Michigan is home to some of the nation’s (and world’s) leading hospitals, clinics, medical labs and research facilities, and medical professionals. This has been the case – and universally acknowledged to be the case – for years, and around the world. Through good times, hard times, and “comeback” times in Michigan, the status of healthcare, medical breakthroughs, and innovation has been the hallmark of the state.
Amid the plaudits and distinctions, the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) stands out. It consists of eight hospitals and more than 100 ambulatory sites. Its many constituent parts are growing continually – expanding and innovating.
No small part of that growth and renewal – indeed a major component of DMC’s profile and mission, and a bright light on the regional medical landscape – is Children’s Hospital of Michigan (CHM). It is truly, and has been recognized widely as, one of the best children’s hospitals in America.
Of particular pride to Michiganders is that the person at the helm of the hospital is not only “home grown,” a local executive… but a woman who rose through the ranks, as it were, at Detroit Medical Center.
Luanne Thomas Ewald is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. The unassuming, modest, cheerful powerhouse previously served in two roles at the DMC. She was Regional Vice President of Business Development for the DMC and also served as Vice President of Business Development at Children’s Hospital. She had responsibility for Ambulatory Network Development, Pediatric Clinically Integrated Network Development,
Program and Facility Planning, DMC Friends and Family Program, Physician Link Line, One Call Transfer Center, Business Planning, Physician Recruitment, Physician Call Center Management, Physician CME Development, and the Physician Relations/ Sales Team.
… quite a ladder for someone to have climbed! But at the beginning Luanne’s first steps were as a student, studying at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. That was 26 years ago. College training was at Marquette University in Milwaukee (Business Administration) and Xavier University in Cincinnati (Masters in Hospital Administration). Luanne returned to her roots (having been born in Farmington; now residing in Royal Oak) and went to work for the DMC as an Administrative Fellow at Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
“I am honored and privileged to have this job,” the CEO says. “I have a real passion for what we do,” and that is evident when you see her face light up as much when describing kids going home healthy, with balloons, as when she described great expansion projects and building plans. “Kids heal, they live! And then we see them leave, happy and healthy.”
Indeed such sentiments should be the realworld, grounded measures for a children’s hospital fulfilling its mission.
Since 2007, Luanne has been instrumental in opening several Children’s Hospital of Michigan Specialty Centers in the community, ranging from 3,000 to 100,000 square feet. The awardwinning Children’s Hospital of Michigan – Troy features the State’s first pediatric free-standing Emergency Department. The 63,000 square-feet location is also home to a pediatric outpatient surgery center, sleep lab, and various sub-specialty clinics.
In fall of 2018, Luanne will open the new expanded Children’s Hospital of
Michigan in midtown Detroit. This new facility will include state-of-the-art neonatal and pediatric critical care units for children with the most complex medical and surgical needs, NICU and PICU units; a 62-bed Emergency Department (including 52 treatment rooms, 4 trauma bays and 6 behavioral health rooms); Surgical Center; and Imaging Center. Making its impact in the Detroit area, the Children’s Hospital of Michigan is nevertheless a major presence in the state and region.
Luanne is proud to say that Children’s of Michigan has served patients from every ZIP code in the state; and other patients from across America and overseas. Among Children’s Hospital of Michigan many specialties is advanced neurological care for young patients with difficult-to-control epilepsy and seizure disorders.
Luanne speaks of medical and surgical breakthroughs that happen at this unique hospital for children; the empathy displayed; family and follow-up care; and the hugs – real and virtual – that her staff offers.
Some people might be tempted to think that a children’s hospital merely attunes its care to young patients – smaller beds, play rooms.
The holistic approach that Luanne Thomas Ewald introduced, however, is rather revolutionary.
It is possible that Children’s Hospital’s footprint is more outside the many buildings of the hospital than inside its halls.
While the Children’s Hospital team is focused on care provided within its facilities, they also proactively partner with the community on health and wellness and education initiatives to promote the healthy growth and development of children.
You can see Children’s Hospital’s impact through community programs, visits to schools and clubs, through publications and even meal outreach that support thousands of children (and their parents) in educating them about preventable injuries. Smoke detectors are supplied to parents, and bike helmets to kids. T
here are lessons in safety procedures and, importantly, nutrition.
