Meritus News



Meritus named finalist for 2023 Foster G. McGaw Award

April 24, 2023 - Diversity and Health Equity

Memorial Hermann Health System is the 2023 winner of the AHA’s Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service. Memorial Hermann – a non-profit, award-winning health system committed to creating healthier Houston communities – is recognized for its leadership and breadth in building programs, services and initiatives that address the varied health needs of its patients and community. The health system will receive $100,000 toward programs that further these goals during the AHA Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, D.C., on April 24.

The Foster G. McGaw Prize is sponsored by the Baxter International Foundation, the American Hospital Association and its non-profit affiliate Health Research & Educational Trust. The prize is given annually to a health care organization that has shown exceptional commitment to community health and developing innovative partnerships with community organizations to address societal factors influencing health and improving access to high quality, safe and equitable health care.

Memorial Hermann is one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in Texas and serves patients across its network of 32,000 employees, 6,700 affiliated physicians, and more than 265 care delivery sites – including 17 hospitals and numerous specialty programs and services conveniently located throughout the Greater Houston area.

“Each day Memorial Hermann, in collaboration with numerous community partners, advances the health and well-being of individuals across Southeast Texas,” said Rick Pollack, AHA president and CEO. “From providing important care information through a 24/7 hotline to programs that encourage physical activity and bring care for children into schools, Memorial Hermann is going outside the four walls to make a critical difference in its community.”

“Meeting a community’s unique healthcare needs is often best done with and in that community,” said Verónica Arroyave, executive director of the Baxter International Foundation and senior director of global community relations at Baxter. “This means implementing localized care when, where and how people may need it. We applaud Memorial Hermann and the 2023 Foster G. McGaw Prize finalists for their creative programming – from “Dancing with a Doc” to “Go for Bold!,” these organizations are making a meaningful difference in the health and well-being of their communities.”

“Our organization is honored to be recognized by the American Hospital Association with this prestigious award. The Foster G. McGaw Prize is especially meaningful because it reflects our strong commitment to our community,” said David L. Callender, MD, President and CEO, Memorial Hermann. “As a system, our vision is to create healthier communities, now and for generations to come, and within that vision is our unwavering commitment to improve health – keeping individuals out of our hospitals by providing accessible preventative care, resources and support to help families live healthier and more satisfying lives.”

Memorial Hermann’s strong initiatives include:

  • Nurse Health Line: In operation since 2014, and scaled up with Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the system’s Nurse Health Line provides a bilingual staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to answer calls, assess callers’ primary health concerns and direct them to an appropriate level of care, free of charge – regardless of health care affiliation, primary care provider or insurance status. In addition, it provides education and resources to support doctors’ plans of care as well as providing life-saving advice and resources in coordination with local agencies, such as dialysis centers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a nurse triage hotline was established to assess callers’ symptoms and direct them to appropriate care. In total, the system has responded to 27,600 COVID-related calls on its Nurse Health Line, which receives 170,000 calls annually. Only 25% of callers are sent to the ED, saving $4.7 million in health care costs.
  • StepHEALTHY: This initiative has been promoting physical activity since 2016, including through walking groups; Walk with a Doc, where a physician walks, talks and provides health education to community members; Dancing with a Doc, where a psychiatrist leads a Zumba class and then speaks to the class about mental health; StepHEALTHY Connects, which recruits and supports community members to become certified professional group fitness instructors; Walk to Clark Park, which increased access to the park from two schools with new concrete and sidewalk art; and a soccer program for children.
  • Health Centers for Schools: Operating since 1996, Health Centers for Schools provide year-round medical care for children who are uninsured or covered by Medicaid and serve as a secondary access point for insured children. The nine centers provide medical, mental health, dental, nutritional, navigation, and exercise programming to eligible children and adolescents in more than 80 schools in the Greater Houston area. Memorial Hermann and the five served districts share the goal of keeping kids in school where they can learn. Transportation from feeder schools is provided, and consented students can be seen without parents present with no charge for services. Outcomes are academic as well as clinical with 94% of the 24,000 student visits returning to their classroom to continue their school day.
  • Community Resource Centers: Three geographically dispersed Community Resource Centers are one-stop locations where individuals and families can get help with access to health care, health education and social services. Staffed with community health workers and social workers, the goal of the Centers is to support patients and community members not only with navigating the health and social service systems but also in becoming more engaged in their own disease prevention through decision-making and self-management. Nonprofit and state agencies are brought together either at the Centers or through referral arrangements to deliver a powerful collective impact.
  • Mental Health Crisis Clinics: Three Mental Health Crisis Clinics (MHCCs) eliminate the 90-plus-day wait time to be connected to outpatient behavioral health by offering psychiatric urgent care, so any patient in need can walk-in, without an appointment, and be immediately assessed and cared for by a licensed mental health team. Memorial Hermann receives referrals to its MHCCs from local providers, other hospitals and health systems, social service agencies, schools, the regional crisis line and even local mental health authorities. An innovative access point, the MHCCs have extended and weekend hours enabling patients to access care during non-traditional hours. Approximately 52% of patients report improved symptomology.

