Dr. Catherine Baase becomes chair emerita, continues focus on population health

Marcia Ditmyer

Marcia Ditmyer

Marcia Ditmyer, dean of the Crystal M. Lange College of Health & Human Services at Saginaw Valley State University, is set to become chair of the board of the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance.

Starting Jan. 1, 2023, she will succeed Dr. Catherine Baase, who helped found MiHIA in 2007. Though stepping down as chair, Baase will remain involved as chair emerita and a board member.

The Michigan Health Improvement Alliance brings community partners together and helps secure funding to positively impact the culture of health and wellness, and as a result, economic sustainability. It serves 14 counties in central and eastern Michigan.

MiHIA supports community partner initiatives such as those that educate older adults on the safety of using multiple medications and teach pregnant women to monitor fetal health. Other efforts support medical professionals working to alleviate life-threatening mistakes in care and efforts to improve access to healthy food.

Ditmyer has more than 40 years of experience as a healthcare professional. At SVSU, she leads a college that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in programs such as nursing; social work; kinesiology; health sciences, including health administration and leadership; and occupational therapy.

Her experience includes establishing an interdisciplinary academic health center where medical, dental and nursing students, together with health and human services professionals in various fields, work together to coordinate and achieve optimal patient health. She is known for building partnerships.

“The wave of the future lies in collaborating to address all types of health and wellness needs. It’s not just one hospital or one academic institution. It’s all of us, learning and working together,” Ditmyer said.

“The Michigan Health Improvement Alliance is a go-to organization when people see needs and opportunities in the community, when they have ideas and need help getting started, and when they’re seeking partners and funding resources,” she said.

Cathy Baase

Dr. Catherine Baase

Baase’s quest to transform health began in family medicine and led to a 32-year career at Dow where for 20 years she served as their chief health officer with broad-based leadership worldwide.

“I’ve always looked at how we can improve the health and well-being of people in the greatest number, to the greatest extent possible,” Baase said. “I have been honored to participate with and learn from some of the greatest leaders in the country across the landscape of health, including healthcare delivery, public health, health promotion and health policy. It has been extraordinary to be part of the national thought leadership, planning, research and case making, while also being grounded in real work at the grassroots level.”

In addition to Ditmyer and Baase’s new roles, the Rev. Craig Tatum, pastor of New Life Missionary Baptist Church Ministries, will become secretary of the board. Tatum succeeds Sandra Lindsey, chief executive officer of the Saginaw County Community Mental Health Authority, who has served in the secretary role for many years.

“Dr. Baase had the foresight to establish MiHIA as a backbone organization and will always be a powerful advocate for the health and well-being of entire populations,” said Dr. George Kikano, vice chair of the MiHIA board and Central Michigan University vice president for health affairs and dean of the CMU College of Medicine. “I’m glad she will continue to be involved as a board member.

Craig Tatum

Rev. Craig Tatum

“She, Marcia Ditmyer and Rev. Tatum are champions for residents across the 14-county region and know that by advancing health, we advance communities,” Kikano said.

The Michigan Health Improvement Alliance has a 29-member board composed of leaders in healthcare, public health, higher education, business, state, regional and community entities, faith-based organizations and nonprofits.

“We are fortunate to have the dedication of strong individuals with a shared vision for what’s possible,” MiHIA CEO Heidi Tracy said. “Much credit goes to Cathy Baase for her unwavering commitment to our communities and to Marcia Ditmyer for agreeing to take the reins. It is a big role, and both of these leaders deserve our appreciation.”

Transformation through community involvement
Baase realized the next level of transformation would require involvement of the entire community, and the idea for the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance was born.

The MiHIA team developed a roadmap for progress, identifying best practices and national models for community-based, multi-sector work. This led to connection with organizations such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

It was understood that MiHIA couldn’t support community-wide health improvement alone and that scale would require the involvement and leadership of an expanding number of partners.

That led to THRIVE — Transforming Health Regionally in a Vibrant Economy — a framework of initiatives to be pursued by the Alliance and its partners. Joint strategic planning for THRIVE started in 2017.

“We needed everyone to be a part of the process because we needed them to co-own it, too,” Baase said. “This wasn’t the work of just MiHIA, this was the future of our community under a shared mission.

“I’m hopeful that people continue to hold the belief that we can achieve a dramatic and transformational improvement in the health, well-being and prosperity of our community by working together to create dynamic change.”

Leadership, influence and impact
Over the last 40 years, Baase also has served as a recognized authority, participant and advisor to national health organizations, gaining insights that would help the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance succeed as a change agent.

“I’ve always tried to be a student, practitioner and a catalytic agent to foster vast, widespread impact,” she said. “I remain ever so dedicated to this work and to continuing to support and advocate for the dynamics that create healthy communities.”

Baase recently joined the National Advisory Board for the Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation at the University of Michigan, which brings together nationally-recognized experts to offer relevant, novel and dynamic perspectives to guide and advance the mission of the institute. She also serves several organizations, including:

“These ongoing national and state roles can continue to inform the work of MiHIA and THRIVE and provide several, ongoing opportunities for our region broadly,” Baase said.

Baase, a lifelong resident of the Great Lakes Bay Region, received her bachelor’s degree from SVSU and her medical degree from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She also has co-authored more than 30 publications and has received numerous awards.