At the Art of Health Gala on Oct. 13, it seemed fitting that guests would be told a story – an art form that goes back to the beginning of time.
The story’s teller was Christine Candio, president and CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital. Its author was Nathan Grieshaber, now a third-grader at Ballwin Elementary. When Nathan was in first grade, his teacher had asked the class to critique a company. Nathan chose St. Luke’s.
“I don’t know about you guys but in first grade I just wanted to draw within the lines,” Candio quipped before reading Nathan’s critique.
Using all the emphases and pauses of a master storyteller, Candio, joined by Nathan on stage, began:
“Do you like babies and check-ups? Then, you’ll want to go to St. Luke’s. It’s a place where you can get a check-up and have a baby. They are so, so nice. St. Luke’s is a great place because sometimes they come around with cookies.”
The audience chuckled, before Candio continued. But Nathan, in an interview prior to his stage appearance, said he wrote about St. Luke’s because he “liked what they did, how they treated everyone.”
Specifically, he liked how they treated his mom and his brother, Collin, who was “just being born.”
Steve and Lynn Grigone, co-chairs of the Gala, think Nathan’s critique is spot-on.
“There’s the science of health, but the art of health is really what it’s all about,” Steve said in describing how the gala committee came up with its theme. “The art of health is about building good relationships, being a good steward in the community and really focusing on the whole person rather than just delivering a health need.”
Lynn added, “Like art, there’s a creative process, there’s talent, there’s a people connection – and all of that goes into health as well.”
In her remarks from the podium, Candio echoed the Grigones’ remarks.
“It really is about the people,” she said. She noted that when St. Luke’s opened its doors in 1866, the hospital was staffed by only eight physicians. “Today our patients have access to more than 900 physicians in more than 60 specialties. Nearly 4,600 team members are on staff across our healthcare ministry and more than 400 volunteers that donate their time and talent on our behalf. Last year alone, our volunteers donated more than 85,000 hours.”
Kathryn Armstrong is one of those volunteers. She divides her time between the infusion center and the surgery center.
“I love it,” she said. “I got involved about eight years ago [after spending time at St. Luke’s with a friend going through chemo]. I do all the niceties … I bring the patients sodas and put blankets on them and visit with those that don’t have family members. It’s really just doing things that keep the doctors and nurses focused on healthcare.
“A lot of times what we’re doing is just easing anxiety.”
Armstrong described St. Luke’s volunteers as “so passionate” and noted that they only have to commit to four hours a week but many, like her, do more. The ages of volunteers, she said, run the gamut from students to seniors.
Dan Stegmann, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors, said St. Luke’s employees and physicians also volunteer, using their “vacation time to go to remote parts of the world to take care of people who are waiting for healthcare from the time they leave until the time they come back.”
Those volunteers are part of a group known as PAMS [Peruvian American Medical Society].
“They [St. Luke’s personnel] do the mission trips every two years,” Stengmann said. “That’s one of the bigger, deeper meanings of the art of health at St. Luke’s. It’s a really special place.”
In 2018, St. Luke’s expanded to the southeast, with the acquisition of St. Luke’s Des Peres Hospital.
“We saw an opportunity to expand our health ministry in communities where we didn’t have a presence,” Candio said. “St. Luke’s Des Peres is a strong orthopedic surgical hospital, also a bariatric weight loss program that is exceptional and in-patient medical units. Our goal is to build all of that up.”