Two “Elizabeths” at Dignity Health Lead the Way with Named Endowments

Elizabeth Keith and Elizabeth Shih of Dignity Health(May 2017) - What’s in a name?

If you are an executive vice president at Dignity Health named “Elizabeth” giving in the form of an endowment seems to be at least one characteristic.

Elizabeth Shih, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, and Elizabeth Keith, executive vice president, sponsorship and mission integration, are the first individuals to create named endowments through Dignity Health Philanthropy to support work at Dignity Health.

Elizabeth Shih’s endowment was established to help at-risk populations – minorities, senior communities and others in the community who are disproportionality affected by chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease. Shih chose this area to focus on because she liked that Dignity Health was looking at evidence-based prevention programs.

Then, in 2012, her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and so, when her initial endowment obligation was fulfilled, she sought to redirect her giving to honor her husband.

Through guidance from Dignity Health Philanthropy, she was able to find the Children’s Miracle Network at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, which is perfectly in line with her husband’s interest of helping children in need.

Shih said she remains involved philanthropically because she wants to contribute back to the company and make a difference.

“I’ve been really lucky. I have a terrific job. I have a team that I love. And so, I think you just have to find every opportunity to share your good fortune,” she says.

She also gives her time through service on the board of the Alzheimer’s Association. She believes people can do something at any age, at any time, to be of help to others through money, time or resources.

“For me, gratitude is having people around who care. And they show their care in different ways. And no matter how they show it, it’s a terrific thing. It’s appreciated. It’s valued. It’s sought after. It’s a priceless commodity.”

Elizabeth Keith also wanted to find a way to give back to Dignity Health, and was able to find a different area to support – one that she is very passionate about.

Keith grew up in rural New Mexico in a family of six. She witnessed many classmates who were victims of violence through deaths and shootings, which deeply affected her. But she credits strong mentors for instilling a belief that the community could be improved.

“I learned that even one small voice can make a difference. That left a lasting impression on me. That you could be part of the fabric of the community where you live and be part of creating goodness.”

The Elizabeth Keith Anti-Violence Fund is focused on violence – in all its forms – and how Dignity Health can help identify, alleviate and hopefully, one day, end it.

“Specifically in health care we come in contact with so much violence – work violence, human trafficking, domestic violence, hate violence. It’s so much a part of our lives. And yet, I honestly believe if we were to ask people, that’s not what they desire for their children or their families.

“I think if we don’t address it, systemically, we won’t find solutions.”

Keith agrees with Shih that while not everyone is in a position to give at the endowment level, everyone can find a way to give.

“It doesn’t take large amounts of money. It’s the old, ‘One shellfish at a time.’ We can create something great if we’re all a part of it,” she says. “You’re giving is a vehicle for people to help them feel gratitude. Because nothing is more rewarding than to be able to give.”

System office employees make up roughly 2,500 of the 60,000 employees at Dignity Health. Over the last five years, this small group of employees have increased their personal giving from $170,000 to over a million dollars in fiscal year 2017.

“It’s fantastic to see roughly forty percent of our system office employees walking the walk of humankindness to support our healing ministry,” says Paul Richardson, director of philanthropic services.

Endowments create a lasting legacy of support for an area that the employee cares deeply about within Dignity Health. This option is ideal for donors who give in the range of $20,000-plus a year.

Anyone can give to one of these established named endowments, or can start an endowment of their own. For questions regarding this or other ways of giving, please contact Richardson at 415.438.5537 or Paul.Richardson@DignityHealth.org.