Ep. 16, Serving the underprivileged as a Mission Officer w/ Trevor Bonat

by | Mar 26, 2021 | Podcasts, The Virtuous Heros | 0 comments

Podcast episode

About our Guest


Trevor Bonat is the Chief Mission Officer of Trinity Health PACE and Trinity Health at Home, a multi-institutional Catholic healthcare delivery system that serves over 30 million individuals across 22 states. The healthcare delivery system consists of 94 hospitals, post care treatments (such as physical therapy,) and comprehensive care programs for the elderly. 

In this episode, Bonat explains his lifelong desire to serve the community and how he has made a difference in people’s lives by bettering their overall health. For example, Bonat shows support for Trinity Health’s mission by drawing attention to the core virtues of reverence, resilience, justice, and integrity. He also explains the influence his mentors had on him, the positive effects of fellowship and the advice that he would have given to his younger self. In the future, Bonat will strive to accompany his organization in helping engage healthcare challenges in an innovative, mission-driven way.  

In the past, Bonat was the mission leader for Mercy LIFE in Southeast Pennsylvania and the principal of two Catholic schools, where he focused on innovating and leading.  He currently lives in Maryland with his wife, Stephanie, and two teenage daughters, Lucy and Jane. 

We are the choice for healthcare that is full of dignity and personalization and reverence for the individual. We look outward into our communities to help elevate the health of the underserved communities as well.” – Trevor Bonat


Hannah: Thanks for watching our podcast! Here at Spirit Consulting, our services include business strategy and human resources consulting. In HR we offer executive search executive coaching and work psychology consulting. Please visit us at spiritmco.com, where we fulfill our client’s dreams virtuously. Enjoy your show!

Chris: Welcome back to the Leading Virtuously Podcast today on the show we’ve got Trevor Bonat if I just butcher that, so we probably might have to start over. I’ve realized that I probably 

Trevor: Don’t worry about it. I probably had much worse, so it’s fine. It’s great to be on Chris to be this podcast with you.

I’m the Chief mission officer for Trinity Health PACE and Trinity Health at Home. There are two continuing care business lines as part of Trinity Health the broad journey health to healthcare. 

Chris: Sure. So yeah. So when you cfor those that are not within the healthcare industry, can you break that down of what that means?

So people can get a better sense of your business background? 

Trevor: Sure. If you if you get ill and go to the hospital or you’re going into an acute care setting, and then if you need anything after that hospital stay in your home, that’s where Trinity Health at Jome would take over and take care of your post.

Care needs. Whether it be PT, OT, or, nursing care, those sorts of things. So that’s one aspect of it. And Trinity Health PACE is a comprehensive all inclusive care program for underprivileged, frail elderly in the community. And about 30 states have PACE programs where we take care of all of the.

Our participants needs, whether it’s transportation healthcare I need dietary needs, rec therapy, those sorts of things. So it’s a really innovative care program for the frail elderly. So I work in both of those. I work in the leadership teams of both of those business lines within the broader Trinity Health 

Chris: Got it Trevor.

So what is like the total employee count on both sides of those different divisions? 

Trevor: I would say we have probably among the two, probably around 3000 employees. And then Trinity Health is a $17 billion organization with Tencent, I think probably close to a hundred thousand employees at least.

And yeah, it’s a gargantuan. We had 94 hospitals and across the United States. So it’s a big, it’s a big health organization. 

Chris: Great. So Trevor, how did you get to the leadership position that you’re in today? 

Trevor: So Chris in high school and college I had one thing in mind and I went to Catholic high schools in a Catholic high school and the Catholic college and I had one desire really.

And that one desire was to serve to serve the greater community, mostly underserved populations, if I could and participate in something greater than myself. To just to make it very simple. And so the easiest way for me to do that was to get an education. So I went to I got a degree in classics and religious studies and I became a theology teacher after I was worked overseas for a couple of years in a volunteer program.

And was the theology teacher for a number of years. I got a degree in school administration and a master’s in theology and eventually ended up being a principal of a couple of different Catholic high schools. One in New Hampshire and one in St. Louis for about nine years. And loved the work loved being in a leadership position in Catholic schools.

