I recently received an email from Deborah Bowen congratulating me on my ACHE tenure. In 2010, I joined ACHE when I was in my last year of graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health at the suggestion of my advisor when I decided that I wanted to go into Healthcare Administration particularly hospital administration instead of Health Policy. ACHE is what I used to locate my post-grad fellowship opportunities but once I got into my career, I admit I didn’t stay very active. Just was something I kept up with membership on because I thought it was the right thing to do. When I moved back to Boston, I had a friend suggest to me to join the chapter and get active and he would drag me to various conferences. It was applying to a board dinner on June 4, 2018 where 4-5 members could join that ignited my decision to get active. And it’s been the best decision for me personally and professionally since.
Along with getting that email I recently celebrated 10 years since I started my healthcare career with the VA. I love the VA, it’s been a great experience thus far despite its challenges. I was so worried for so long that as a woman, person of color and now as a mother I wouldn’t be able to still achieve my career goals and would have to sacrifice it all. However, since being back to work from maternity leave my perspective has changed completely. My first day back I wrote down 10 lessons learned—one that I must tell myself often is don’t stress even when they do because my priorities have changed. I have to leave work at a reasonable time so that I can go feed my daughter, play with her and give her a bath, it is okay to ask to work from home 1-2 days so that I can see her more often in the week and she and I may both cry because we missed each other. And because I am making a sacrifice, I want to do a job that I love. Something I am still trying to figure out, I am still learning and still growing in my career as an Early Careerist. So now I am pursuing things that are of interest to me at work in addition to doing my day to day. I am even more involved in diversity conversations and training at work, joined NAHSE where I am involved in Community Engagement, serve as President of a council that oversees national VA work and working on some new projects.
I was pregnant during the pandemic; I delivered my daughter during this crisis all while having to go in to work every day and eventually getting COVID myself while being pregnant. This year has shown the importance of resiliency in healthcare, race relations, government, and politics. And as a person of color I am very familiar with the word resiliency. This last year my appreciation for healthcare grew and my motivation to impact the system hoping to advance it grew not only for me but for others that look like me. I am proud to work in healthcare despite its complexities, imperfections, and the fact that there are so many questions not answered. I have seen through others how resilient they are and learned best practices of how their organizations provide health care.
ACHE gives me something different from my organization. I keep staying on as a member because it’s awarded me the opportunity to meet amazing, dynamic and diverse people, build lasting and meaningful relationships both personally and professionally, enhance my skills beyond the work place, pushed me to lead/manage individuals differently, granted me with great mentors and even has taught me to how to have my own mentees. Healthcare is always changing, it’s rapid, it’s complex and all that can be fun. With ACHE I get to be challenged and learn how to navigate through this system.
As a new full-time mother trying to balance working full-time and being a wife full-time my WHY is what I have to go back to when I am too tired to do anything else or when I need to remind myself to do something for myself. Some days are harder than others as I am still navigating my new norm. I wake up every morning, tell myself today is going to be a good day and then say to my daughter, I hope you are proud of your mama, girl.”
I don’t know if I have inspired anyone, but I do hope that as we continue to do the work of serving our members it’s important for us to still remember the members as individuals. There are new mothers and fathers, people in between jobs, people who are struggling with the lack of diversity in their organizations, people who feel stuck in their jobs and don’t even know how to begin to pursue something else, new managers and leaders and people are still early in the career and looking for ways to grow. We need to tailor programming, recruitment and retaining to these members. We need to help people remember their Why.
In congratulating me one thing in her email that stood out to me was that she stated, “your tenure as an ACHE member is a testament to your commitment to our profession and the important role you play in advancing health.” I truly hope that this is part of the legacy I leave and that I would have made a difference. I read somewhere that, being a health care professional is an emotionally rewarding career. Although it can be a very demanding profession, you will get the internal satisfaction of helping people improve their overall quality of live by providing them efficient care. I hope that in the moments when we aren’t sure or are simply tired that we are reminded of our WHY.
-Written by Kerri-Lynne Kellam, MPH