Posted: February 01, 2011
Executive Edge: Bev Sloan
Denver Hospice CEO reaches expansion goal with new care center at LowryMaria Martin
Bev Sloan is quick to answer the question she hears often when mentioning her job.
"They ask, ‘How can you do it? Isn't it sad?'" says the CEO of Denver's oldest and largest hospice. "I've been with The Denver Hospice for 11 years, and I can say honestly it's not depressing at all," she says. "It's the opposite. It's remarkably rich work because you're in contact with things that really matter."
It's even richer now that the Hospice Care Center at Lowry is open, she says. The organization has moved from a care center that's much too small for its needs to a 34,500-square-foot building Sloan describes as a work of art. When the economy started to spiral down, she worried that her longtime goal of building the new center would have to be put on hold.
"I paused, but I had visionaries on my board, and one said, ‘Go forward with your dreams,'" says Sloan, 58. "Every time I walk into the center, I pinch myself. We built a treasure."
The big surprise? In some ways, the down economy actually helped them, Sloan says. Favorable bids for construction and good bridge financing rates helped bring costs down from an estimated $16 million to around $15 million. Sloan, who served as chief operating officer at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Colorado before working for The Denver Hospice, welcomed the good fortune.
While dealing with numbers is part of her job, she's most passionate about bringing peace and comfort to those facing their last stage of life. She's also involved in the emerging field of palliative care. She was a leader in the Pathways Palliative Care Program, established in 2002.
"It's so important to bring comfort to those who are being treated," she says. "They might not be ready for hospice, but they're in pain, and we need to find a way to help them. Medicine has a way of giving people false hope, and not letting people live their lives the way they'd like to in the end."
Though she studied premed, she never quite made it to medical school, Sloan says, choosing instead to get a master's degree in health-care management.
"I've always been compelled to improve health care for people, even at a local and regional level," she says.
While more than 400 on the staff work with around 525 people at their homes, many need the care center. And the new center, Sloan says, will be a blessing for the 20 to 24 patients and their families who need that help. Patients started to move in Jan. 12, after a grand-opening ceremony Jan. 8.
The new building has 24 private rooms and state-of-the art equipment. It's built, Sloan says, with patients and their families in mind. Each room has its own patio, and family gathering spaces are tucked the building, along with a chapel, a library, a family dining area and a spa.
"The building is designed with high ceilings to lift the spirit," she says. "It's warm and inviting. We've also incorporated nature to be part of the experience."
The challenge, she says, will be to keep the funds rolling in.
"We've served more than 50,000 people in the area in our lifetime, and we're confident that the philanthropic community will be there for us," she says. "And yes, our name, Hospice Care Center at Lowry, is a little boring." Sloan pauses and bursts out in laughter. "But if someone wants to give us a huge donation, we'd be happy to name the center after them."
Maria Martin is a freelance writer.