Behavioral Health unit named for Sr. Paulinus

By Maureen Smith and Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Sister Paulinus Oakes, RSM, and a few friends gathered for the dedication in her honor of “The Oakes,” a unit in the Behavioral Health building at St. Dominic Hospital.
The Oakes provides compassionate care for those with psychiatric conditions secondary to a cognitive disorder such a dementia and those suffering from depression or other acute mental illnesses. Treatments include social and group therapy, one-on-one therapy and family support and education. It has been open for several years, but was only recently renamed in honor of Sister Oakes.

Sister Paulinus Oakes, RSM, donated a painting by a fellow sister to the unit.

Sister Paulinus Oakes, RSM, donated a painting by a fellow sister to the unit.

“The reasoning for naming the unit The Oakes is for all of sister’s dedication and service to our patients and the community,” explained Kim Mathis, director of outreach services for St. Dominic Behavioral Health Services. “She worked at St. Dominic’s for 16 years and was a faithful servant to those less fortunate and always had a heart for those suffering with mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse,” she added.
“Thank you for doing this for me. I was choked up out of my mind when I learned about this honor,” she said. As is her custom, she brought a gift with her to the dedication, a painting by a fellow sister to hang in the unit. Sister Oakes declined to talk about the honor, wanting instead to talk about the painting and the sister who donated it.
“No one has a heart for the homeless, down-and-out and those who are considered ‘the least’ by society quite like Sister Paulinus,” said Pat Walden, director of pastoral care for St. Dominic. “By her life and example, she showed us that they need love and care,” she added.
Sister Oakes, a native of Vicksburg, started working at St. Dominic’s in 1996 as chaplain for behavioral health. Trace Swartzfager, vice-president of business development at St. Dominic’s, introduced Sister Oakes and noted he started working at the hospital the same day she did and was beyond thrilled when he realized who she was. “This was the Sister Paulinus who was known for her unwavering passion for helping those suffering from chemical dependency and psychiatric disorders,” he said.
“I can’t tell you what a joy it was working with Sister Paulinus during her tenure here at St. Dominic’s,” he added.
Swartzfager commented he received routine phone calls from referring physicians telling him they were sending their patient to St. Dominic “because I know Sister Paulinus is there and I am confident my patient will be well cared for.” He said that when they starting brainstorming about names for the new patient care unit, the name “The Oakes” came to mind immediately.
Present at the dedication were retired Bishop Joseph Latino, Msgr. Elvin Sunds, several priests, a large group of Sisters of Mercy, lay Mercy Associates friends and members of the hospital personnel.
Sister Oakes has masters degree from Xavier University in St. Louis and Loyola University in New Orleans. She also served as school principal and taught in various Mercy school in Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Sister Paulinus Oakes, RSM, speaks with staff at the behavioral health unit now named in her honor at St. Dominic's Hospital. (Photos by Elsa Baughman)

Sister Paulinus Oakes, RSM, speaks with staff at the behavioral health unit now named in her honor at St. Dominic’s Hospital. (Photos by Elsa Baughman)

For more than 20 years she was an adjunct faculty member for Hinds Community College in Hinds and Warren counties teaching American literature. She volunteered with the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) for more than 18 years and was one of the founders of Born Free, a residential treatment program for women.
She has also published to books. Last year she retired to her order’s motherhouse in St. Louis, Mo.

St. Dominic Hospital works to prevent racism

By Lillian Hawthorne, RN, BSN
On April 16, 1946, ownership of a rundown 20-bed Mississippi hospital was transferred to the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL. The Jackson Infirmary, to be known henceforth as St. Dominic Hospital, became the first hospital in the nation dedicated to the founder of the Order of Preachers. It put the Dominican Sisters in the midst of one of the greatest challenges to face the white ruling class in the country: dismantling Jim Crow.
When the Sisters took charge, the hospital was still facing segregation, as laws hadn’t changed. Black patients were admitted into dank basement rooms; black employees earned lower wages than white employees; and it was obvious that the black and white staff did not interact well, if at all. The Sisters admit to not always knowing in which direction to move, but they knew they were part of a divine mission, so they launched a desegregation campaign.
First, they raised the wages of black employees to parity with whites. They upgraded facilities for black patients, including a modern pharmacy, laboratory, and kitchen. They also began hiring black employees to positions such as registered nurses, surgical technologists, laboratory technicians and pharmacists. By the end of 1965, all public areas had been desegregated. A black woman had enrolled at the school of nursing in the R.N. program.

A statue of St. Dominic stands outside the hospital chapel in Jackson. (Photo and story courtesy of St. Dominic's Hospital)

A statue of St. Dominic stands outside the hospital chapel in Jackson. (Photo and story courtesy of St. Dominic’s Hospital)

Today, St. Dominic Health Services (SDHS) is the only Catholic healthcare provider in the state of Mississippi.
In 2005, in sync with the Dominican Sisters’ commitment to dismantling institutional racism in all of their institutions, the health system established an anti-racism team that works to transform a culture of institutional racism. People of color are found in every facet of the organizational chart, from environmental services to vice president.
As a member of the St. Dominic anti-racism Team (StDART), I am grateful to the Dominican Sisters for their support in addressing institutional racism. The StDART team has the full support of SDHS administrators as well. On more than one occasion, Claude Harbarger, St. Dominic Health Services President, has shaken my hand and said, “Thank you for doing this work for us. We know it will be worthwhile.” That’s the hope I have as well, that the work we are doing will indeed be worthwhile.
(Author Lillian Hawthorn, RN, BSN, is a RN Clinical Educator at St. Dominic.)

St. Dominic Hospital marks anniversary

JACKSON –  St. Dominic Hospital celebrated its 70th anniversary on Friday, April 15. This marks the day when a group of Dominican Sisters from Springfield, Ill., came to Jackson  to assume responsibility for what was then known as the Jackson Infirmary. This original hospital was located on Amite Street in downtown Jackson.
Although St. Dominic’s, and the healthcare industry as a whole, has endured growth and change over the years, St. Dominic’s has remained true to the pioneer sisters’ vision of providing a Christian healing ministry to the people of Mississippi. Currently, seven Dominican Sisters serve locally in the St. Dominic’s ministry.
St. Dominic Hospital is a 535-bed tertiary care hospital located in Jackson,  serving all of central Mississippi and employs approximately 3,000 people, inclusive of nurses, physicians, and skilled caregivers. The medical staff, of nearly 500 leading physicians and specialists, makes St. Dominic’s one of the most comprehensive hospitals in Mississippi.
To commemorate the occasion, sculptor Tracy Sugg created a life-size bronze statue of a pioneer Dominican Sister titled, ‘Dominican Sister, A Life Given in Service,’ to honor the many donors who have supported the St. Dominic’s ministry over the years. In the past, grateful patients, families and friends helped to support St. Dominic’s by purchasing commemorative plaques placed on doors throughout the hospital. As the hospital changed to meet patient needs, many plaques were left with no place to be displayed. Sculptor Tracy Sugg used the bronze from these plaques to create the statue.
The sister in the sculpture is actually stepping off the plinth with one hand outstretched. This was done to help convey the essence of the Sisters’ desire to not be on a pedestal, but rather to serve in Christ’s love.
“This sculpture honors our many friends and represents the donor recognition plaques placed throughout the hospital in prior years,” said Lester Diamond, president of St. Dominic Hospital. “I cannot think of a better way to commemorate St. Dominic’s 70th anniversary than this distinctive representation of what we hope to embody as an organization.”
(Story and photo courtesy of St. Dominic)