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David Cook_hospice CEO

This week’s blog introduces a three-part series highlighting Hosparus Health President and CEO, David W. Cook. 

David began his role as President and CEO in September. We are excited to have him at the helm to lead operational and strategic efforts that will drive innovation, enhance quality, expand community partnerships and increase access to hospice and palliative care for patients and families navigating serious illness in Kentucky and Indiana.  

David has more than 20 years of operational and financial leadership experience in the healthcare and nonprofit sectors. He comes to Hosparus from Carolina Caring in Hickory, N.C., where he had served as CEO since 2018. His return to Louisville is a bit of a homecoming for both him and for us — he previously worked for Hosparus Health in several key operations and leadership roles.  

 We sat down with David during his first week on the job to learn more about him, what brought him back to Hosparus, and some of his proudest career accomplishments. 

Tell us about your roots in the Louisville area. 

I’m a native of this area. My mom was born in a Layton, Kentucky. Not many people know where that is, but it’s close to Leitchfield. My grandparents are from Leitchfield. My dad was born in Clarksville, Indiana, and I grew up in Southern Indiana. 

Tell us about your family. 

I have the beautiful wife of 20 years, Bonnie, and we have three boys: Noah, who is 16, Nathan, who is 14, and Josh, who is 11. We also have Caspian, our Golden Doodle. There’s a lot of energy in our house.  

Talk about your previous work with Hosparus Health. How did you come to us originally? And what work did you do here? 

In hospice care, a lot of people say “I was called to do this work.” I was called, but it wasn’t by God. It was by Susan Miller. I’d worked with her in banking for several years. At the time, she was the Executive Director for what was then known as Hospice of Southern Indiana. She called me and said, “I need some help, get down here.” So, I joined the organization back in 2001. I had many roles over 15 years. My last role was COO. 

What were some of your biggest accomplishments while you were here? 

Over those 15 years, we did a lot of things, as you can imagine. Initially it was connecting with the clinical staff — learning about what they needed and how I could support them in my role in the business office. I spent a lot of time engaging and helping our frontline staff.  

 When I was in billing, we worked on a program called Business Clinical, and it worked to solve some of the issues between Finance and Operations and the Clinical Team. We also did some awesome work with Ellen Green in the Grief Counseling Center, such as improving our sliding fee scale and charity care. We worked on pre-authorizations and built a new program focused on helping to ensure that we had consistency in our decisions, and how we provided care across the organization. 

 What did you find most rewarding about the work during your time here? 

I came from banking, so this organization felt very different. Banking is very structured, and it’s not necessarily emotional work. At first it felt a little odd, coming into an organization like this and connecting with so much emotion and compassion and support. But over time, it just becomes part of who you are. You get that really ingrained, and you don’t ever want to leave it. It’s so rewarding seeing our staff provide great care, and help them to provide great care. 

Talk about your career after Hosparus.  

I got the opportunity to move into the CEO role at Carolina Caring in Hickory, North Carolina. That was a phenomenal time — great people, great organization, great part of the country. And we really did some excellent things there. We implemented a new program called Cardinal Kids, which was a palliative care and hospice for pediatrics. We were only able to help one or two families a year prior to the program, but just recently, Carolina Caring was serving more than 40 families.  

Did you use Hosparus Health’s pediatric hospice and palliative care program, Kourageous Kids, as a model or inspiration for Cardinal Kids?  

Absolutely. When I got to Carolina Caring, there was nothing like what Hosparus provided there, and it just didn’t feel like we had a holistic program without helping families with seriously ill children.  

Beyond the Cardinal Kids program, what were some of your proudest accomplishments there? 

Carolina Caring focused on — and I think it’s the key to success for any organization — providing great support for our staff and making their work easier. We challenged our leadership team not only to find ways to make them successful, but to be a team that could be trusted and respected. We focused on building trust at the leadership level. And then working to cascade that down through the organization, we were named to Modern Healthcare’s Best Places to Work. (The organization ranked 18th its first year, fifth last year and fourth on the 2021 list.)  

I say that not because we’re so proud that we made the list, but we’re so excited that we were able to make a difference in the way that staff feel about their work. Because at the end of the day, if our staff are happy and engaged and feel supported, that carries through to what they’re doing for our patients and families in the community.  

What brought you back to Hosparus Health? 

Of course, working here for 15 years and living in this community for the majority of my life, I love this organization. I love the people here, and I didn’t leave Carolina Caring because I didn’t love it there, but this is home. When the opportunity came up, I couldn’t ignore coming back and working in a community with people that I love. It was also great to close to family. 

How do you feel you can make the biggest impact while preserving the legacy of Hosparus Health? 

That’s a great question. When we stop and think, what is the legacy of Hosparus Health? It really goes back to volunteers. Volunteers came together more than 40 years ago and said, “There’s a better way to deliver healthcare.” We need a holistic approach to care — a care that’s focused on the patient first and not other goals or outcomes.  

As we look at where we need to go, as we’re diving into different types of healthcare to meet the needs of the seriously ill, we have to take what we learned from our beginnings. How do we focus on the patient? How do we look at each individual holistically? Instead of telling them what they need, ask them what they want. I think as we grow and expand to serve the needs of serious illness, we need to keep that mindset that was embedded more than 40 years ago in how we deliver care. 

Why are you excited to begin your journey as CEO? 

I think there’s so much that we can do in the community, and so much we can do for our staff that will translate into great care for our community. It really is an interesting time in healthcare. There’s a ton of challenges, but behind those challenges are opportunities and I’m really excited to take a great team and a great organization that has served this community so well and figure out how we can continue to build on that and expand our already great programs and services.  

Check back soon for Part 2 of this series, to hear David’s thoughts on leadership, mission, and the value of the care that Hosparus provides to our communities. 

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