And in In them, we were there. Catholic schools are like independent schools. They’re run like businesses. So you have to worry about income. You have to worry about enrollment and. Tuition and, all those things that you would there, there are a lot of analogies to, to a small business.

And so I really love that side of the work, especially also in innovation, we did an incredible amount of work in innovation. So I was in Catholic school leadership and I would’ve continued but for a conversation I had with a friend of mine’s wife who was in Catholics mission Catholic health care, And in hearing her talk about doing formation with adults, doing board formation, working with working with doctors and nurses on how they can deepen their understanding of their, the meaning of their work.

And the expression of our core values through the work that they were doing. I was like, gosh, you know what? That sounds a lot, like what I’m doing. Like I think there’s it there’s leadership so many times to just naming the good that you see in front of you because people get used to just doing things.

If they think they do, they think they do, they think they do, which is great. It’s very productive, but the think, reflect and do or think do, and then reflect is so that’s broadly what mission does. And so we’re able to enlighten. Sort of our mission and core values, our north star, where are we going?

On a day-to-day basis and whether that’s in the boardroom or that, whether that’s in a patient’s room, that’s where mission works. And so I was like gosh, that sounds great. I eventually an opportunity presented itself. We were in St. Louis at the time and opportunity presented itself to move back to east coast.

And I got a job working for a mercy health system in the. Philadelphia area. We actually live in Maryland, but I got this great job in Philadelphia. So I commuted up and did the work that I’m explaining to you right now. So last summer mercy health system merged formerly with Trinity health.

And I, instead of having a regional role, I now have a national role. So I work with. All of our health care agency, health, home health agencies across the country, and also all of our pay centers across the country. 

Chris: Thank you. Thank you for sharing. That’s a great story. And it’s interesting how the side conversations outside of the workplace could completely shift someone’s career!

Trevor: Isn’t that incredible, it was literally a dinner conversation, you gotta pay attention to those things.

Chris: So I got two questions. One I wanted to talk a follow-up with you about just the actual work itself. And then the other question I had for you, which is, I think your parents need a huge kudos and and some affirmation here from the work that they did. I know in, in, in high school I was a hundred percent self focused, not thinking about the greater good at all.

So it just curious, Trevor, why you were different in that way. 

Trevor: Gosh, I don’t, you know what I think it is, I think. That’s a great question. And I’ve tried to, I’ve reflected upon that quite a bit. I’m not, I’m no angel there, Chris, I had plenty of self-indulgent times in my life.

But I’ll say that. My dad was a small business owner, so he was actually a pizza franchisee. One of the original ones, actually, he tossed pizzas at the original Pizza Hut and I grew up noticing the care that he gave for his employees. And almost, the in, actually in Trinity, we talk about carritos, just Over overwhelming love or over overflowing, love and generosity.

And that can be, you can do that to a fault, very easily in a business setting. But my dad was a very, it was very much like that. So I think I learned a lot from him in that regard. I also went in Catholic schools, you have to do service. And so I really took to doing community services and Christian service in through high school and college.

So that was probably the other thing, but that was more of my volition. Then, environmental influence. 

Chris: Thank you for affirming the work that my wife and I are doing with my two sons. We have been making it a mission to a couple of times a year to have them go with us, to go feed the homeless.

And it’s not like a structured ministry or nonprofit. It’s just a matter of, having them help us pack some lunches. And we head out into the city and pass out lunches to the homeless and care packages to them. That includes socks too. And then. 

Trevor: Yeah. What are their impressions of that?

What are their thoughts, on the drive home, I’d be fascinated. I, this is not part of this this podcast, but it’s a really interesting, I think kids really have really keen insight. In the thing sometimes, I just, I don’t, I didn’t

Chris: Yea they grew up into a, in a very affluent area.

So that’s something that, for my parents, they, every Christmas we would go and work at food kitchens, which just takes you out of that little bubble that you’re used to. And. Like really quick, but really cute story was my my six-year-old had this balloon that he wanted to bring with us and, it’s like you’re driving the kids, in the balloon behind your head and just ah, we let it, we let it slide or whatever.

We were just driving into the city. We’re about about a 30, 40 minute drive. And after the second guy that we had given the care package to Carter actually was like he actually was like, excuse me, sir. And he gave the balloon to the homeless guy and yeah, they were, anytime it doesn’t matter what age you are.

