns out pragmatic altruism has implications today that I could not have predicted. During this pandemic, leaders have a significant opportunity to make an impact – positive or negative – in the lives of their employees and their greater community. Being a leader is not limited to an organization – it extends into leadership within a community.

At Loretto, one of the first things we did when the pandemic started was to connect employees with those others who could provide childcare. We wanted to ensure that our employees could continue making their shifts without stressing about finding childcare when schools and daycare facilities closed. And now, being among the first to receive the vaccine and part of the Upstate Medical University Vaccination Hub Advisory Board, I feel energized to be a passionate advocate committed to determining how we reach all people with what is expected to be a life-saving vaccine.

None of us are safe until all of us are safe. Access is a big piece of the puzzle, but so is education. Many of our employees are understandably hesitant to get a new vaccine, so we are making an effort to educate staff on the facts. We are also creating awareness among our employees that, right now, a vaccine is the sole source of light at the end of this very dark, long COVID-19 tunnel.

This long, dark tunnel is much bigger than healthcare. There is a downstream disaster that we can’t ignore – people struggling due to unemployment, poverty, permanent caregiving at home for remote learning, extreme stress from isolation, the political divide in our country, and more. But, as I tell our employees, this vaccine is a shot of hope to get closer to the light. Our community needs this message and this vaccine.

In conclusion, yes, it is an honor and a privilege to be a trailblazer during a pandemic. But I want to ensure the trail I blaze leads to access to a vaccine and treatment for everyone in our community. I challenge you to do the same – what can you do to make sure that everyone in our community has an equal shot at life?

Dr. Kimberly Townsend, MBA, MPA, JD, Ed.D, CPA, FACHE, is President and CEO at Loretto Management Corporation in Syracuse, NY and an expert in healthcare management and leadership. She is also the author of the books Lifecircle Leadership: How Exceptional People Make Every Day Extraordinary, and Lessons in Lifecircle Leadership: A Practical Guide to Pragmatic Altruism. After nearly twenty years in the field of healthcare, Dr. Townsend has seen how leaders at all levels have the power to make a positive impact on employees, the people they serve, and the community at large. The key is to approach problems and their solutions with the mindset of pragmatic altruism, which believes that every problem has a solution that benefits all parties.