Webster's New World Dictionary defines philanthropy as "a desire to help mankind, especially as shown by gifts to charitable or humanitarian institutions."
Susan Turney, M.D.
Chief executive officer
Marshfield Clinic Health System
That definition meshes with the views of Susan Turney, M.D, chief executive officer of Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS). Dr. Turney returned to the Clinic in September, where she practiced for 22 years before taking the position of president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association.
"One of the things I think about is love of humanity," she said. "It's really about caring, and what it means to be human. It also encompasses the spirit, and for us at MCHS it's about our patients and communities and making sure we serve."
She said philanthropy has always been a big part of her personal and professional life.
"So much has been given to me in the context of caring, nurturing, developing and enhancing," she said. "I feel it's part of my purpose in life to make sure I give back."
Philanthropy is also a big part of Marshfield Clinic, both on the giving and receiving sides. MCHS reaches out to its communities in many ways, she noted, through screening tests held within its facilities or in mobile units that travel to rural areas, and events such as fun runs and golf outings that help keep people connected.
"Think about the fact that we provide essential dental services through the Family Health Center of Marshfield," she said. "Many other institutions that are in business to care for people do not provide this kind of not-for-profit service.
"People are also grateful for what Marshfield Clinic does for them, especially when we're seeing them at some of the most vulnerable moments in their lives," she said. That's why philanthropy is so important, as a channel for people who want to give back.
"Just as we have specialists in areas such as heart disease and pediatric infections, the Development Department is a specialty area that requires expertise in making connections in our communities and beyond," she said. "We're lucky to have a great staff who do this every day."
She got an appreciation for how important relationships are by attending the Auction of Champions. This annual gala benefits the National Farm Medicine Center, a program of Marshfield Clinic Research Institute dedicated to health and safety on farms, a major concern in our area.
"It was very exciting to see how we've touched peoples' lives. These are long-standing relationships," she said. "They really believe in who we are and what we do."
Leaving the Clinic and the state for 10 years, she saw the world through a different lens and realized there was something very special here.
"This is a great place. It really is," she said. "I kept talking about Marshfield Clinic and putting it up on a pedestal, so finally I thought I'd better put my money where my mouth is and get back to work here, because I've been talking about it for years."