When you go off and see other people that are living in the conditions that some of the homeless unfortunately live in. It definitely takes you out of your comfort zone and helps you realize oh, there’s more to life that’s going on here than, just the, how I, as you were saying, like all these indulgences that I have in my life and all these blessings to just remember that there’s other people out there and to be able to.

Yeah, it just opens your eyes to the gratitude that you can have in your life. 

Trevor: Yeah. And I think that dissonance there’s dissonance that’s built up in, in, inside our heads, and I know my daughter’s experienced this, there’s like tension between their life and the life that’s that, that they see.

And they know they enter into the, they can enter into on some level, the lives of somebody else. They’re like, wow, there’s a real difference here. And that’s, and that tension, that creative tension is something that, that I really want to be fostering in our daughter versus, just to, and honestly, to get back to mission work, that’s really part of mission work is create is raising the tension in a Leadership team meeting.

At times, you know what, honestly, like I have a great leadership team, so I don’t, we don’t really have to do this very often but everyone once in a while Hey gosh, you know what? This program might be. At some tension with our core value of stewardship, or it might be attention, our core, core value of reverence, for example.

It doesn’t happen very often, but I feel like that’s part of our job is to slow things down, gum things up a little bit, such that we’re being very intentional and to have those different perspectives. Especially the perspective of those whom we serve, in health care that’s super important for us.


Chris: Yeah, that was that’s starting to funnel into the additional question that I had for you, Trevor. Which is sometimes, maybe outsiders outside of a Catholic or a religious health system may look at like a mission officer. That’s the guy that like is in the corner. He prays before the meeting and then the meeting starts and they just sit there and taking notes.

But I was just kinda curious, if you could break down some tangible work that you do in the meetings that encompasses the work as a chief mission officer. And sure you, you were telling us some of those, if you’re in a meeting and you’re talking about operational planning and they’re starting to go shift away from the values that, that you hold as the chief mission officer to help them steer it back, steer the ship back and bring that outside perspective.

Trevor: So certainly I do reflections. So we had every meeting and Trinity health, there’s a reflection at the beginning of every meeting. And so I either do the reflection or I help organize those sorts of things. So that, that does happen. So I am the guy in the corner, praying every once in a while.

It’s not bad. I’ll take it. And the so serious, some other, the other things that I’m cost, maybe I should have thought about what I did today. So in HR. Sometimes in, in human resource and when you’re in human resources, you have that difficult conversations with people, or there might be how do you help somebody help coach somebody who might be struggling a little.

So I work with HR kind of hand in glove with HR at times to help support colleagues who are experiencing difficulties or challenges, or I’ve even done some kind of leadership or slash executive coaching. I wouldn’t say executive coaching. Oh yeah. With with some folks that were leaders that were struggling.

So I can come in and help be a reflective presence with them and help them with some basic leadership challenges that they might have. So that’s just an example is in the HR realm. Also we have community benefit. And in healthcare we have as part of the ACA we have community benefit moneys that we need to spend for the benefit of the, for that’s, what it says for the benefit of the community.

So I help our ministries. We, sometimes they call our organization, ministries, engage the greater community. There’s a lot to be done in terms of public health and community health. So what I can ha what I help do is help engage the greater community in helping increase the baseline health of a, of an area.

So we have a whole shop at community health and wellbeing office or department and I helped support that sort of work. So that might be another thing. Another thing is I get to do a lot of our hospitals were founded by a Catholic school Congregations. And if you ever want to read about some of the most incredible women in American history, you won’t go very far without without reading about a religious sister and it’s been a real.

Joy working with them over the last few years, especially the Sisters of Mercy in Philadelphia. So I help carry on their legacy. I help tell stories about the Sisters of Mercy. And and then we’ve what we’re doing now into these hundreds of years stories really, and so when you’re talking about efficacy, of a leadership team, we know that we’re doing something that has.

Well, a 200 year history. And then in a Catholic perspective, a 2000 year history, we’re actually from a Jewish perspective, a 5,000 year history we’re participating in something that’s been going on for 5,000 years as drama. That’s been going on for 5,000 years, we work better.

