The N.C. Foundation for Advanced Health Programs has announced the participants in the Jim Bernstein Community Health Leadership Fellowship program, which prepares emerging leaders to work in and improve the health status of rural and underserved communities in North Carolina.
The Cary-based N.C. Foundation for Advanced Health Programs (soon to be named the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation) is concerned with building leadership, improving policy and practice and driving innovation in health care. The fellowships support the work of outstanding individuals who share the vision, commitment, passion and beliefs about health equity of Jim Bernstein, the Foundation’s first president.
The Bernstein Fellows serve two-year terms that began in October and end in 2017. They involve projects in their communities that aim to achieve the program’s vision — strengthening the next generation of health leaders to provide affordable and sustainable quality health services to communities across North Carolina.
Since the fellowship program began in 2006, there have been 23 graduates. The fellows come from a variety of professions including providers, nutritionists, social workers and administrators. They have worked in all regions of the state – from the southwest (Bryson City) to the northeast (Elizabeth City). Past projects include the development of a telemedicine program for school children in Western North Carolina, an assessment of unmet legal needs among patients in the state’s community health centers, and the design and implementation of a project geared towards bridging the gap between pregnancy care and substance abuse treatment services in North Carolina.
The program’s benefits are realized by both the Fellows and by their communities, said Maggie Sauer, CEO of the Foundation. The four focus areas of the Bernstein Fellowship program are rural life, partnership, the North Carolina health care sector and leadership, Sauer explained.
“Fellows gain confidence in themselves, increased awareness of rural health issues, broad-spectrum education and skills for community development, and personal and professional connections that prepare them for impactful leadership,” she added. “And North Carolina communities gain from the launch of new and improved programs and receive an increased number of highly qualified and effective leaders who understand community-based leadership.”
In addition to the new Fellows, the program has named a new director. Information on the director and the five fellows is below. (The Fellows photos are in clockwise order, from the top left.)
Tom Bacon, DrPH: Tom is the new Director of the Fellows program. A part-time research fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at UNC-Chapel Hill, Tom retired in 2013 as executive associate dean and NC AHEC Program Director at the UNC School of Medicine, a position he had held since 1996. He served as executive director of Mountain AHEC in Asheville from 1982-1996. His academic and career interests are in health workforce development, with a particular focus on meeting the health-care needs of rural and other underserved populations. He has served on the boards of the NC Institute of Medicine, the NC Foundation for Advanced Health Programs and the NC Healthy Start Foundation, and he currently serves on the boards of Senior PharmAssist and Housing for New Hope. In 2014, Tom received the Jim Bernstein Community Health Career Achievement Award.
Jamie Cousins, MPA: A Raleigh resident, Jamie is the program manager for the Catalyst for Healthy Eating and Active Living, a Kate B. Reynolds-funded program of the N.C. Public Health Foundation in collaboration with the N.C. Division of Public Health. She is responsible for program planning, implementation and evaluation, and she works with local Catalyst Coordinators who build support for community projects that make healthy eating and active living easier. As a Bernstein Fellow, Cousins plans to explore opportunities for local public health, community development and economic development to collaborate for community health improvements related to healthy eating and active lifestyles.
Erin Hultgren, MPH: Eric is a program manager at Gaston Family Health Services, Inc., where she manages the Ryan White and Medicaid HIV Case Management Programs. She is responsible for providing case management services, ensuring provider support at five locations in Gaston County while improving quality of care for patients living with HIV/AIDS. Erin is passionate about the positive impact of integrated care and how social problems affect the public’s health. As a Bernstein Fellow, Erin plans to explore the capacity to improve pediatric integrated care by incorporating screenings for adverse childhood experiences, and to gain leadership skills that enhance an integrated care environment.
Rod Jenkins, MHA: Rod serves as the Deputy Health Director for Cumberland County, North Carolina, where he works to promote and protect the public’s health through the many programs operated by the health department. He is also the former assistant county manager for Robeson County. Rod has a particular interest in how various health-care reform initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act, impact rural communities in the state. As a Bernstein Fellow, Rod intends to capitalize on the successes of Cumberland County’s Teen Wellness and Pregnancy Prevention strategies and to implement these activities in neighboring counties. He also plans to enhance his leadership skills as a communicator, team player, and problem solver.
Peter McQuiston: Peter is a native of North Carolina and has called western North Carolina home since 2000. Peter serves as the director of food and nutrition at Swain Community Hospital in Bryson City. He also serves as the regional chair of the diversity and inclusion action team of the NC Compass Group. Peter has a true passion for serving the underserved and has focused his talents on a partnership with Vecinos, a local farm worker health program. His program, Feed The Fields, delivers nutritious meals to migrant farm workers along with health education and other services. As a Bernstein Fellow, Peter plans to enhance his leadership skills and to build new partnerships that will allow him to expand his program to serve even greater numbers of people.
Catherine Parker, MA: Catherine serves as the director for the Hertford County Student Wellness Center, a division of Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center. Her main focus has been on increasing quality interagency partnerships, improving literacy, increasing access to behavioral health services, and increasing awareness of childhood cancer. She also serves as chair for Hertford Health Maintenance Alliance’s Community-Centered Health Homes Initiative, a program funded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina. As a Bernstein Fellow, Catherine plans to develop a health-focused peer mentor leadership program for youth, and believes her Bernstein experience will enhance her ability to advocate for improved policies and programs to address important health issues in her community.
For more information about the N.C. Foundation for Advanced Health Programs (which will become the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation on Jan. 1, 2016), visit www.ncfahp.org or call 919-821-0485.