Sunday Conversation: CHI St. Luke’s president Jim Parisi
For Jim Parisi, a Texas native and “military brat,” a new role at Interfaith of The Woodlands offers a chance at continuing charitable work that goes back to his earliest days traveling the country with his father.
Parisi, the president of CHI St. Luke’s The Woodlands and Lakeside Hospitals, was named to the 27-member board of directors of Interfaith of The Woodlands on Jan. 2, along with Father Tom Rafferty, Pastor Rodney Mills and Kerrie Guerrero, chief nursing officer at Houston Methodist The Woodlands.
Parisi sat down with The Villager to talk about his new role in the community.
QUESTION: Tell me about your background — how did you end up as president of CHI St. Luke’s The Woodlands and Lakeside Hospitals?
Parisi: I’m a nurse by training and came up working in the emergency department, and managed the emergency systems for a couple of big organizations in Texas. I came to Houston in 2007 working for another system in an emergency role and had the opportunity to step in as chief operating officer — followed by a chief nursing hospital role — and, ultimately, became CEO of (Memorial Hermann Health System in Katy) and came out here to The Woodlands a year ago.
QUESTION: Why did you choose a medical career?
Parisi: I think it goes back to the early days — my father was in health care and he ran small community hospitals in Texas. So, I’ve always been around it and I developed a passion for making a difference in people’s lives.
If you think about a career in nursing, particularly, you really have the opportunity to individually impact people and make a difference for them by the care that you provide and the compassion you show for them. Over time, I realized I had more of an ability to be an influencer and by doing that, I could advocate for more people and do more good.
I got really involved in trauma systems development in Texas as a nurse and in the roles I worked as — it just made more sense to continue to grow into a broader role and having a greater influence on the community and being able to fulfill a personal mission of compassion.
QUESTION: Does that mission of compassionate care affect your involvement with Interfaith?
Parisi: Absolutely. Personally, I think all of us go through challenges, some of us have resources to be able to manage them a little bit more easily. But, the reality is that there are a lot of people who need that additional help and Interfaith is a brilliant strategy. If you think about the vision (George Mitchell) must have had that far back, it’s pretty incredible what Interfaith has evolved to and the number of lives that they affect and families in this community.
In the work we do here at the hospital, it’s very important to us to support organizations that have an effect on the social determinants of life. So, having housing, having food, having medical care, electricity — those types of things are critically important to our mission as we move forward and me personally. Those are the things we need to survive in life.
So many people have to make a decision — should I take my child to the doctor or do I pay my light bill or my cable bill or put gas in my car? So many people are just one traumatic event, whatever it might be, away from financial crisis. It’s very heartwarming to know that a community put a program like this together so many year ago and the fact that it’s grown to what it is today is pretty phenomenal.
Will you bring what you do at Interfaith back to St. Luke’s and get them more involved in the community?
Of course. I think it certainly carries in both directions. There are things that I will learn about at Interfaith that I might not have access to on the other side, and vice versa. Here at our hospital, we’re going to be partnering with another community partner — Habitat for Humanity — which is a big focus of mine.
QUESTION: What do you want to see achieved at Interfaith during your term?
Parisi: What I’m really looking forward to doing is understanding how I can help with their medical clinic — I did get a chance to go over and take a tour and learn about it.
As you can imagine, they’re providing many primary care-type things and many of their patients still need specialty care. Occasionally, you’ll have patients that need surgery or MRIs and I know the major providers on this side of town are more than willing to help with that.