Health Reviews

1 + 1 = 21: The Power of Collaboration

“We have an opportunity here to have one plus one equal 21.”

Fred Ramos, Highmark Well being’s senior vp of company communications, makes use of this word whilst recounting conversations with a number of companions who got here in combination in ongoing efforts to lend a hand their fellow U.S. voters in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after the devastation of Storm Maria.

It’s no longer simply his method of tying reduction efforts to the spirit of Pirates’ nice and humanitarian Roberto Clemente, who wore quantity 21. Whether or not it’s crisis reduction, bettering well being care, or simply being a excellent neighbor, Ramos believes that while you get collaboration proper, the affect turns into more than the sum of the person portions.

“If you get the focus right initially, and people come together because they want to do the right thing, and do it well, for patients or customers or their fellow human beings, that in itself creates a powerful sense of purpose,” he explains. “As a result, more people say, ‘I want to be part of that, here is what I bring to the table — and, oh, I know this other person who can help.’ As everyone starts to realize that we can make a difference together, and it feels good, even more people want to join the effort, so it continues growing exponentially. That’s what happened with the response to Hurricane Maria.”

“Hurricane Fred”

Ramos is aware of about catastrophes — and resilience. At 9, as he and his circle of relatives returned from visiting different members of the family on New Yr’s Eve, his father pulled their automobile over and walked again up the street to seek for a fuel cap that he idea had flown off. He by no means made it again, demise in a sad roadside twist of fate.

“My father was an entrepreneur who came to Chicago in one of the early waves of migration from Puerto Rico, because he thought he could do better by us — it was really the American Dream,” Ramos says. “I admired his business savvy, his persistence, his very personal approach — he defined ‘putting the customer first’ to me. Suddenly, I had lost my beacon, and I had to grow up quick.”

Company communications senior vp Fred Ramos visiting the Roberto Clemente museum in Pittsburgh.

An avid baseball fan, Ramos additionally idolized Roberto Clemente — and nonetheless has footage of “The Great One” placing in his place of business. “Even though I was a Cubs fan growing up, here was this Puerto Rican, like me, who played baseball like a man possessed — passionate, persistent, all in — and loved his family and was an inspiration on and off the field,” Ramos says.

Clemente died in a aircraft crash, throughout an earthquake crisis undertaking to ship reduction provides to Nicaragua. Like Ramos’ father, he died on New Yr’s Eve.

“I had these early losses, but Clemente and my father had a lasting influence,” Ramos says. “And still, every New Year’s eve, I remember and acknowledge them with a nod and a wink up to heaven.”

Their affect is a part of Ramos’ “all in” lifestyle and to serving to others, in addition to his capability to stay calm within the midst of a hurricane. Those characteristics served him neatly in positions the place responding to screw ups used to be phase of the activity description, together with as government director for The Allstate Basis previous in his occupation.

“We had the best catastrophe management and response team in the industry — first on the ground in just about any catastrophe,” he says. “When the San Francisco earthquake hit in 1989, we were there the next day driving around looking for people who we could help. It’s in my DNA — catastrophe, you go and respond. That kicked in with the hurricanes in 2017. My natural response is to think about how we could help.”

His vocal advocacy for crisis reduction contributions and private involvement in beef up efforts led Highmark Well being government vp Dan Onorato to start out calling him “Hurricane Fred.”

Highmark Well being and its associates spoke back to every crisis that hit the country within the fall of 2017, together with a number of hundred thousand greenbacks in company and worker donations. Allegheny Well being Community (AHN) workers have been phase of the country’s Crisis Clinical Help Groups (DMATs) offering reduction in every space. However the reaction to Storm Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico has been, neatly, case in point that one plus one can equivalent 21. Ramos is precisely the individual to give an explanation for this magical math.

“How Can I Help?”

“Our CEO, David Holmberg, always says when you’re facing a challenge, you have to ‘work the problem,’” Ramos says. “I believe we can overcome any challenges if we stay calm, cool and collected in the face of the storm, learn, and remain focused on working the problem. In every crisis, it really comes down to asking, ‘how can I help?’”

Ramos got here to Highmark Well being, and Pittsburgh, within the spring of 2016. He describes the chance to be phase of Highmark Well being’s paintings to grow to be well being care with nice hobby. He provides that he additionally felt attracted to town the place Clemente had performed — “a place that grieved for him like I’d grieved for him, and still reveres him as I and millions of others still do.”

On the first Pirates sport he attended after shifting to Pittsburgh, he met Ron Alvarado, chairman of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Space Hispanic Chamber of Trade. “It was like talking to my brother,” Ramos says. “Puerto Rican, loves salsa dancing, passionate Clemente fan.” In addition they mentioned how you can lend a hand different space Hispanic execs and companies, and Ramos authorised a call for participation to enroll in the Chamber’s board of administrators.

