The year was 1902, the mission, to spread compassion, genuine caring,
and a dedication that carried them across the state of Alaska to communities in
need. Who were they? The Sisters of Providence. Last night I had the unique
opportunity to listen to Providence Health & Services Alaska, Chief
Executive Officer Preston M. Simmons, DSc., FACHE give a presentation to board
members of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. He started with the history of
Providence and how it came to be in Alaska. To imagine four women traveling to
the far reaches of Nome, Alaska in 1902 is remarkable.
Following rumors that three of the largest gold nuggets ever
found in Alaska were near Nome, prospectors head west. By 1900, over 10,000
inhabitants occupy the town. With no formalized government, the community has
few provisions for social welfare and local leaders look beyond the town for
help. Heeding their call, two Roman Catholic priests arrive in July 1901.
Knowing of the great works of the Sisters of Providence, they persuade the
Sisters to establish a much-needed hospital in Nome and thus the first
organized healthcare in Alaska was formed. Currently Nome is the 16th
largest city in Alaska with just under 3,900 people. Can you imagine what it
was like 119 years ago with 10,000 people?!
The story of the Sisters intrigued me and reminded me a
little about the founding of the Better Business Bureau. BBB was formed in 1912
by a group of business leaders who wanted better for their own businesses and
for consumers as well. Advancing marketplace trust has always been the
foundation of the BBB, much like the Sisters of Providence, they wanted better
for their fellow man and to provide a service that was not yet developed.
CEO Simmons not only showed us where Providence came from,
but where they are going as well. In 2016 Providence Health & Services and
St. Joseph Health came together as Providence St. Joseph Health. Together, their
119,000-plus caregivers/employees serve in 51 hospitals, more than 800 clinics
and a comprehensive range of health and social services across Alaska,
California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington. As a combined organization, they are serving
more people, advancing best practices and continuing their more than 100-year
tradition of serving the poor and vulnerable. Delivering services across seven
states, Providence St. Joseph Health is committed to touching millions more
lives and enhancing the health of the American West to transform care for the
next generation and beyond.
Much like BBB Northwest + Pacific which serves Alaska,
Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Western Wyoming, BBB continues
to be a poignant and respected leader in advancing marketplace trust for the
next generation. Like the Sisters of Providence, we want to continue our work
for the better good of all businesses and consumers alike. Even if we are not
saving lives with medicine, we do live by our motto-Start With Trust.