Opportunity Knocks

Two anchor organizations team up to greatly expand opportunity for education and health careers.

From left: Anneliese McMenamin, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Inspira Health; Inspira Health’s Amy Mansue; Rowan’s Dr. Fred Keating; and Susan Hall, Ed.D., M.S.N., R.N., dean of Nursing and Health Professions for Rowan College of South Jersey.

Recently, Inspira Health President and CEO Amy Mansue sat down with President of Rowan College of South Jersey Frederick Keating, Ed.D., to discuss the two organizations’ partnership and what it means for nursing and health professions students, Inspira employees and residents of South Jersey.

Amy Mansue: Fred, it’s great to see you again. Thanks so much for being here today.

Dr. Keating: My pleasure.

I wanted to spend the majority of our time talking about our wonderful new relationship, but I feel like I would not be doing my due if I didn’t at least ask you for just a couple minutes. I know that you’re a Camden Gloucester County guy. You grew up here. Just spend a couple minutes telling people, you’ve been such a feature and a structure within the organization and within the community, but you actually grew up here, so give us that history.

I did. Heart is in Gloucester, where I’m currently living and working, grew up in Camden County, and now involved heavily in Cumberland County. So everything we talk about when we use the phrase South Jersey, it kinda rings really strongly with me that this is the community that I have been attached to all my life. And I want to spend my time working with people like you and others who are trying to improve the quality of life of South Jersey.

We were together literally, now I’m coming up on two years that I’ve been here. And that first week I was here, we were in a meeting together and you said, “I’ve got a vision,” and as we walked out the door of that meeting, you started to talk to me about what you thought was possible between our two organizations. And you obviously had been working on that long before I got here, so talk to me about that.

A little bit, yes. We gave a little bit of birth to a concept that’s been around nationally of an eds and meds card or concept, and that’s where you came in. Literally, at that point where we were talking about Route 55 and the medical aspects on 55, Rowan was moving ahead with their research status and they continued to do so. So we got into this relationship quickly with you, and the leadership that you have brought to southern New Jersey and to Inspira about the possibility of linking a college [that] is in partnership with the research university and their medical schools, specifically the School of Osteopathic Medicine, and what if we could attach it to Rowan and then bring it through to Inspira as literally a training college. We look at ourself now as a training college of Inspira Health.

You really made that case to me, Fred, where you talked about the importance of both of us as anchor organizations in the community and what that means, and maybe you could spend a little bit of time talking about the commitment to making sure that kids get to college and what the difference that plays in their lives.

We saw, and my former life in K12 at a high school next door, GCIT, with allied health academies and such. We here have always seen the out migration of population with individuals that have told us in high school that they were interested in allied health, bioscience, and medicine. And we watched them go away, and we never got them back. That demand and the need of population to be trained and retained and kept in southern New Jersey for the quality of life, our real estate, our market, literally our quality of life was predicated on doing something. So we had the idea, but the key partner you speak of was a major institution coming in and branding it and partnering with it because that gave the college instant credibility. We know we’re credible. We have a nursing division that leads the state four and two in private. So the idea of the pass rate and the quality of the nurse that we put out now with you coming in the clinical opportunity, the opportunity to have faculty exchanges, to have leadership, for them to get inside and see hospitals operate and patient care up front, not just as an experience, but as a culture, that you have brought a culture, and that’s what gives the nursing quality here. Our demand for our seats is so aggressive that we turn hundreds away.

Fred, it’s interesting because your leader and the dean of the School of Nursing, Dr. Sue Hall, she was actually in Inspira delivering care helping us through COVID.

Yes, she was.

As well as your students, as well as other leaders within your organization. And I think that that connectivity, seeing it real-time, having that trust… I mean, she’d been with variations of our Inspira organization for years.

We were connected. That helps greatly.

And in South Jersey, it’s so much a part of who we are. It represents what we see so many times in South Jersey, which is, “Okay, how do we put everybody at the table and figure out how to come together to create good for all?” And we know that an investment by Inspira in the university for the reduction in tuition for our staff who work at Inspira to be able to go there also gives the opportunity to really make sure during this difficult time, because colleges across the country are really struggling with enrollment to make sure we prop up that membership and enrollment and really help our employees get what they need, but also really make sure that you have the quality of people you need to be able to continue the great programs.

Critical point. Not only that, what I’ve been impressed with immediately was your employees responding to the tuition consideration and the enrollment, and the ability to climb the academic ladder by saying, “Look, I’m doing this but I’d like to aspire to do that, but I need credentialing, I need associate’s, I need a Bachelor of Science, I need to go on for a nurse… There’s all levels of that.

What I was impressed was the response of your employees to say, “You know what?” because no one ever sat down and explained it to a person that you can advance your career right here in southern New Jersey with a reputable, incredible program, and you can stay an employee of the system and go up. You’re basically building from within and without, a school here to provide you workforce. I’m impressed that your workforce is responding to also want to come in here.

