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Two lives devoted to service

A deep sense of service connects the two most recent inductees into Modern Healthcare's Health Care Hall of Fame.

As founder and CEO of SSM Health, Sister Mary Jean Ryan led efforts to improve the quality of care that ended up winning the St. Louis-based system the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2002. SSM was the first healthcare organization to ever win the coveted prize. Twelve years later, she was the second person to receive the Harry H. Hertz Leadership Award from the Baldrige Foundation.
"She is as focused on patient safety and quality as any human being I've ever known,” said Chris Howard, chief operating officer for SSM, recalling that Ryan also remained focused on “ensuring that the rights of all patients, employees, physicians and the community were represented."

While working at a hospital in South Carolina during the era of segregation early in her career, Ryan broke the rules and placed white babies next to black babies in the hospital's nursery. "And as far as we know, nobody ever suffered any kind of permanent damage from that,” Ryan recalled with her signature spunk.
The Health Care Hall of Fame is the Industry's most prestigious award and was created in 1988 to honor individuals whose exemplary and long-lasting achievements have positively affected the health of people around the world. The inductees exemplify the best in executive leadership and public service and represent the most distinguished people ever to work in healthcare.
George Caldwell, this year's other inductee, found purpose in using human capital to leverage innovations aimed at maintaining access to quality healthcare at low cost.

Early on during his 40-plus year career as a hospital administrator, Caldwell saw the shifts in relationships between payers and providers and the need to control costs, and he responded by integrating physician and hospital services. He served for 12 years as president of Lake Forest Hospital in north suburban Chicago and ended his executive career as president and CEO of Lutheran General Healthcare System, also in the Chicago suburbs and now part of Advocate Health.

Over the course of his career he expanded services in mental health, substance and alcohol abuse, long-term care and more.

“He believed in helping others. It was that simple,” said James Caldwell, his son.

Among Caldwell's many strong beliefs was the idea that no one accomplishes much alone, and that influence was best practiced with humility.

“He told me that the job of the CEO was to lead the board without them feeling like they were being led,” said Steven Seiler, a former hospital executive and someone who Caldwell mentored.

The life stories of these two influential healthcare leaders serve as examples of the courage and kindness needed to make a lasting impact in the industry. Indeed courage is a prominent trait among all the trailblazers and influencers we've recognized in the Hall of Fame over the past 30 years.

–Aurora Aguilar, Editor


Joel Allison
Retired CEO
Baylor Scott & White Health

John Bluford
Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute
President emeritus
Truman Medical Centers

Deborah Bowen
President and CEO
American College of Healthcare Executives

Fawn Lopez
Vice president and publisher
Modern Healthcare

William Petasnick
Retired CEO

Nancy Schlichting
Retired CEO
Henry Ford Health System