We work harder because there’s, there is a tangible purpose and an efficacy, like I said, for the work that we’re doing. So that’s some of the other things that I do. I also, I work with spiritual care. So we think about chaplains. I help support chaplains in spiritual care. And then also I have an ethics function.

There might be an ethics issue that might be raised for me, and then I help either solve it. Or I we, we take it to an ethics committee. 

Chris: Do you chaplains on the home care side? Where does the chaplains reside within the org?

Trevor: The we have chaplains would be. I think the secular sort of side of that would be either a a therapist or a social worker.

So they, they work at least in in our pace centers for our elder care centers. They work primarily with our participants because there’s an incredible amount of social isolation and existential challenges that our elders are going through now and doubly. So because of COVID. So they were really working in the trenches to help with that.

They also have a secondary role in helping our colleagues who might be having difficulties on the home care side. That’s we don’t have chaplains in home care. We have chaplains in hospice. So we do part of our home care kind of portfolio. A lot of our home care agencies have hospice and there are chaplains that are in hospice.

And that’s that’s all under that umbrella.

Chris: Thank you. Trevor, what do you see as the future of Catholic healthcare in this country?

Trevor: I think the COVID is just this past week, just this past week, Chris. I said, listen, I think we can finally start imagining our world post. Like we have to be able to indulge in our imagination or what that’s gonna look like again, if we did that in November, I think it would have been a bad news. And, but I think it’s a good thing now.

Now we need to be imagining what it’s going to be like with this behind us. Cause it, cause we’re, it’ll come. But it’s really rocked the healthcare industry. It’s really really evoked and incredible amount of innovation. But also it’s exposed a lot of weaknesses in our healthcare system.

And you want to talk about I say 2020 gave us 2020 vision a to what our social and cultural and what have you, problems are in the United States? And one of those is healthcare. So I do see saying this actually for 30 years, but the acute care hospitals becoming small. And more distributed out into the community.

I think any one of us have been to a surgery center, instead of going to the big hospital, you go to a surgery center and then out at the end of the day they’re even doing, we hospital at home, where you’re, you can get certain procedures at home. So I do see, Quickening of the the contraction of the, of acute care hospitals, and I’m in the enviable position and an increase in home care and innovative models for the elderly or for the aging.

There are, I think there are 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the United States. And that turns going to the kind of. And the aging population is going to be the next wave of of healthcare expenditures for the next, 20, 30 years at least, and we’re not ready for it.

And There, I think 25% of Medicare spending is happens in the last year of people’s lives. And I don’t think we have had conversations is almost a side conversation, but a whole nother conversation. Really. We haven’t talked about, about death in the United States. In a reverential dignified and loving way, the way we need to.

And so I think hospice has been a, an answer or a way of accompanying people in their final chapter in their life. But that’s a whole nother sort of thing that I think more from a cultural level than anything that we need to be addressing. But I’m in a position now where I want to be accompanying.

Organization to help us engage that next generation of challenge healthcare challenge in a innovative mission driven way. 

Chris: Yeah, thank you for sharing and Spirit Consulting. Healthcare is one of the leading industries that we serve within. So thank you for the vote of confidence.

That two things, one that COVID is on its way to being out the door. And then number two, that it’s a, an industry that only continues to thrive due to the. Market dynamics around the, the aging population that needs healthcare, et cetera. So thank you. So where, so Trevor in your day-to-day job, can you tell us a little bit about where virtue in business intersects for you?

Trevor: It’s fast. It’s fascinating. I was reflecting on the word virtue because it’s in your it’s in your mission or, it’s in your Literature it’s on your website and things like that. That’s 

Chris: Its hard to find spirit consulting without being slapped with the word virtuous. It’s also funny too.

Sorry to cut you off. But if some of my high school and college friends like saw that Chris Gomez is the virtue champion, and were like wait, but yeah 

Trevor: No it’s it’s very it’s wonderful. And the cool thing is We don’t talk about it enough, right? It’s an under utilized conversation and I’m in the enviable position where it’s my job to bring up virtue in our in our work on a daily basis, I’ll say that the virtue that’s really steered me the most in my role as a leader is is justice.

So we think about individual. I think in general, in America, we talk about when we talk about we tend to talk interpersonally, we tend to talk about individual morality, we’re the rugged individualist. We talk about my morality, your morality what’s right and wrong for me.

