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AHP Connect Member Profile - Bruce A. Bartoo, CFRE

Published:  07/03/2018

Bruce_BartooBruce A. Bartoo, CFRE

Senior Vice President & Chief Philanthropy Officer

MedStar Health

Columbia, MD

AHP member since 1994


Bruce A. Bartoo is senior vice president & chief philanthropy officer for MedStar Health, a 10-hospital health system with hospitals in the District of Columbia and Maryland. He is responsible for all initiatives to enhance philanthropic partnerships with MedStar Health, leading a team of 50 professionals through the MedStar Philanthropy Group.

What is the most rewarding part of your work in health care philanthropy?

The most rewarding part of the work that we do together in health care philanthropy is observing the joy that people experience when they become philanthropic partners and when they realize their philanthropic investment will positively impact the health of others in the community. We’ve had numerous philanthropic partners actually thank us for giving them the opportunity to invest in our organization.

What is something you wish you knew when you started your career?

I wish I knew how important AHP would ultimately become to me. Had I known, I would have become more involved in the Association in my early days in health care philanthropy.

What kind of effect has AHP had on your career?

Through AHP, I have found a countless number of mentors over the years. I hold these people in the highest regard, and I’ve had the opportunity to emulate some of the most talented and compassionate leaders in the health care philanthropy industry. Being involved in AHP has allowed me to get to know volunteers, interact with professionals at conferences and meetings and gain opportunities to provide volunteer leadership as a member of the Board and as a conference committee chair. I’ve had such a rewarding set of experiences with AHP over the years, and sometimes it is challenging to articulate to someone new in the field how valuable AHP will be to their career.  

What can you take from AHP conferences that you can implement in your work?

There are three things I strongly believe everyone can take away from an AHP conference.

  1. The first is the ability to network and maintain relationships with colleagues across the industry and the world. These are people who you can rely on to give you good solid mentorship and counsel and are an incredibly valuable part of attending a conference.
  2. The second is to soak in all of the educational opportunities available to you. There are incredibly talented people who present at AHP conferences, and so many important

    take-aways. I always encourage my team, when they attend a conference, to come back and share what they have learned. Not everything may apply directly to your own work, but you can always find application from so many of the best practices you will identify.

  3. The third, equally as important to the other two, is that AHP conferences give you an ability to stretch your mind and further your thinking. I always tell people to allow themselves to be challenged. There are people doing innovative industry-leading work across our field, and you often have the chance to personally interact with them during the conference. You will often see such leaders make presentations, lead a roundtable or maybe even just sit together at a breakfast or lunch session. These incredible people will stretch your mind and you will inevitably think, “Wow, I should do something like that in my own organization.”

Describe a recent or current project you’re proud of.

In the nine years I’ve been at MedStar Health, we have been on a rapid journey to infuse our innovative health care philanthropy program with the power of gratitude. Almost everyone who becomes a significant philanthropic investor in health care does so because of gratitude for a care experience. We have been on a significant journey in our organization to help our clinicians, our administration, our board members and even our community members fully understand the power of gratitude in health care. I am most proud of the incredibly talented philanthropy team at MedStar that is fully aligned and working to build an innovative donor-centered philanthropy program powered by gratitude.

What are some of the challenges you face in implementing this kind of program?

Our challenges are not unique to MedStar Health. I think the challenges we face are inherent across the health care philanthropy sector. The first and most significant challenge is changing the mindset of those inside the health care organization. Clinicians, administrators and board members too often stereotypically believe philanthropy is defined as transactional fundraising and they consider us to be financial agents. Nothing is further from the truth.

We work in health care philanthropy supporting the notion that philanthropy, which is defined as “love of human kind,” is best emulated inside health care organizations by the work our clinicians and caregivers do on a day-to-day basis. Most people — patients and their families — express gratitude for care experiences because they are expressing love for clinicians and caregivers who have taken care of them and their family members.

To me, that is the essence of the work we do in health care philanthropy. We are facilitators helping people express that love of humankind. We have a responsibility and a duty to those who are grateful for care experiences, to invite them to become more meaningfully engaged in the mission of our organization. Oftentimes, those invitations end up becoming philanthropic investments because charitable people often experience joy in supporting things that have great meaning to them. 

Another challenge in our field is that there are too many colleagues who believe health care philanthropy is about raising money for the institution. The reality is that it’s not about us or the institution. It is truly about the grateful feelings people want to express and how they seek to find a meaningful connection and engagement with clinicians and caregivers. When people make significant philanthropic investments, they tend to do so because they want to support the work of clinicians and caregivers. So unlike other sectors, we’re not raising money for the institution as much as facilitating partnerships that support the important work going on inside the institution.

For somebody who may be coming into the field of health care philanthropy, what piece of advice would you give to them?

My best counsel for someone who is new to health care philanthropy would be to recognize that you are a facilitator of relationships. You also need to be a credible representative of both the organization and of the prospective philanthropic investors with whom you are working. To accomplish that charge, you must be constantly sincere, caring, genuine and always authentic.

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