On behalf of the American Hospital Association, we both had the opportunity to attend Regional Policy Board 4 this past week in Charleston, S.C., to discuss some of the challenges facing the hospital field as we move to the future. Unfortunately, the meeting was quickly overtaken by the dark cloud of reality that took place at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, a mere six blocks from our conference room. 

While there is much discussion about policy issues ranging from flags to gun safety to behavioral health, our thoughts are now focused on the innocent victims and the families affected by this unspeakable and unthinkable event.

We’re also reminded of our association’s vision of seeking to build healthy communities, and our values of honoring diversity in our society. In the midst of this tragedy, we also have seen the strength and bonds within a community that have provided a teachable moment for our country, if not the world. They came together not to lay blame, but to support and heal. 

State and city officials, law enforcement agencies, religious leaders of all faiths, and our own Medical University of South Carolina just down the street — whose dedicated staff stood ready to care for whomever might come through their doors — acted with the dignity and grace associated with this historic and progressive city.

In the words of one RPB member, Earl Rogers, president and CEO of the Georgia Hospital Association, “Charleston will be defined not for what happened here … but for how Charleston reacted to it.”

Jim Hinton is president and CEO of Presbyterian Healthcare Services in New Mexico and immediate past chairman of the AHA board of trustees. Rick Pollack is executive vice president of advocacy and public policy for the AHA. He will become president and CEO of the association in September.