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Ascension Via Christi St. Teresa celebrates decade of service

Ascension Via Christi St. Teresa turns 10 today, marking a decade of growth and service to Wichita and the surrounding communities.
 
Located on a 120-acre campus west of 135th and 21st, St. Teresa features 68 private patient suites, including 18 to inpatient rehab and what recently increased to eight dedicated to intensive care; a pediatric-friendly and geriatric-accredited full-service emergency department; four state-of-the-art operating rooms and a heart catheterization lab; an ambulatory infusion center; diagnostic imaging and laboratory services; an on-site pharmacy; and outpatient rehabilitation care.
 
As west Wichita's only full-service hospital, St. Teresa was intended to provide those living in and around west Wichita with the same close-to-home access to care as that enjoyed by those living in east Wichita.
 
"We continue to meet and exceed that goal, as patients now come from all over Wichita and even Kansas for care and services," says Laurie Labarca, who last month was tapped to serve as St. Teresa's hospital president as well as Ascension Via Christi Rehabilitation Hospital's. Robyn Chadwick, who served as St. Teresa's executive leader, assumed the role of hospital president at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph, a role previously held by Labarca.
 
Kevin Strecker, St. Teresa's first hospital president, now serves as Ascension Via Christi's chief operating officer, and his successor, Claudio Ferraro, now serves as COO for Ascension Medical Group Via Christi.
 
Labarca, Strecker and Ferraro were among the more than 100-member team that helped develop plans for the first new full-service hospital to be built in Wichita in more than half a century.
 
"It was a generational opportunity to be involved in such a project," says Strecker. "Today, as we look at the growth and high level of service offered by the hospital, it is exciting to see how our initial vision has taken shape and evolved over time to respond to the needs of our community."
 

A family legacy

 
Via Christi initially had considered building a west-side hospital on land it owned near 21st and Ridge. But when the time came to move forward with the project, Sister Sherri Marie Kuhn, SSM, who for many years served as vice president of Mission, shared at the time, "West Wichita had moved."
 
So hospital leaders began looking for land further west and found an ideally situated section of land. However, that land, a family farm owned by John and Ruth Strunk, was not for sale -- at least, not until the couple learned that the potential buyer was Via Christi.
 
"The Strunk family had long-standing ties with Via Christi and that made all the difference," says Ferraro.
 
John Strunk's father, who died at a young age, had been on the medical staff of what today is Ascension Via Christi Hospital St. Francis. Three of his aunts were members of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, one of Via Christi's founding congregations and were related to Sister Sherri Marie. His grandfather, who helped raise him after his father died, was a long-time supporter of the orphanage in El Dorado run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, Via Christi's other founding congregation.
 
Having no one in the next generation who wanted to farm the land, the Strunks could think of no better purpose than seeing the land that had been in their family for three generations used for a hospital and affiliated medical services. So they sold all but 40 acres of their family farm to Via Christi and continued to farm the land notable for its historic red barn.
 
While the Strunks have both since died, "John and Ruth will be long remembered for their big hearts, little acts of kindness and joy they took in ensuring that their family farm would serve the greater good for generations to come," says Strecker.
 

Grow, grow, grow

 
With each passing year, the hospital and surrounding campus continued to expand its scope of services, adding inpatient dialysis and expanding its cardiovascular services to include a heart catherization lab and its orthopedic service line to include a full complement of elective procedures, and the latest in imaging technology.
 
St. Teresa also offers specialty services not available anywhere else in the region, such as its newly accredited geriatric Emergency Department and the Center of Excellence for Hernia Surgery it developed under the leadership of surgeon Ragnar Peterson, MD, who offices in the attached medical office building.
 
This year, the hospital added an outpatient heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease clinic and Solutions for Life weight management program.
 
In late 2018, Ascension Medical Group Via Christi moved from leased space at Eberly Farm to the medical office building. Today, it is fully occupied, housing both AMG Via Christi and other outpatient medical practices whose approximately 30 physicians offer a broad spectrum of family and specialty care.
 
It also continues to receive recognition for the quality of its care and the personalized service it provides to patients and families.
 
Last year, the hospital was re-accredited for the third time by The Joint Commission, with only 15 recommendations for improvement out of nearly 2,000 elements of performance, which translates to a greater than 99 percent passing grade.
 
“That was due to our team's dedication to excellence, which is part of our DNA,” says Brenda Carroll, St. Teresa’s chief nursing officer, noting that more than 40 of the hospital's associates have worked there since the day its doors opened. "They came to be part of something special and they stay because of their commitment to each other and the patients and families we serve."
 
That same year, the Emergency Department was recognized with a PRC Five Star Excellence Award for being in the Top 10 percent in the nation for overall quality of care. 
 
"Year after year, St. Teresa has received awards and accolades for the personalized care and healing environment our team provides," says Labarca. "We plan to continue and grow upon that in the decades to come."
About Roz Hutchinson

Roz Hutchinson is a Wichita wife, mother and chief spoiler of six grandkids and three Chihuahuas, a die-hard women's basketball fan, and director of Communications and Public Relations for Ascension Via Christi.