Sister M. Therese Gottschalk joined the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother in 1952 while living in her native Germany. In 1953, she came to the United States and studied pharmacology and later hospital administration. Sister Therese has previously served as president and CEO of St. John Health System. She is now president of Marian Health System, a system of health care facilities that includes St. John, as well as hospitals in Kansas, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Sister Therese heralds the mission of St. John, which is to serve the sick and the poor.
Before I entered our community, I was in an accident and ended up at the hospital for a number of weeks with broken bones. It was a Catholic hospital, and that hospital had sisters. I observed the sisters, and I got the idea that I would like to do the work they do, so I decided to enter our congregation. After a few weeks they asked me what kind of career I wanted to have, and I told them I wanted to be a nurse. But they needed pharmacists, and so they asked me to be a pharmacist.
After my training, I was a pharmacist for eight years at a hospital in Roswell, New Mexico. It was at that point that I (was asked) to go into hospital administration. I have always held the belief that whatever I was asked to do, I would get the courage to do. And I was never asked to do anything I was not educated or prepared to do.
As soon as I finished my residency in hospital administration, I was asked to come to St. John, and I was here as vice president for two years, before moving back to Roswell for two years. Then I came back to Tulsa in 1974, nearly 40 years ago.
When I was here for the first two years as vice president, we were designing a new hospital, and to my surprise when I came back two years later (in 1974), they hadn’t started construction yet because it was such a big project that the architect needed two years to design it.
We needed the new hospital very badly. The majority of our patient rooms had no running water, no toilets, no air conditioning; the original structure was built in the 1920s. We couldn’t remodel because the hospital was so small. Technology had changed everything.
I have a strong belief that health care is a right. It’s not just the poor or indigent we take care of, but it’s all the working people. A lot of companies in Tulsa don’t provide health insurance. People get sick. They don’t make enough to afford treatment themselves, and so, what would they do? It’s not their fault that they don’t have health insurance. It’s the system. We need health care for all people. I hope that St. John will continue to provide health care for all those in need. Whatever people need, we should provide for them.