What’s right and wrong from your perspective And we don’t talk as much as a corporately. So in my understanding, justice is really what’s. How do we live morally as a corporation, as a corporate body? What’s that corporate body doing to live virtuously in the country and the way we do it is justice.

So giving people their due Paying a living wage delivering the healthcare that people deserve, at a price that is that is reasonable, right. Caring for those most vulnerable, who don’t have access to health care in a traditional setting. So I respond 

Chris: The expectations that we set out into the marketplace of what we say that we’re going to do.

We’re going to deliver. 

Trevor: Yeah. Another one of our core values is integrity and it’s that’s you just defined it. Exactly. We’re going to say, we’re going to do what we say we do, and have our actions our words be backed up with actions. And to be, the more, so there’s all kinds of healthcare, organizations and in my opinion as a Catholic healthcare organization, our goal is to bury, burrow into that market niche and own it.

We are the choice for health care that’s full of dignity and personalization and a reverence for the individual. And and also. We look outward into our communities to, to help elevate the health of underserved communities as well. So we’ve had this dual role. We are going to do a great job with you.

What coming through our door from a care perspective, like you’re going to get the best care, but. That’s not where we were. We in the, that care is also part of a greater context and that greater context is the health of our community, and so we had that, both and that we play off of quite a bit.

Chris: I love that. Thank you for sharing that. And I think that also just helps even provide even further. Guidance and insight into both Catholic healthcare for people that are outsiders of that. And then also give even greater information about like your role in as a mission officer for an organization and the type of work that you’re doing as well.

The, one of the questions that it just seems like it just keeps coming back is in looking at your career in the way that you came, that you’ve been now in have gone into a very, the pinnacles of the level that you can grow within it in both education. And now in healthcare, just curious if if you had the opportunity to, meet your 22 year old self or the person that’s right about to graduate college and head off into industry, just curious, like what coaching you would give that individual, give yourself.

Trevor: That’s a great question. I think so. So a couple of things pop into mind. There is I think there’s a lot of questioning you have to do in your internal monologue to make sure that the voices in your head are actually true. Okay. So we, there are voices that are, had, they say they, for things, you should do this or let’s go down this career path.

Let’s go down. Let’s not go down this career path more importantly, let’s not do that. And we’ve got to just make sure that we’re listening to the right voices. And I can tell you that a couple of the voices that we’re, I think we’re probably in my head was. The voice of ambition. I think there’s a place for ambition in a career path.

But ambition can narrow a scope of a career. And I didn’t really learn it until I switched careers to realize, wow, I, I left school education and went into healthcare and all the. Trappings of education. I said 20 years building in terms of, a resume and next steps for me and competencies to run a school better.

gone right now. I’m in healthcare, and there are a lot of crossover skills, but in ambition would have narrowed my focus down a little too much and this, and that’s one of them that I think the second thing that I would or. Lesson that I would give myself is

Reverence for the end of it, for the individuals along the way. I think I liked the Tim Ferris tribe of mentors, type books and things like that, because I think your dear personally attending to individual relationships are something that I think I did a decent job on, but if I were to talk to my 22 year old.

I think I would now where I am now, I’d have a lot more relationships to draw on. And so I think that’s probably the second thing would be to real attention to Reverenince for the individuals in my life and keeping up with them. So.

Chris: It’s interesting that you say that because it’s I’ve found that there’s a couple of different themes that have been continuing to pop up with.

So many of the leaders that come on this, and I know that, due to your work and on prior conversations, like you were a Christian and a Catholic. And and, but there’s been people that are atheists that come on the ship as well. But what seems to just pop up is that like everyone has had people that the mentors or guideposts that come into their lives.

To help them move them into the next place of leadership or just to be there in their lives to guide them along the journey. And it’s interesting that you bring that up about, about really like Reverend, like reverencing those individual. To really appreciate those relationships instead of always just what is the next thing that I have to focus on?

Cause you know, sometimes it’s so easy to be like, all yeah. This person’s like gray, they’ve done great work for me. They like really care for me. Come on, I’ve got this other stuff that I need to do. And then just kinda let that fall by the wayside. Cause you’re like in, in particular for you, was there AB relationships early on that you may have not been able to.

