Street Talk: Healing hearts and minds

Violence prevention.

The Biblical phrase (Luke 4:23), “Physician, heal thyself,” often is quoted in reference to doctors, nurses and other medical personnel suffering from burnout.

Spectrum Health took that advice to heart and is being recognized for its efforts.

Spectrum is a recipient of the American Medical Association’s 2021 Joy in Medicine Health System Recognition Program.

The national distinction recognizes health systems with a demonstrated commitment to preserving the well-being of health care team members by engaging in proven efforts to combat work-related stress and burnout. Spectrum is one of 44 health care organizations across the country to be recognized this year.

“It’s truly an honor to receive such important recognition from the AMA, and we are committed to continuing our work to help support all of our frontline team members,” said Dr. Joshua Kooistra, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Spectrum Health. “COVID has tested us all, but it’s the people on our front lines who are, most often, feeling the extreme mental effects of the pandemic, and it’s our responsibility to ensure their well-being is intact.”

Since the pandemic began, the health system has implemented several resources to help support team members including a “well-being index” that regularly gauges how well clinicians are doing both physically and mentally, as well as offering community building programs, support groups, promoting mindfulness and launching a peer-support pilot program.

A national study examining the experiences of physicians and other health care workers who worked in health care systems during the COVID-19 pandemic found that 38% self-reported experiencing anxiety or depression, while 43% suffered from work overload and 49% had burnout.

Kooistra added that while the health system has been seeing similar burnout and stress trends, feedback from the index continues to shed light on what helps and what doesn’t. For example, an overwhelming majority of respondents said it was their Spectrum Health colleagues that helped improve their sense of well-being the most.

“I am grateful to Dr. Kristin Jacob, Courtney Hilbert and our team at the Office of Physician & APP Fulfillment who are dedicated to the well-being of our physicians and combating stress and burnout with proactive, innovative efforts that take into account this important feedback,” Kooistra said. “It’s because of these initiatives that continue our momentum to make Spectrum Health a great place to work.”

Candidates for the Joy in Medicine Health System Recognition Program were evaluated according to their documented efforts to reduce work-related burnout through system-level drivers. Scoring criteria were based on demonstrated competencies in commitment, assessment, leadership, efficiency of practice environment, teamwork and support.

Hello, awards

An annual Thanksgiving talent recruiting event series has received acclaim from the International Economic Development Council.

Back To Michigan, a collaborative, statewide event spearheaded by Hello West Michigan and The Right Place, was awarded a silver and bronze ranking by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) at the council’s 2021 annual conference.

Hello West Michigan convened the Back To Michigan Host Organization Committee, which came together during COVID-19 to host Back To Michigan, a series of virtual career fairs for people interested in relocating to Michigan. The virtual event concept is based on ReThink West Michigan, the award-winning in-person event Hello West Michigan and The Right Place host yearly on the night before Thanksgiving.

The Back To Michigan Host Organization Committee won silver in the Regionalism and Cross-Border Collaboration category. The Back To Michigan event series won bronze in the Innovation Programs and Initiatives category.

“Our committee came together during COVID and consisted of a dozen host organizations, most of whom had never worked together or even met each other,” said Rachel Gray, executive director of Hello West Michigan. “Together, in collaboration with the state of Michigan, we organized an event series that resulted in over 2,000 registrants and multiple hires. The Back To Michigan Host Organization Committee is helping to alleviate one of the most critical challenges regions are facing right now: attracting talent.”

IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials and the year’s most influential leaders. Twenty-five award categories honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban and rural communities. Awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers, following a nomination process held earlier this year. IEDC received over 500 submissions from four countries.

“The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the best of economic (development),” said Tom Kucharski, 2021 IEDC board chair and Invest Buffalo Niagara president and CEO. “This year more than ever has presented opportunities to innovate, impact and progress the cities, neighborhoods and communities around us.”

For 2021, several regions are hosting in-person and virtual events for Back To Michigan. West Michigan’s regional event, ReThink West Michigan, will be held Nov. 10 and Nov. 24. Company registration is open now at

Safe at home

Safe Haven ministries recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and received a valuable gift along the way — federal funding to expand telehealth and mobile advocacy for individuals suffering from relationship or domestic abuse.

“These additional resources provide a critical opportunity for mobile advocacy to increase access for victims to connect with resources and support survivor-driven planning for safety with an interconnected network of people and organizations in our community,” said Safe Haven’s executive director, Rachel VerWys.

Safe Haven, which was first named Ramoth House, once had the capacity for just three individuals and their children. Thanks to a move in 2018 to a new facility with the help of capital campaign funding, Safe Haven now has the ability to provide a safe shelter and services for up to 56 individuals, including children. A safe space in the community is needed indeed as 2,715 crisis contacts were received last year through the organization’s 24/7 phone, text or web crisis support, allowing Safe Haven to serve 790 households for approximately eight nights at a time.

Safe Haven also joins forces with community partners to stop violence at the source by providing prevention and training initiatives at schools, churches and businesses.

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