2015 Golisano Foundation Move to Include Award
Joseph A. Ruffolo
This award recognizes a man who imagined what health care should be and can be for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and built a plan to make it happen into his hospital’s strategic plan.
After a remarkable career at some of the nation’s largest hospitals and health systems, Joe Ruffolo returned to the independently run hospital where he worked when he was in high school - Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
As Memorial’s President and CEO. Joe and his team are building a center to provide comprehensive integrated health care services to adults with special needs and their families - breaking down barriers to care, preventing individuals from falling through the cracks and helping them live with dignity.
It is one of the few centers of its kind in the country, integrating primary care and other critical services at a single accessible location that leverages the resources of both a major medical center and community partners.
Also important, health care providers will learn to care for people with special needs.
Early next year the new Golisano Center for Community Health will become a reality.
This model center has adopted all of the pillars of the SOI/Golisano Healthy Communities initiative – improved access to quality care, care coordination in partnership with
local human service providers and training for the next generation of clinicians.
Joe, congratulations on your Award!
Joseph A. Ruffolo’s first job in the healthcare industry was at Memorial, where as a teenager he was hired as a dishwasher. He worked as an accounting supervisor at Memorial from 1976-1979.
Mr. Ruffolo spent the next 20 years of his career with Buffalo hospitals, beginning with a four-year stint as controller and assistant administrator for fiscal and general operations at Sheehan Memorial Hospital; vice president of corporate finance for the former Millard Fillmore Health System; president and chief executive officer of Children’s Hospital; and executive vice president for health services at the Kaleida Health System.
In 1999, he was named a senior vice president at Pitts Management Associates, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based strategic advisory firm that counts among its clients some of the largest and most influential hospital and healthcare systems in the nation. After serving Pitts Management in interim hospital posts ranging from senior vice president to CEO at medical centers in Staten Island, Pittsburgh, northern Virginia and Louisville, Kentucky., Ruffolo returned to Niagara Falls in November 2002 as Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s President and Chief Executive Officer.
Mr. Ruffalo led the way making the Golisano Center for Community Health a part of Memorial’s strategic plan, imagining what health care should be and can be and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Mr. Ruffolo graduated from Niagara University in 1978 with a degree in business administration. He received a Master’s in science, health administration from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and completed two executive education programs at Harvard University.
Mr. Ruffolo serves on a variety of boards and community organizations.
About the Award
An Award that challenges its very name
Samuel Beckett, the novelist and poet observed, “Words are all we have.” If that is true then we need to be mindful of those we use.
The disability field is fond of the word “include,” believing it refers to society embracing and celebrating value in human diversity. The reality is that the word is derived from the Latin word meaning “to shut in, enclose.” It can mean to “make room for,” “take into account,” “work in,” “accommodate,” and “admit.” All of which, does not describe the Golisano Foundation’s Move to Include Award.
This Award is not given to individuals and organizations that strive to “fit people in,” and “make room” for people with intellectual disabilities. The Award is not intended to honor the movement to include people despite their disabilities; and certainly not because of their disabilities.
The Golisano Move to Include Award was designed to demonstrate that inclusion should never be an afterthought, a “make room” effort or a “do over” effort in social justice. The Award points out that in our society there are individuals and organizations that understand that inclusion, true inclusion is not something that is created through a mission statement, a tagline or a bumper sticker. The Move to Include Award celebrates the “movement” - the arduous and tenacious movement - that strives to embrace people, not as an afterthought, and equally important to move the psyche of individuals, systems, communities and societies that will one day eliminate the need to offer awards noteworthy for succeeding in “allowing people; people with novelties” to be welcomed into the fold.
We do not learn anything by simply “including,” “allowing,“ or “permitting” others to live and work alongside of us. We do not profit or grow by “accepting,” or even “welcoming” people with disabilities.
We, as a neighborhood, community and society learn, grow and profit by “believing” in the sanctity, value and merit of “together.” The essence of “together” transcends “inclusion.” The Golisano Award belongs to those who believe that being together, not by mandate, statute or fiat; is the only way we can benefit from the joys, challenges and perspectives that “believing in being together” can be promoted and realized.
The Golisano Move to Include Award is given to those who both “believe” and “act” in the purest realm of the essence of “move to include.” It is given in the hope that the understanding of “include” can be elevated, promoted, ingrained and demonstrated at the highest levels of human behavior.
Award narrative written by Rick Rader, MD, Co-Founder, American Association of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry