In CCI’s final interview with the inaugural class of Fulcrum Fellows, we speak with Monica Mitchell. As the Senior Director of Community Relations at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Monica focuses on building bridges between the hospital and its surrounding neighborhoods. In this interview, Monica shares how the Fellowship impacted her approach to her work on three levels: personally, relationally, and systemic.
Tell us a little bit about your background, and how you ended up in your role at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
I am a psychologist by training and over time I have evolved to expand my clinical and research training to focus on community and community engagement. I am the Senior Director of Community Relations, and that is a role that allows me to build bridges between the hospital and community to make an impact on child health. Beyond that, I work on how we make systems improvement within and outside the hospital on issues related to the social determinants of health, like housing, education, and jobs.
The reason I became a child psychologist is that I realized that this work could make a big difference during a summer job. At first, I had a traditional career of seeing patients and doing research. Eventually, I wanted to reach beyond that because I knew that the patients I saw had conditions that could only be treated through fixing the systems around them. In my research role, I started collecting community-level data to see the landscape and then went into community-based research with schools and non-profits. Ultimately, I wanted to do even more and think about how I could affect policy changes within organizations, which led me to my current job.
We think about how our hospital is providing community benefit programs and addressing community health needs, how we use employee volunteers to provide programs and services, and, recently, our role in community investment.
What challenge did you choose to focus on in your Fellowship?
Children’s Hospital committed to a 5-year community investment strategy in our immediate community in 2016. This community has great needs due to health issues such as high asthma rates, low rates of school readiness, and poverty. There are also great assets—strong elementary schools, CDCs, churches, and other community organizations. These factors provide a strong basis for focused collaboration between the hospital and the community. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital designated $10 million to community development and investment in its neighborhood, and my goal was to get three times the leverage for our investment.
What have you learned about what it’s going to take to move your challenge following the Fellowship?
In the Fellowship I learned that the more collaboration there is, the greater the potential for leverage. When there’s high collaboration and more partners are at the table, then there are also more resources for leverage. I learned that relationships are even more important than investment dollars because relationships are the basis for investment in a project and in the community. I was able to increase leverage to six-fold by the second set of investments. On the technical side, I learned to think about investments much more strategically—to bring in potential collaborators in very early in the grant collaboration process.
What have been the most valuable aspects of the Fulcrum Fellowship to you?
Peer learning. I’ve learned a lot from other people’s successes and failures. I appreciated getting direct feedback on my work during the critique sessions, which I found very constructive. I was able to unpack and understand things in a way that I don’t think I would have otherwise. Understanding what is going on in other places also helped focus my thinking. This is a unique program. The combination of completing of a project, participating in leadership development, and engaging in a peer network makes for an unbeatable experience.
What most excites you following the end of the Fellowship?
I learned so much about myself, not just technical skills. I now see my work through a new lens, and I feel like I am a different kind of leader than before the Fellowship. I have different ways of working and more confidence, so I’m looking forward to all the positive changes that will come as I continue my development personally and professionally.
Any updates outside the Fellowship?
My husband and I are running our first marathon in January at Disney World!