Better Together: Neighbors Helping Neighbors

“Our CEO is setting a great example for service, volunteerism and in ways to give back as part of our role as employees.” Monica Mitchell, PhD

Healthier communities nurture healthier kids. Under Michael Fisher’s leadership, we’ve broadened the definition of what it means to be the leader in improving child health and have taken our work beyond the walls of the hospital over the past 12 years and added many partners in the effort.

It started with Strategic Plan 2015, then 2020 and now Pursuing Our Potential Together, where we strive to make Cincinnati’s kids the healthiest in the nation. It’s a legacy that has changed how we partner with our neighbors, focusing on how to address social determinants of health to solve our region’s greatest health challenges.

“We’re now working together with the community to impact reading and literacy, asthma, infant mortality and so many core outcomes. We think about not only when patients are in the hospital but also about their wellness when they leave the hospital and are at home,” said Monica Mitchell, PhD, senior director, Community Relations, and psychologist, Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology.

How do we keep kids well, so they don’t even come to the hospital? It's a question that one organization can’t solve alone. And so, we’re getting all the key stakeholders—parents, schools, social service agencies, and more—to the table, working together to improve child health.

But it wasn’t always that way. Fisher took steps to build the relationship with our neighbors by simply listening.

“Michael’s commitment to our Avondale community is undeniable. His initiation of the Avondale Listening Project was spurred by his desire to understand and learn from our missteps as an institution and to build a stronger relationship and partnership with our Avondale community,” said Ndidi Unaka, MD, MEd, medical director of quality improvement, HealthVine, Hospital Medicine.

Listening has resulted in a lot of good.

Today, we’re addressing food insecurity in primary care clinics through partnership with the regional foodbank that provides free formula and stocks two clinic food pantries. We’re leading a city-wide effort to distribute books through pediatric clinics while also offering quality improvement and data analytic support to schools to improve early literacy. We’re working with school nurses and school-based health centers to improve asthma control and testing interventions, such as home delivery of medications. The list goes on, and it’s symbolic of our cultural philosophy that we are truly better together.

The Power of Showing Up

Commitment to collaboration and the community, combined with Fisher’s visibility in the neighborhood, has earned him a lot of respect in and around Avondale. He shows up and rolls up his sleeves, literally, to make a difference.

At the Reds Community Makeover, Fisher mulched and raked leaves, joining over 400 volunteers to rehab a once abandoned community center. At Juneteenth, he painted tiles that, when fit together, made portraits that were donated to our local schools. At the First Ladies Day of Health, he got his flu vaccine in front of kids and families to role model the importance of getting protection from influenza.

“Michael is someone who knows what it's like to be a parent. He knows what it's like to have children and really want the best for them. I think he engages with patients and families with that perspective in mind, and it allows him to build strong relationships, even if it's just for a moment. His ability to be very relational really comes through in his interactions,” said Unaka.

Earlier this year, Fisher was honored for giving back to the community at the highest level when he received a Volunteer Leadership Award, presented during the annual Employee Volunteer Ambassador Appreciation event in June. 

“Our CEO is setting a great example for service, volunteerism and in ways to give back as part of our role as employees. It’s a big reason why our Employee Volunteer Ambassador program has grown to about 2,000 participants,” added Mitchell.

“Michael’s commitment to our Avondale community is undeniable.” Ndidi Unaka, MD, MEd

The ribbon-cutting for the newly renovated Vernon Manor, June 2011.

Serving up pancakes at Waggles, formerly in the Herald Building.

More Than Dollars and Cents

Cincinnati Children’s has remained deeply rooted in the community that has served as our home since 1883. Each year, we deliver more than $420 million in community benefit services, providing health education, injury prevention and wellness initiatives, discounted care for those unable to pay, and much more.

During Fisher’s tenure, we also invested $11.5 million in Avondale from 2016 to 2021 to improve child and community health through community development, workforce development and capacity-building grants for nonprofits that share in our mission.

The building of Location G, which opened Nov. 6, signifies the ongoing commitment we’ve made to the businesses and people that make up our community. Working with the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio and Messer Construction, 50 residents will have become employed in full-time, sustainable careers in construction by the end of the year.

With each new project— Vernon Manor, The Offices at Vernon Place and now Location G—we have continually raised the bar for supplier diversity and inclusion. We pledged to spend over 30 percent of construction dollars with diverse businesses and exceeded the goal with $111 million in contracts. We have built a pipeline of careers in healthcare for local candidates, too, with the creation of job readiness and internship programs like the Biomedical Research Internship for Minority Students.

“Michael has been a strong advocate for ensuring that we’re supporting our neighborhoods in our base community of Avondale where the needs are the greatest and where we have been partnering with so many organizations for years,” said Mitchell.

Fisher has been a champion for collaborating to improve child health. He’s been a volunteer. He’s given back to make a difference. His care for kids, for Cincinnati Children’s and for the community will live on in the well-being of everyone who lives in Greater Cincinnati.

We pledged to spend over 30 percent of construction dollars with diverse businesses and exceeded the goal with $111 million in contracts.

Fisher gets his flu vaccine at a First Ladies Day of Health as a way to help kids understand that taking care of your health is a good thing.

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