As I reported last month, the foundation is pleased to join with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Center for Creative Leadership to support 30 community and public health fellows in the Ladder to Leadership program.  The initiative is geared to support Cleveland’s next generation of community health leaders.

 The 16-month program kicked off last week, with a 2-day session at the foundation.  While a majority of the training sessions were “top secret” (for the ears and eyes of fellows only), there’s still plenty to share.  After all, there are only 30 Ladder to Leadership fellows–but we can all stand to improve our leadership and team building skills.

As a part of the program launch, fellows heard from four experts in community and public health: 

  • Terry Allan, health commission – Cuyahoga County Board of Health;
  • Steve Bullock, Bullock Group, LLC;
  • Jean Therrien, executive director – Neighborhood Family Practice;
  • Danny Williams, executive director – Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland. 

These seasoned pros will provide guidance to the fellows throughout their 16-month journey. 

At the Ladder to Leadership session, they offered advice to the newly chosen fellows, including:

  • Understand your community.  Get to know who you are serving and why. 
  • Disparities (both health and education) shape who has access to healthcare.  How can our organizations tackle these issues? 
  • Think outside of public health.  Read news sources and talk with folks outside your profession. Together, we can broaden our knowledge and create new solutions to Cleveland’s community health issues.
  • Budget and policy matter, as does the way we frame issues.
  • Challenge authority and push people to imagine new ways of doing business.
  • It’s (often) all about systems change

For their part, the 30 fellows were an energetic and inspirational bunch.  In addition to spending time on personal leadership growth, the fellows will work in groups of 5 to 7 to tackle key community health issues.  While their projects will evolve over time, the 30 emerging leaders definitely have a sense of the issues facing Clevelanders.  For them, our top health challenges include:

  • Recruiting and maintaining a skilled public health workforce.
  • Managing amidst the realities of stagnant/dwindling funding.
  • Developing effective community health education programs to deal with chronic conditions and serve our most vulnerable.
  • Making the most of cross-agency collaborations.
  • Improving culturally and linguistically appropriate services. 

While these challenges are daunting, I left the 2-day kick-off truly inspired and excited for the 30 Ladder to Leadership fellows.  They’re in for a busy year and half, as they stretch their already tight work/life schedules to meet the high expectations of this fellowship.  But considering what I saw last week, this group will have no problems tackling Ladder to Leadership, and more importantly, taking on the health challenges facing our community.

  •  What advice would you give our fellows, either about leadership or community health, as they start the Ladder to Leadership program?
  • Do you agree with the health challenges posed by our fellows?  What issues are missing? How would you prioritize what we, as a community, should tackle first?