Let me tell you a quick story. I had a per diem employee who asked me not to give her any press, but she had enrolled with you guys but not actually signed up for courses. So she’d filled out the application, she knew she wanted to do it, but she just couldn’t make all the pieces come together. When we made this announcement, she was one of our first calls. It’s going to change the course of her life, and that’s why this is so important to us because not only do I get already a dedicated employee who is interested in Inspira and knows us, but she’s now gonna be able to pursue her life.

She’ll be trained as a nurse and be able to come back and provide you that service at that level, and she is already a part of your family and your culture. This idea that you can put an education component and be the college of health and nursing training for a hospital system. Even now in the relationship, opening up your hospitals to the idea of a night shift, we took another class of nurses, another cohort off the wait list who were qualified to come in because now we had clinical opportunity. So these doors just kept opening and opening, and the only thing that runs around in our mind, my mind here, and I know it’s in yours is where do we go from here?

For me, I think about those kids. I think about the stats—Cumberland County has a high school dropout rate of approximately 20 percent, the highest in New Jersey. To me, that’s the what’s next. How do we get to those kids? How do we help get them the vision that their life can create, can be part of not only just graduating from high school but being part of that college experience. And you have those relationships in the high schools already, so really looking at how we provide the supports together to be able to do that because we know that that changes the economic future of entire groups of people.

It’s generational change. But your point of pushing down into the culture of the community, that’s what we’re sensitive to because we’re technically a community college. We have community roots. We serve in other ways. We were a mega site for vaccination of almost half a million people here at this campus. So we have community roots … and that’s the culture that you brought to Inspira.

What you’re doing, what we’re doing is trying to give both quality of life and opportunity of life at the same time. We can take care of you, but we can also show you a pathway or guide you through an educational system. But you’re right, without Rowan University, Ali Houshmand, Tony Lowman, and Jeff Hand in enrollment management coming in and working hand in hand with us, like you’re now doing.

And Dean [Tom] Cavalieri at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Tom has been our savior. By the way this conversation, just like you, I went over and met with Tom and some of his staff. We sat in a little room. I rolled out a little, planted the dirt. We’re the ones who came together and said, “Yeah, we can do that.” Gloucester County built it, they came. Now Rowan School of Medicine, I’m told when that school out there that has its first class next week of 75 doctors to be that we hope will live and stay here and service when that gets to 300 that that will be the second largest osteopathic school of medicine in the country.

And we at Inspira, many people don’t understand that we have one of the largest teaching programs in the state. We already had it at Vineland. We’re over 160 resident slots. And then, at Mullica Hill, we’re now in the process of building it, and I’m so thrilled that we got to start our first three residents in psychiatry, again in partnership with Dr. Cavalieri and all the folks at Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine. And it goes back to what’s the need of the community.

It’s probably the next step. When we say what’s next, you and I have spoken. We’ve all looked at it. We have opened up a brand new division of behavioral health science here at our level. We’ve talked to some mental health providers in the region about the same kind of partnership where they have hundreds of jobs that are not filled in the mental health arena. We’re a country that’s screaming desperately for mental health help and counseling and provision of service, and getting younger and younger every day in that need. It has to be, we have to respond to it. You bring that to the table, Rowan Medicine now with psychiatric for the first time brings that to the table. We can knit that one together. We could take a lead in the provision of outpatient and inpatient behavioral health services for people throughout this region.

And the reality is that we have prioritized in cooperation with Rowan College of South Jersey the students that grew up here and trained here. That’s the story we want over and over and over again because that’s the pipeline for the future. And I’m so grateful to you and to all of those who really allowed in spirit to come sit at this table and be an active participant in it.

We just provided the room. More importantly, what you just said a minute ago, training doctors and nurses that will live here, don’t take your skills and go somewhere else. We need you to stay here for the quality of life in the southern part of our state.

For me, it’s about the affirmation to the residents of South Jersey that your organizations that have been here are continuing to push ourselves to make sure we deliver service for you, and that’s what your entire career has been about, Fred.

Well, thank you. And last point on this is tell us what you need, and if it’s within our purview, we will seek it, we will get accreditation or approval and we will provide it. So that to me is what’s entrenched in my head, in my heart, is that when we hear need of a medical arena and the possibility of shortage in that area, we have to respond educationally. And now with Rowan University, we can get you to be a doctor, Rowan can, and we can start that game when you’re a sophomore in high school.

It is an honor to be part of this community as Inspira, but it’s really an honor to be a partner with you, Fred. Thank you.

Good to have you in the neighborhood. Thank you.

* * *

Learn more about the partnership between Rowan College of South Jersey and Inspira at rcsj.edu/inspira.