Long before Jeremy Zoch was the chief executive of St. Joseph Hospital
in Orange, he was a high school student looking to spend some free time
making a difference.
And that is when he meet someone who would help launch his lifetime of
dedication to healthcare.
Zoch took over as the head of St. Joseph earlier this year. Sitting in
his new office, he leaned back in his chair as he reminisced on the start
of his journey.
Growing up in Fairmont, Minnesota, Zoch said the only job a high schooler
could typically find was working fast food. Being proactive there gave
him an early taste of leadership, but he craved more. Looking to follow
in his mother’s footsteps as a nurse, he started working during
his senior year as a nurse at a group home for patients with cerebral
palsy, down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.
Starting at the home, Zoch met someone who would become a friend for the
rest of his life: Uriah Pierce. As he worked with Pierce, Zoch said he
felt a bond emerge between the two – a friendship that helped him
realize he’d found his calling.
“It wasn’t ‘I’m the caregiver and he’s the
one receiving the care’ – it was the two of us just enjoying
great summer days together,” Zoch said. “He was in a wheelchair,
he could control it, and I would have my Rollerblades on. We would go
all over the city to parks and various places, whether it was going out
to get a bite to eat or going to the movies. I felt like I was able to
help him have the best day possible, and I would notice every two weeks
I’d get a check for doing it.”
Inspired by his friendship with Pierce, Zoch soon took a much more active
role at the group home. In short order, he was organizing schedules and
advocating for his patients.
Zoch still keeps in touch with Pierce, and even goes to visit him over
the holidays when he can, he said.
After a sprawling journey from college onward, where he went across the
country and tackled emergencies like hospital power outages and visits
from cars riddled with bullet holes, Zoch ended up at St. Joseph Hospital.
In the coming years, Zoch hopes to expand the hospital’s offerings
beyond “sick care” and further in to “health care”
– making use of early diagnoses and educational programs to make
sure people avoid needing major treatment in the first place.
One of the first things Zoch set to work on, though, was the “Sixty
Back” effort – an attempt to free up at least a hour of time
for caregivers by streamlining work through organization and new technology.
What would he have them do with that extra time? Try to forge bonds, like
the one that inspired him in his youth.
“What we wanted to do, is use this time to be able to know our patients.
Know your co-workers and not just feel like you’re running from
one place to the next,” Zoch said. “When you walk out to your
car and you know the people you took care of that day and you enjoyed
working with your team, and you’re on again tomorrow for 12 more
hours, you want to come back – like I did with Uriah.”
JONATHAN WINSLOW |
firstname.lastname@example.org | Orange County Register