I guess appreciate that, that investment, that person was making into your life. 

Trevor: I can’t think of, I can’t think of any relationships that I had, like particularly tanked or anything, Chris, but but I can say that I can say that I would have been helped along the way if I were, I think, in the consistency and maintaining those relationships, and actually, I, there are a couple older.

Guys that I’ve, that I met along the way. And they weren’t part, they weren’t mentors or anything like that. I just befriended weave through any numbers of serendipity, we got together and I called them every once in a while. Like every kind of every six months, the, these older gentlemen who, they’ve lived, their lives are retired.

And so it’s fun to have that, have that wisdom. I just. That I would have had more, a more consistent relationship along the way, just check-ins and things like that. Because now that I’m older, I’m beginning to realize it’s hugely beneficial. It’s not just a one-way street in terms of the, what you get from a mentor relationship.

And I’m not saying I could offer very much, but I think the relationship is as it’s, it can be really tough at the top and it can be tough. And so to be able to engage people is, can only be, can, and would only be beneficial. 

Chris: Excellent. We’ll thank you for sharing as well.

Was that, did we, do we have a dog that is popping into the, did he walk by? 

Trevor: He had he had surgery, all the he had surgery last week. And so he’s been needy. So he’s been in my room quite a bit, just looking at me and sleeping, so yeah, but he’s doing fine.

Chris: Yeah, just to, yeah, it just, I can’t speak enough about how. Intentional fellowship is so critical and it’s definitely, it’s going to do two things. One it’ll stretch you if you choose to stay in a relationship and to have an eye on it and be honest in that relationship. And it’s a good, healthy relationship.

It’ll definitely stretch you and make you grow as you. Feedback with each other, as you rub each other the wrong way from time to time. And then the second thing is like all the other benefits that come with being able to leverage, both each other’s wisdom that you’ve gained from life. And so now I love that.

Thank you for sharing as well. So Trevor, how can P I’m sorry, 

Trevor: Just real quick. So to that point on net, on this Friday, this coming Friday we are having a zoom reunion. I think probably 15 of us, 12 to 15 of us who all served out in Micronesia together. We were all volunteers out in Micronesia together for two years.

And we haven’t gotten back together in gosh, over 10 years. And so you want to talk about that was a really intense fellowship experience that we had, in our early twenties. And I can guarantee you cause it happens every single time. Once you experience the meaningful relationship. You almost can’t go back.

Like you need to be challenged. You need to experience the care and the love of some of somebody else, and really more, almost more importantly, a community too, and so once you experienced a community, a loving community that stretches you, that calls you to be your greatest self. Gosh, it’s hard to go back to, get on a Friday night, with going out, it’s that’s a different, thing.

So yeah. Yeah. So sorry, that just popped in my head as you were talking about it. Yeah, no worries. 

Chris: I’m hopeful for the person that, that hears this part of our discussion that needs to hear that and can recognize, the genuineness that both of us are coming from. As we talk about.

These loving relationships that stretch us versus you have some toxic relationships then as you’re mentioning, like when you get to that place, you’d go back to some of these dysfunctional, groupings of people. You’re just like, what am I, this is not where I need to be. And yeah.

So that’s good. Trevor, yeah, I was going to ask you, how can people get ahold of the work that you all are doing? 

Trevor: You can see the work that we’re doing. The web, the websites. It’s trinityhealth.org, it’s pretty simple or trulyhealthhome.org. So those are the two business lines that I earned, two ministries that I serve.

And I’m on LinkedIn and knocking around the internet. You can certainly get in touch with me through probably through LinkedIn, the easiest thing to do. Great. 

Chris: We’ll have all of those that links into the show notes and it was so good to be able to reconnect with you and hear some more about the work that you guys are doing and appreciate you serving on the podcast as well.

Trevor: Thank you so much, Chris. Absolutely. All right. We should the best take care. Thank you. Bye-bye 

Chris: Hey, Chris here.

Hope you enjoyed the episode where we discussed all things going bald, just joking, the Leading Virtuously Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode and the podcast, will you please subscribe on YouTube or apple podcasts or Spotify, or you can also share it with a friend that would be tubular. I hope you have an awesome day.

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