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Published in Health Care

Biersack named Mercy Health Saint Mary’s president amid new partnerships, staff COVID-19 fatigue

BY Sunday, August 29, 2021 06:05pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Dr. Matt Biersack brings deep roots with Mercy Health Saint Mary’s to his role as president.

Biersack has been with the Grand Rapids health system for 11 years, most recently as chief medical officer since August 2019.

Biersack COURTESY PHOTO

Biersack’s permanent appointment last week as president at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s was effective immediately. He served in the role on an interim basis since March when Dr. Hyung Kim departed after less than two years.

Born and raised on the northeast side of Grand Rapids, Biersack brings a physician’s perspective to the top executive position, as well as an understanding of the health system and market that comes from the leadership positions he’s held at Saint Mary’s.

“I have deep roots with the Grand Rapids community and West Michigan,” Biersack said. “My experience as a physician provides me with a perspective on clinical issues and how to connect with patients. Along the way, I’ve learned a great deal from the number of positions that I’ve had about how to raise the bar in terms of quality of care and safety of care, and how to connect with our physician partners and affiliates.”

As a leader, Biersack seeks to approach issues “with humble inquiry” and believes “leadership really comes from serving those who in turn serve others,” he said.

Prior to serving as chief medical officer, Biersack was chief quality and patient safety officer from November 2014 to August 2019, and medical director of the hospitalist group from July 2012 to November 2014.

An internal medicine physician, he’s also worked since 2010 as a hospitalist physician, and spent four years at Saint Mary’s as a medical resident after earning his medical degree in 2007 from the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

“Dr. Biersack is a trusted and collaborative leader, who has continuously risen to the occasion within the various leadership roles he has held,” Rob Casalou, president and CEO of Trinity Health Michigan, Mercy Health’s parent corporation, said in a statement. “Over the last five months in his blended post, Dr. Biersack successfully led the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s team through the spring surge of COVID-19 and remained a visible and accessible expert that our leaders, colleagues, providers and community members look to for guidance.”

New partnerships

Biersack’s permanent appointment as president comes as Mercy Health forges three new partnerships through joint ventures, including with Auburn Hills-based Havenwyck Hospital Inc. for a new 60-bed psychiatric hospital nearby Saint Mary’s outpatient campus in Byron Township.

Another partnership includes the Cardiovascular Network of West Michigan that Mercy Health Muskegon formed with Metro Health-University of Michigan Health, which secured state approval in the spring to perform open-heart surgery.

Mercy Health in West Michigan previously formed a similar network for cancer care with Metro Health-University of Michigan Health.

Biersack said Saint Mary’s wants to pursue additional partnerships to address the market gaps in care and the racial inequities and disparities that exist in health care. Further partnerships in behavioral health are one possibility for Saint Mary’s in the future, he said.

“We’ll see added partnerships as we move forward,” Biersack said. “We’re talking with others in the space of behavioral health and as we look at the broader complement of our services where we’re certainly open to partnerships that help facilitate providing complementary services where it makes sense.”

Saint Mary’s also partnered earlier this year with Spectrum Health and the Kent County Health Department on a mass COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the DeVos Place Convention Center. The site administered more than 230,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses in nearly four months.

Biersack called the DeVos Place mass vaccination clinic “an incredible initiative” that proved “we’re stronger when we work together to face a community need.”

“This last year has really provided us a road map to working more collaboratively together to address these community needs and helped us see that it’s not just possible, but we can be really successful when we do so,” he said.

Owned by Livonia-based Trinity Health, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s consists of the main hospital in Grand Rapids and the adjacent Lacks Cancer Center and Hauenstein Neuroscience Center. The broader Mercy Health system includes the Grand Rapids hospitals, plus Mercy Health Muskegon and Mercy Health Lakeshore in Shelby, totaling more than 8,000 employees.

The three recent partnerships set a foundation for further ventures, although Saint Mary’s wants to focus on the latest efforts before doing more, Biersack said.

“We’re already in some big spaces here,” he said. “We need to really get a chance to see what strides we can make with oncology and cardiovascular services, but I think there’s definitely an opportunity to do more with our partners.”

Internally, Saint Mary’s needs to continue addressing fatigue and emotional exhaustion among its staff who continue dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Biersack added.

“It’s not a cliché. The people who are providing care on the front lines are just incredible individuals and I am inspired by their efforts every day,” he said. “Connecting with them, making sure they have the support that they need, making sure that we provide the resources to them to deal with the stress that has come about from the pandemic, and connecting on a personal level is hugely important.”

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