2023 Finalists

Three Foster G. McGaw Prize finalists are also recognized for their community health programs and will each receive $10,000. These finalists include:

  • Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles for its community clinic initiative that provides resident physician clinical support rotations at community health centers, initiating pathways for specialty care and charity care referrals to Cedars-Sinai. The hospital is also recognized for its Community Outreach Assistance for Children’s Health (COACH) for Kids program that provides immediate care, connects patients with integrated, high-quality medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care, supports Medi-Cal enrollment and provides access to resources that address food insecurity, housing, domestic violence and legal concerns. Additionally, the Share & Care program provides school-based K-12 mental health and early intervention programs for students, parents and educators who have been affected by traumatic events.
  • GBMC HealthCare System in Baltimore for its Gilchrist We Honor Veterans Program that serves veterans with serious illness, including end of life care, and in our community. In addition, the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence Program treats victims of all ages in a confidential setting at no cost. Evidence collected by the SAFE team has led to hundreds of guilty verdicts and the program also provides advocacy and crisis intervention to more than 300 people a year. Finally, the Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) Program identifies and screens patients whose health is at risk due to alcohol or drug usage and refers them to a treatment program through community partners.
  • Meritus Health, Inc. in Hagerstown, Md., for its Go for Bold! campaign to lose 1 million community pounds by increasing physical activity, encouraging healthy eating habits, and improving stress management and mental well-being for community members. In addition, Meritus and the Washington County Health Department co-chair a coalition of 55 public and private community organizations, with initiatives that include increasing awareness of blood pressure risk and improving overall health and wellbeing. Meritus has also implemented an innovative Care Caller program where lonely community members receive weekly calls from Meritus employees and volunteers to check in, which has resulted in people feeling less lonely.

About the Foster G. McGaw Prize
The Foster G. McGaw Prize recognizes health care organizations that are committed to community service through a range of programs that demonstrate a passion and continuous commitment to making communities healthier and more vital. The prize, first awarded in 1986, inspires hospitals, health systems and communities to assess and implement programs that improve their communities. For more information, visit

About the American Hospital Association
The American Hospital Association (AHA) is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA advocates on behalf of our nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, our clinician partners – including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers – and the 43,000 health care leaders who belong to our professional membership groups. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides insight and education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at

About the Baxter International Foundation
Every day, Baxter and the Baxter International Foundation strive to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who depend on our products, and in the communities where our employees live and work. The Foundation helps advance Baxter’s mission to save and sustain lives by partnering with organizations around the world to increase access to healthcare for the underserved, develop the next generation of innovators who will lead the way in advancing healthcare and to create a positive, long-lasting impact in communities globally. For more information, please visit Baxter’s Corporate Responsibility page.

Share this Article