At some other sport later in 2016, Ramos met Pirates president Frank Coonelly — and predicted a Cubs International Sequence championship…which the Cubs went directly to win that 12 months. The subsequent time he noticed Coonelly, at a pre-game match in September of 2017 for Roberto Clemente Day at PNC Park, the Pirates president joked that possibly Ramos may just use his predictive powers to lend a hand the Pirates.

“I told him that could be a conflict of interest since the Cubs were in town, but that I would do anything else to help the Pirates, and that he and the Pirates had a friend across the bridge at Highmark Health,” Ramos says.

On Roberto Clemente night time, September 6, 2017, Ramos took this photograph of the Clemente statue out of doors PNC Park — with the Highmark development around the river within the background.

He provides that many of us who’ve collaborated at the reaction to Storm Maria have been at that sport — together with Alvarado, Luis Clemente (one of Roberto’s sons), Coonelly, and a large number of Highmark Well being and AHN leaders and personnel.

“There were dark clouds, like a storm forming, but the moon was as bright as the sun lighting up the Pittsburgh skyline,” he says, recalling the sport. “The grounds crew had cut Clemente’s number ‘21’ into the outfield grass, and the light made it look like the ‘21’ was on fire. Hurricane Irma went through the Caribbean that night, and hit Florida a few days later. A couple weeks later — Hurricane Maria. Reflecting back, I felt like Roberto Clemente was there that night telling us, ‘get prepared, we’re going to need your help.’”

Storm Maria left Puerto Rico with out power or drinkable water for days. A lot of the island didn’t regain power for months; some spaces nonetheless lack power as we submit this text six months later. Within the early days, Ramos notes that that specialize in how you can lend a hand used to be the one method for other people like him and Alvarado to offset the disappointment of no longer with the ability to succeed in family members in Puerto Rico to determine in the event that they have been secure.

It used to be Alvarado who first contacted a Pittsburgh-based group that changed into central to collaborative reduction efforts: Brother’s Brother Basis.

“Brother’s Brother was the organization waiting in Nicaragua for the relief plane that crashed with Roberto Clemente on it,” Ramos says. “Luke Hinson, who runs the organization now, is the son of the man who was waiting for Clemente. He has done that same good work for his whole life, and now here they are working to help Clemente’s homeland.”

As Brother’s Brother, Luis Clemente, Roberto Clemente, Jr., the Hispanic Chamber of Trade, Highmark Well being, and others started to coordinate reduction efforts, they determined to carry a press convention in hopes that it could “serve as a catalyst for others to join our ‘coalition of the willing.’”

The coalition started increasing even sooner than the development formally began. Because the scheduled audio system have been huddled off digicam evaluating notes, Ramos says, “all of a sudden, this almost angelic woman walks in and comes toward us. I introduce myself, and she says she is Yasdet Maldonado, a doctor at an AHN hospital. She had seen the press release for the event, and so she just came right over and asked, ‘How can I help?’”

This connection had some further magic. Maldonado used to be born in Carolina, Puerto Rico — Clemente’s birthplace. She had finished her internship and residency with the individual heading up the anesthesiology division on the greatest clinic in Puerto Rico — from whom she had already won a listing of seriously essential scientific provides and prescription drugs.

The subsequent day, reduction efforts took some other bounce ahead: Frank Coonelly reached out to Highmark Well being. Asking, “What would Roberto Clemente do?” Pirates third-base trainer Joey Cora — who lived simply mins from the place Ramos have been born in Puerto Rico — and different avid gamers had determined to refill a aircraft with provides and ship them for my part to the folk of Puerto Rico. Coonelly used to be ready to get affirmation from FedEx about offering a shipment aircraft.

“I told Frank about Brother’s Brother, the Hispanic Chamber, being in contact with Luis and Roberto Clemente Jr. on the ground, and our connection at the hospital in San Juan,” Ramos says. “I said let’s all work together on this, because this is an opportunity to have one plus one equal 21. You get that cargo plane and we’ll help fill it up with humanitarian and medical supplies.”

In simply days, the larger Pittsburgh group accumulated sufficient provides to load up the Pirates’ first crisis reduction shipment aircraft. A couple of aircraft rather a lot have been delivered from Pittsburgh and different places to Puerto Rico within the weeks after Storm Maria.

That Saturday, Ramos spoke to 400 other people attending a Hispanic Chamber of Trade gala for which Highmark Well being used to be the presenting sponsor. A aware resolution used to be made to maintain the development’s celebratory tone, but it surely used to be unimaginable to not carry up a crisis that impacted the households of many in attendance. Ramos constructed a bridge to glue the emotions in his introductory remarks: “This is a celebration, so let us celebrate tonight the resilience of a people who are going to rise up from disaster. Let us rise up to the challenge of supporting our fellow citizens and friends and colleagues. There’s a saying in Puerto Rico right now — ‘Puerto Rico Se Levanta.’ Puerto Rico will rise up. Let’s help them rise up.”

