On March 1, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital bid farewell to President Jonathan Davis, FACHE, who stepped down after six years of service to the Charlottesville community to join FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a nonprofit health system in North Carolina.
During his time at the helm of Sentara Martha Jefferson, Davis led market-share growth in orthopedics, neurology and cardiac services, while significantly expanding the hospital’s acute gastrointestinal, stroke and neurosurgery services. Under his leadership, the Sentara Martha Jefferson stroke program earned designation as a Primary Stroke Center, achieving the nation’s first DNV-plus accreditation, and transitioned emergency and anesthesia services to larger practice groups. Most importantly, he guided the team to achieve numerous performance rankings in Leapfrog A+, Medicare 5-Star and year-over-year Sentara health system top results.
These accomplishments have paralleled his critical role in developing programs through the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation, such as the Center for Clinical Education to promote professional development scholarship opportunities for staff and the Caregiver Center to support families in their healthcare journey.
Throughout his tenure, Davis has championed the work of the Foundation and worked closely with hospital leaders, donors and volunteers. Before his departure, we asked him to share some of his thoughts and perspective on the role of philanthropy in keeping community at the heart of Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.
MJH Foundation: What has been the greatest impact of philanthropy during your time at Sentara Martha Jefferson?
Jonathan Davis: First, we’ve continued a tradition of connecting personally within our community. When people give their dollars to an organization, they do so because they feel connected to and passionate about the mission and purpose of that organization. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be accountable to our commitment for service, access and excellent outcomes.
Second, we’ve been able to grow and expand our priorities. That includes the trajectory of strengthening the Haden Nursing Institute's scholarship programs, which enable our nurses to go back to school and earn advanced degrees. Programs like this create new professional opportunities, while also improving patient outcomes. We also have strengthened and expanded our Palliative Care Program, which is one of the strongest within the Sentara system, thanks to the philanthropic support of our community. We’ve started new initiatives like the Caregiver Center to support our approach of caring for the needs of the whole family—not just the patient. The Caregiver Center is the only one in the Sentara system, and one of only 22 in the United States. These are examples of the margin of excellence that community support makes possible.
MJH Foundation: How do you think the programs and services funded through philanthropy—such as the High-Risk Breast Program, and the Center for Cancer Survivorship Program—help to enhance our community?
Jonathan Davis: Reimbursement changes in the healthcare industry have really pushed many hospitals to less personal, more transactional care—that is, carrying out the tasks of health care, conducting physical exams or prescribing medicines for a period of time. Through the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation, Sentara Martha Jefferson can offer special services that express how much we really care about the patient as a person, and that includes their family. Sentara Martha Jefferson isn’t just going to treat patients for a diagnosis—we’re also going to hold their hand through the journey and take care of their family.
Our efforts to care for the whole person and families also extend to our staff and Sentara Martha Jefferson family. For instance, we show that we care about our community by investing in nursing and clinical education, which allows individuals to pursue their career goals here and ultimately give back to the local community.
MJH Foundation: How is the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation unique among other hospitals throughout the nation?
Jonathan Davis: Across the Sentara system, we share clinical best practices and learn from one another. We learn how to deliver extraordinary care, streamline processes and improve clinical procedures. The Foundation allows us to fund local needs beyond the normal, necessary clinical services. Foundation support enables Sentara Martha Jefferson staff to explore other programs and services across the United States and bring new ideas to our community. The Caregiver Center is a great example. We had a Foundation board member who brought the idea to us from New York. We embraced this personal touch to caring, knowing that the services offered would enhance our ability to provide holistic care to our community.
The Foundation creates a feeling of personal connection, like home—it doesn’t feel institutional. Over the years, we’ve created an aura that supports ownership and engagement from the community. The leadership of our Foundation board and staff is a big part of that success. We aren’t doing our work behind closed doors; we’re really connecting and developing relationships in our community, bringing people together to be involved and engaged in our (community and hospital) future. In addition, our greatest gift is that we are afforded the opportunity to listen to what the community needs.
MJH Foundation: What accomplishment during these six years are you most proud of?
Jonathan Davis: Rallying a team to create a high-performing organization. We have a team of leaders and physicians who are loyal, humble and committed to the values of our organization, and that is the core and fabric underneath everything we do and accomplish. Our values create a culture of excellence, and I am most proud of our team’s compassion, resilience, commitment and dedication to our patients. I have been honored to serve and foster those values so that we give our best to our patients. This fills my cup every day.
MJH Foundation: What does the Martha Jefferson Caring Tradition mean to you?
Jonathan Davis:The Caring Tradition describes our singular outcome to compassionately care for all people. Community donors and volunteers give us gifts of time, dollars and ideas, which keep Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital thriving and connected to the local community. As a team, we all are truly committed to improving health and wellness for the broader community. To me, that is what the Martha Jefferson Caring Tradition is all about.