Tom DeSimone possesses one important quality that organizations gravitate toward in volunteer leadership: unbridled commitment. The partner at WS Development has served on the boards at various academic, real estate, and legal organizations in Boston over the last several years, and despite the busy schedule, he tries to show up to each group with enthusiasm and an open mind. “One of the most important things is participation,” he says. “You’re participating in an organization that needs you. You’ve got to show up and you’ve got to participate because the organization has made a commitment in selecting you and they are looking for your input.”
Now, as chair of the Trustee Advisory Board at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, DeSimone is bringing his wealth of experience as a lay leader, as well as his passion for participation, and applying it to his new role in the health care arena. “There’s a lot of synergy,” he says. “I sit in a BID meeting and because of something I learned at one of the other organizations, I feel like I’m better equipped to make suggestions. It’s amazing how these organizations have analogous issues and opportunities.” DeSimone, who previously served as a member of the Board of Overseers and lends his expertise as a member of the Finance Committee, recognizes that trustees are charged with two main jobs: to be advocates for the hospital in the community and to provide intellectual and volunteer capacity to staff the various committees of the hospital. As chair, he hopes to engage the group in the committees not only for their benefit to the volunteers but also for their benefit to the hospital. “Fred Wang and Ted Ladd have established a clear path in how to serve BID,” he says of the two former Trustee Advisory Board chairs. “I can only try to be as impactful as they have been. There’s a tremendous diversity of expertise among the trustees. We need to continue to harness this resource and utilize it to make the committees the best they can be.”
And as the health care industry is faced with tremendous financial challenges, DeSimone believes the lay leadership’s role in promoting the medical center and supporting its programming is incredibly important. “We are moving from a health care system which was based on getting paid for providing a service to a system where it is all about the patient,” he says. BIDMC’s established intersection between innovative research and compassionate patient care is a strong advantage that he hopes to promote. “We really are doing tremendous research, and we’re doing it in a way that has a direct connection to thinking about how are we going to treat the patient,” he says. “And if we can do that really well, we’ll be special in the eyes not only of the funding community, but also the patient community.”
When it comes to his volunteer efforts, DeSimone is adamant that participation means not only a personal commitment of time but also a commitment of philanthropy. Thanks to a successful professional career, for the last 20 years DeSimone and his wife, Midge, have been fervent supporters of BIDMC programming. “We’re very involved in the human condition, but we’re also very interested in the things that aren’t getting attention,” he says. “And so when somebody tells me, for example, that people come into the emergency room over the weekend and there is no social worker there, our thought was we can do better and we can help.” Consequently, the DeSimones have regularly supported the Department of Social Work to staff an evening social worker in the emergency department and even donated a duck boat tour of Boston to the social work team in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. They have also funded staff education in the Klarman Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and prostate cancer research.
And while his volunteer life may be chaotic, no matter how many organizations ask for his help, DeSimone is grateful for the opportunity and happy to make that commitment. “The things that I am learning and talking about with people are like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” he says. “I’m getting the benefit of all of this because I said yes. And I’m having a great time.”