Sunday, Ramos were given a textual content from Coonelly: FedEx had formally dedicated to offering a aircraft. Inside days, the larger Pittsburgh group, Highmark Well being, AHN, Brother’s Brother, the Hispanic Chamber of Trade and others had amassed a complete shipment aircraft of provides, together with just about the entire scientific provides on Dr. Maldonado’s checklist. Prior to that aircraft touched down, plans have been underway for added planes and rounds of lend a hand.

21 Levels of Connection

The ones first weeks after Storm Maria incorporated more than one aircraft rather a lot of provides delivered from the Pittsburgh area, in addition to different portions of the rustic. However the collaborative math wherein “one plus one equals 21” used to be simply getting began.

On a company stage, Ramos remembers a dialog by which David Holmberg requested him about “the longer-term play” in serving to the island get better.

“I told him I’d like to see if we could broaden the coalition,” Ramos says. “He had just heard from Jennifer Vachon, chief of staff to Scott Serota, the CEO of the BCBSA. Like us, they had been in contact with Triple-S, the Blues plan in Puerto Rico, whose development vice president, Francisco ‘Kiki’ Mantorell-Basanta, had been coordinating relief efforts. David suggested that I connect with Jennifer and Kiki and see if there would be a way to work together.”

Throughout a convention name with BCBSA Blues plans national, Mantorell-Basanta and Ramos introduced what Triple-S and Highmark Well being have been doing. They inspired different Blues to leverage the energy and scale of the Blues community to develop the coalition already in position, attaining larger humanitarian reaction potency and effectiveness within the quick time period, and boosting the restoration section in the longer term. A dozen plans did. In February, Ramos, Holmberg and different leaders visited Triple-S in Puerto Rico, and Ramos says that the collaboration has made a gigantic distinction in getting provides to these in want and proceeding the restoration.

Non-corporate collaborations had been simply as inspiring. Ramos had examine and supported Carnegie-Mellon College (CMU) pupil Rosana Guernica’s crowdfunding marketing campaign to pay for more than one constitution planes to ship provides to Puerto Rico, then go back with sufferers desiring to get to the mainland for care. Like Dr. Maldonado, Guernica used to be born in Clemente’s place of birth, they usually knew every different. Quickly after the crisis, Dr. Maldonado requested Ramos to fulfill with Guernica and different Puerto Rican scholars at CMU and the College of Pittsburgh, many of whom nonetheless hadn’t been in a position to connect to their households.

“We met at a restaurant near the campuses — and I’m just trying to be a father figure and bring them some comfort, and a little levity,” Ramos explains. “I joked with the waitress about the menu lacking tostones, and one student said that there is no good Puerto Rican food in Pittsburgh. I said, oh, yes there is. At my house. My wife is the best cook, and my personal specialty is tostones. So I will invite you all to my house once we get through this thing and we’ll break some bread to honor our family and friends in Puerto Rico.” He later were given the crowd tickets to a Penguins hockey sport, and plans to take them to a 3-hitter within the spring.

Bringing the connections complete circle, Ramos additionally presented Guernica and Alvarado. In the course of the early reduction efforts, Alvarado have been not able to get involved together with his mom, after which have been desirous about getting her to the U.S. to make sure get admission to to essential well being care products and services. When Guernica’s 2nd chartered aircraft returned from Puerto Rico, Alvarado’s mom used to be on it.

“It’s just been one connection after another, with people that have been connected by trying to do the right thing in a moment of truth,” Ramos says, “and, I think, also by the spirit and guiding hand of Roberto Clemente.”

A health care provider on the Centro Medico in Puerto Rico holds up a “thank you” signal after receiving much-needed scientific provides.

“Moving Mountains to Do Right”

Ramos provides that he doesn’t see Highmark Well being’s crisis reduction efforts as a distinct case, however as yet another manifestation of the group’s tradition. “Putting people first, collaborating, taking bold action as leaders, purposefully executing our mission — this is who we are and what we stand for, and it’s why I’m excited to be here,” he says. “Whether it’s disaster relief or getting health care right, it comes back to putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, the patient, the health plan member, the community member, your fellow human being. It’s the Golden Rule — treat people like you’d like to be treated. If you have that as your core principle, it will serve you and everyone else well. I’m heartened by the fact that despite apparent shortcomings in the initial federal response to the crisis, people have been moving mountains to do right, and help, when people have needed help the most.”

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