“Teamwork makes the dream work.” “There’s no ‘I’ in team”. “Together Everyone Achieves More.”
We’ve all heard these phrases before. They’ve been etched in our mind since grade school. But for Daniel Jackson, CEO of DMC Sinai-Grace, teamwork is more than a phrase plastered on the walls in elementary school — it is a way of life.
Born and raised in Warner Robins, Georgia, by middle class parents (his father is a minister and his mother worked for the Keebler Company) he and his siblings were taught the importance of working together.
“My parents taught us that there’s nothing in this world that you can’t do; but there’s nothing that you’ll ever do alone. So, I value team and working together. That has really shaped my life philosophy.”
His collaborative nature would serve him well throughout his career. Jackson was named chief executive officer of DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital in September 2019. He brought with him nearly 20 years of valuable healthcare experience to the DMC, having worked in numerous senior leadership roles including prior roles with Tenet. Most recently, he served as vice president of administration with WellStar Health System’s Atlanta Medical Center – South, where he had previously served as chief administrative officer prior to its acquisition from Tenet.
So, Jackson’s move to Sinai-Grace may be just what the doctor ordered.
“I have a background in actualizing potential. I specialize in taking things from one level to the next. So, when it comes to Sinai-Grace the actual facility has been renovated and upgraded prior to my arrival, so now it’s time to renovate the way we operate. I want people to recognize Sinai-Grace as a top-notch facility inside and out.”
It’s no secret that DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital has had its share of controversy. You’ve no doubt heard of the recent complaints of high nurse to patient ratio, long hours and personal protective equipment shortages. Even before the pandemic, staffing shortages were alleged to be common at the hospital.
In early 2018, Grace was in danger of losing its federal Medicare funding after inspections found “significant” deficiencies in nursing care and building safety, and more recently there was the allegation of bodies being improperly stored amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
To say Sinai-Grace has a complicated reputation would be putting it mildly.
However, Jackson is undaunted by Sinai-Grace’s reputation. He says he is “fully committed to turning things around.” But before he could even begin to discuss his plan to turn Sinai-Grace into a five-star hospital he had to first listen.
“I had to get a good picture of what was going on from all sides,” he said. I sat down with the nurses, the doctors, the janitors — everyone. I am committed to working with staff and management to identify the areas that need improvement and we are putting plans in place to exceed expectations.”
However, COVID-19 has made any plans of restructuring Sinai-Grace difficult, to say the least. Having only been on the job for five months prior to the COVID-19 outbreak Jackson was still in the early assessment and execution phase when the hospital became a “hotspot” for the virus. Reports suggest that Sinai-Grace was among the hardest-hit hospitals by Detroit’s surge of COVID-19 patients.
Jackson knows that the pandemic has taken its toll on staff and the community at large and wants to let everyone know that he is empathetic to the added layer of stress added to an already demanding job.
“This [COVID-19 outbreak] was absolutely unprecedented,” said Jackson. “Honestly not very many, if any, hospitals were prepared for the influx of COVID-19 patients that we have encountered. I have to acknowledge the hard work of the staff. They have been dedicated and worked diligently during this difficult time.”
As a result of the staff’s diligence Sinai-Grace reports approximately 749 recovered COVID-19 patients.
“Our team has been resilient and we make extra effort to provide support for them in terms of counseling and other resources,” he continued. “You have to regroup and refresh in order to come back into this arena to provide care for the community.”
Jackson’s concern with the community was fully on display when he decided to meet with the local churches and community leaders to talk about the rising number of violent incidences that occur at the hospital.
“There have been incidences where family members of an injured person have come to the hospital and disruptions occur. So, I spoke to community leaders about the need to respect the hospital as a safe zone and a place for healing.” Jackson says the community responded well and as a result the number of those types of occurrences decreased.
“We have a host of frontline workers that include physicians and nurses and other caregivers who courageously care for the community and we have to make sure that they are safe so that they can provide the best care and support.”
Jackson is taking a new approach to leadership at Sinai-Grace, one that includes alliance building and bridging the communication gap between staff and administration. He has plans for taking Sinai-Grace into the future but is quick to point out that the first step is mastering the basics.
“Before we can branch off into secondary plans we need to ensure that we do our primary functions well. That means being available to the public in their moment of need and ensuring that our operations are available and have the capacity to care for patients. At the end of the day everything we do is about the patients and our commitment to provide care without qualifications.”
Despite the bumpy road Jackson remains optimistic and enthusiastic about serving in Detroit.
“My introduction to Detroit has been wonderful. People have been extremely supportive and have made me feel welcomed and that has allowed me to go about my work with a certain level of excitement and commitment,” Jackson said. “We have certainly had our challenges and despite what I have experienced in this short amount of time I count it as a blessing and an honor to be here.”