A Listening Ear

In each issue of the Spirit, we introduce you to a Foundation board member or volunteer. Meet Dougal Hewitt, who plays in important role in helping Bon Secours listen – and respond – to the needs of our neighbors.

Dougal Hewitt
"Understanding the issues is the first step in bringing health back to our communities," said Dougal Hewitt, whose job includes listening to Richmond-area residents for ideas on how Bon Secours can help make the region healthier.

The most important thing Dougal Hewitt does is listen.

That’s because a big part of his job is to figure out how to make Richmond a healthier place.

“Understanding the needs of those we serve is at the core of who we are at Bon Secours,” said Hewitt, senior vice president of mission, Bon Secours Richmond.

Healthy Beginnings
Bon Secours heard Richmond’s East End’s call for extra resources for pregnant women and their babies. We responded by launching the Center for Healthy Beginnings at Richmond Community Hospital. Program participant Brandon Kenney flashes a healthy smile.

“The original Sisters of Bon Secours went out into their community almost 200 years ago to understand how to help the sick,” he said. “And while we now use some high-tech tools, listening is still a core method for understanding how our community’s needs are evolving.”

To that end, Bon Secours uses a unique tool called a charette - a week-long meeting where community members talk first-hand about biggest challenges to health – and give ideas for how to address them. The Bon Secours Richmond Health Care Foundation helped fund the charettes for all four of our hospital communities.

“We’ve had some wonderful outcomes as a result of the charettes,” said Hewitt. “They yield terrific partnerships. Bon Secours alone cannot address all the issues; we must always be in partnership with others.”

Dougal Hewitt Quote

Lisa Zajur, a Spanish language and cultural expert and instructor, is helping Bon Secours employees better serve the region’s growing Hispanic population.

“When people have a stressful medical emergency, they often revert to speaking in their native language,” she said.

“But Bon Secours employees want more than language skills; they are very focused on caring for the whole person, so they are also learning to understand cultural differences.”

One of the most significant challenges Hewitt is focused on is the region’s growing obesity crisis. He is tackling the issue in partnership with many community groups including the nonprofit Tricycle Gardens.

“The food we eat has a tremendous impact on our health. The increase in obesity and diabetes that is so prevalent in our community and across the nation can be addressed by simply growing and eating healthy, local food,” said Sally Schwitters, executive director of Tricycle Gardens. “We are working with Bon Secours to show that there’s a better way to live.”

Listening to problems would get a lot of people down. But Hewitt sees hope in the people he meets inside and outside the hospitals’ walls.

“There is a growing interest in changing the status quo and people are starting to drive change,” he said. “We’re seeing it across the community – and that’s what keeps me going.”

Valene Gleason, Lisa Zajur
Bon Secours nurse Valene Gleason (right, with Spanish teacher Lisa Zajur) says she works with an increasing number of Spanish-speaking patients so classes are very beneficial.