Describe your job as director of Children’s advocacy and health policy. As the director of advocacy and health policy, my job is to oversee our government relations, policy and community engagement work. I work with a great team — Kelly Wolfe who manages our lobbying and public policy efforts and Katie Rojas-Jahn who coordinates our community benefit work, social media efforts and participation in community/advocacy organizations. Together, we work on legislative issues that impact Children’s and children’s health at the state and federal level. We also work to understand the needs of the communities in which Children’s operates and kids across the state and develop plans for addressing those issues. Part of our work is focused on building advocacy interest within Children’s among employees, patients and families so I get the opportunity to present to and learn from medical professionals, our Family and Youth Advisory Councils and others within the organization about what matters to our Children’s community. At the end of the day, my job boils down to advancing and protecting our organization and kids’ health in the legislative arena, making sure we’re the best community partner we can be and equipping people to be effective advocates for children.
Because of your role, you spend a lot of time at the state Legislature. What did you take away from this session? There were a lot of pre-conceived notions about what this state legislative session would yield because it was the first time in more than 20 years that the Governor’s Office, House and Senate were entirely in DFL control. For example, many in the healthcare community thought this would be the year (after more than a decade of cuts) that health and human services would see funding increases but, instead, legislators wanted to cut it again. In the end, Children’s and children’s health issues ended up doing fine, but what it showed is that the process is always unpredictable, it takes a lot of active monitoring and heavy lifting to make sure we come out OK in the end.
Your job extends beyond Children’s doors. What does that mean? Most of our work is focused on efforts outside the walls of Children’s. On the policy side of our work, we spend a lot of time with legislators and administrators to help them understand what Children’s does, why we’re unique and what we need on a legislative level to continue doing what Children’s does best. For those folks, our team is often “the face” of Children’s (for better or worse ). We also spend time working with other organizations who have common interests, including public health leaders, health advocacy organizations and other health systems.
What drew you to Children’s? I had the opportunity to work with Children’s in my previous job and had a great feeling about the organization. I was interested in using the advocacy skills I’d developed to help drive a singular cause forward and, with Children’s, there is a strong commitment to the organizational mission of serving children. My sense of this place has absolutely been affirmed – everybody lives and breathes kids. I wasn’t a mom when I started but now that I have a little one of my own, being able to advocate on behalf of this organization is even more of a pleasure.
What is your favorite memory from working here? I don’t have one memory but rather a collection of experiences that have been powerful to me. It sounds hokey, but I often find myself in awe of this place. Walking through the cafeteria, participating in a meeting with clinicians, hearing from a doc about an issue he/she wants to address, listening to a family’s experiences, even talking about healthcare reform — in all of those encounters, I get to see and hear how amazing the kids, parents, nurses, doctors and administrators are when it comes to doing what’s right for kids.