Kohl’s is a supporting sponsor of many such initiatives.Under Luanne’s direction, millions of cereal servings have been donated and delivered to Gleaners Community Foodbank of Southeastern Michigan to help ensure children have access to breakfast throughout the summer.
“If we cannot do everything,” she says, “we seek out partnerships.” When (on one of those ladder rungs) she was Vice President of Business Development, the innovative Luanne decided to “put on her Mom hat,” as she describes her approach to planning the Children’s Hospital of Michigan - hospital’s Troy campus. She sketched her initial conceptions, and then… invited children to do the same. She received many suggestions – some of them quite wild; some surprisingly clever – and took serious notice.
Some of the favorite concepts “looked like Legos,” more than one child observed; and so did the Lego Store at Somerset Mall. A scale model was built to serious specifications – which is now on display there – and if it looks familiar, it is because it indeed served as a major design inspiration for the Children’s Hospital of Michigan --Troy building!
Wearing her CEO hat, Luanne assiduously maintains partnerships and relationships with community partners. The Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, a separate entity, is a supporter that has, for instance, played a role in the publicawareness matter of water testing in Detroit. Another partner of Detroit, the Ronald McDonald House, was asked to relocate when the new hospital expansion began, but benefited from funding that supported moving to a new, larger hotellike space nearby that provides greater comfort to families whose children are admitted for a hospital stay. And the brandnew Children’s Hospital of Michigan critical care tower that will be completed this fall expanded the hospital’s footprint, upward as well as outward.
Children’s Hospital Michigan has more than 200,000 visits from young patients every year, and Luanne proudly claims her Pediatric Emergency Room as one of the busiest in the nation. Sick and injured children who require specialized care travel from near and far for the advanced critical care services not provided at hospitals that care for both children and adults. [Readers are referred to the sidebar for fuller descriptions, and a map of the growing campus of buildings.]
We have listed some of the positions and accomplishments of the amazing Luanne Thomas Ewald. There were a few intermediate rungs at DMC we should mention: DMC Corporate Vice President, Business Development and Marketing; Chief of Staff to the DMC President and CEO; Administrative Director at Hutzel Hospital for the Women’s Health Initiative; DMC Senior Planning and Marketing Analyst. And another sidebar lists Luanne’s recognitions and awards, which are many.
The cityscape of Detroit finally is changing. And the spiritual landscape of the region – renewed hope; a fresh spirit; building projects to the left and right – can also be said to be changing. For the better. Children’s Hospital of Michigan has been a fixture in the City and region for 132 years as the state’s first hospital constructed entirely for kids.
But let us remember that this is not a story only about buildings and numbers. Luanne Thomas Ewald, the CEO who is happy to don the Mom’s hat when needed, knows it is about health… wellness… and children.
The revival of cities like Detroit; regions like Southeast Michigan; and states like Michigan do not happen by accident. “Felt needs” – even screaming needs – are not met automatically, nor simply when challenges rise to crisis levels. Luanne Thomas Ewald is an example of a determined visionary who loves her community -- who has made things happen.
To paraphrase President Kennedy, Some people look at a problem and ask “Why?” Luanne Thomas Ewald sizes up a challenge and asks, “Why not?”
LUANNE THOMAS EWALD COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT, AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
Luanne Thomas Ewald, FACHE (Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives) has served on ACHE’s Regents Advisory Council. She is the Past-President of the Midwest Chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives (MCACHE).
She has served as the Chair of the MCACHE Sponsorship Committee and Audit Committee. She also serves/served on the Board of Directors for the following organizations: Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, Troy Chamber of Commerce, Sparky Anderson’s CATCH Charity for Children, Junior Achievement of Southeast Michigan, the Girl Scouts of Southeast Michigan, Leadership Detroit, Dr. Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine, Alumnae Board of Mercy High School and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Michigan. She has served as co-Chairman of the Leadership Detroit Selection Committee. In 2017, Governor Snyder appointed her to the Early Childhood Investment Executive Committee for the State of Michigan. In 2018, she is serving as Chairperson of the Michigan Hospital Association’s Council on Children’s Health. She is also a member of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development and Inforum. She is a member of Inforum’s HealthCareNext Steering Committee.
She has also served as a preceptor for graduate students in Healthcare Administration from the University of Michigan, Xavier University, St. Louis University, Boston College, Trinity University and University of Detroit Mercy.