The collection of names is impressive. Some are recognizable like the Mayo brothers of Mayo Clinic fame, others are less famous like Ida Cannon who created the first social work department back in 1905. But, it is clear that Sister Mary Roch Rocklage, 75, and a Sister of Mercy, belongs on this prestigious list with more than 50 years of service.
“Sister Roch has been a visionary force in health care leadership, driven by a commitment to provide access to quality health care for all people,” said Lynn Britton, president and CEO of Sisters of Mercy Health System.
As the 90th person ever inducted into Modern Healthcare’s Healthcare Hall of Fame since 1988, this honor only gives visible recognition to what others already knew.
From nursing school to leading the American Hospital Association and Catholic Health Association, Sister Roch understands the inner workings and complexities of the health care world. The opportunity to personally see health care from so many levels, combined with her leadership, helped her gain insight into the difficult needs that exist within health care and the ways in which leaders might bring about change to serve those needs.
In 1986, she brought this knowledge to the Sisters of Mercy Health System as their first president and chief executive officer. This step created today’s Mercy which serves more than 3 million people and includes 28 hospitals and more than 200 outpatient facilities covering Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. It also includes outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
Her unwavering work did not end after stepping down as president of Mercy 13 years later. Instead, she continues an active role within the Sisters of Mercy Health System. Today, she serves as the health ministry liaison where she helps guide laypeople in leadership at Mercy.
“Like health care across the nation, Mercy is in a time of change,” said Sister Roch. “Our mission of serving our communities has not changed, but the hands who serve are now the doctors, nurses and many co-workers. What a blessing to see the work of the Sisters before us being carried out everyday by compassionate people.”
Along with Sister Roch’s service as a professor of health care administration at St. Louis University and Washington University, she participates in many governmental, religious and civic agencies, task forces and committees for health planning. She currently serves on the Mount St. Mary’s Academy Board, Whole Kids Outreach Advisory Board, Nurses for Newborns Advisory Board and Mercy Center Conference Retreat Center Board. She is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and in 2004 received the AHA’s highest honor, a Distinguished Service Award.
“Her influence has been felt for more than 50 years across the nation,” said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “Her induction into the Hall of Fame is one capstone of a long and illustrious career in which she has displayed tremendous leadership and compassion, constantly reminding hospitals to put people first.”