Several weeks after Andrew Cosentino became the new president of Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, he participated in what's known as a "commissioning ceremony," presided over by Rev. Peter Christensen, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Boise.
"The most profound part is when the audience extends their hands in a blessing over you and your colleagues," recalled Cosentino. "In all honesty, whenever I get that many people saying a prayer on my behalf, it's very welcome. I'll take all the help I can get."
In a rare break from his always-on-the-go schedule at Saint Als, the 58-year-old Cosentino sat down with Boise Weekly to talk about the intersection of faith and health, his roots and his family's decision to move to Boise from Seattle, where Cosentino was Vice President of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute at the Swedish Medical Center Seattle.
Tell me about your mom and dad.
They emigrated from Italy. My father came to this country when he was 17 and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. When he was injured, my father became a U.S. citizen when he was in a hospital bed. After the war, he went back to Italy, met my mother and brought his new bride back to this country.
Is healthcare in your DNA?
It must be. I have six doctors in my family.
Wait a minute...what?
Emergency medicine doctors, a physical therapist, pediatricians, internal medicine, and it goes on and on.
How did you forge your own path?
I was at [University of Arizona] and wanted a weekend job. I went to the Tucson Medical Center and they hired me as a transportation attendant.
Through my own experiences being in hospitals—and I've had a few lately—I know transportation attendants know just about everything,
Not just the room numbers, but [they have] a real feel for the people.
Why did you gravitate to physical therapy?
When I was an attendant, I kept taking so many patients back to PT, watching their progress and witnessing therapists' relationships with their patients. I pursued that, went to the University of Iowa where I finished up my undergraduate degree, and got my graduate certificate in Physical Therapy at the University of Iowa [Carver] College of Medicine.
Have you ever experienced your own health crisis?
Wow, yes. The one that comes to mind was when I was 37. It was the last game of basketball I ever played.
Can I assume that it was a pickup game?
It was. I was taking a rebound and got my legs cut out from underneath me. I came down and did a perfect hip pointer on my left hip—so perfect that the femur split the acetabulum of my pelvis in two. I couldn't move. I was no longer the therapist. I was the patient. It healed over the course of several months. Fourteen years later, the hip was buckling, so I put myself in the hands of a wonderful orthopedic surgeon who transformed my life. That was seven years ago. Today, when I walk around town, I honestly can't tell you the difference between my left and right hip.
Would you mind sharing a bit about your family?
I met my wife Amy in, of all places, a pub in Tucson, Arizona. She was born and raised in Spain, and was only in town for a few weeks, visiting family. That was 22 years ago. We have a son, Nick, finishing his junior year in high school. He's learning to snowboard, plays football and runs track. He also likes the culinary arts. Some nights, my wife and I will come home, and Nick will cook dinner.
All that said, moving to a new city is a pretty big deal for a 17-year-old.
We had what we called a "family discernment." I said, "Hey, Dad's got this opportunity. It's something I'd be privileged to be a part of, and it's the right time for me to do this now. I'd love to have you come with me, Nick, and do this thing together." It wasn't lacking any emotion. He's finishing out the school year in Seattle with his mom. Soon enough, we'll all be in Boise.
I'm always interested in any conversation where faith and the secular world intersect, so I want to take advantage of the opportunity talk about Saint Als' mission.
This year is an important milestone: 125 years [since] the Sisters of the Holy Cross formed this ministry and established the very first hospital in Boise. People come here because they're suffering. To be entrusted with their care at a moment when they're most vulnerable is really a privilege and an honor. In our ministry, we view that as a sacred environment. I sensed that from the first moment that I walked through these doors.
I have walked through these same doors to say goodbye to people at their life's end, and I've also helped welcome newborns here. You can't not be affected by that.
It's an extraordinary place of life. I started out as a clinician and am still a licensed physical therapist. I don't actively treat patients, but I can tell you that my encounters with patients are the most uplifting parts of my week.
We're talking more about healthcare now than at any time in our nation's history. Yet, some of those conversations can become political and occasionally divisive.
I think the public at large understands that the current path that we're on is not sustainable. There has to be a collective, rational, collaborative approach to a solution. We have to go forward, create access for all and create value for the patient. I think all too often special interests get in the way of that dialogue. For the sake of our generation and the next generation, we need to figure this out.
You're not playing basketball anymore, but what else do you do to escape?
My wife and I love to travel. But you know what? I'm looking forward to getting in the river and working a fly line. I might get in the water sometime in April.