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Thoughts on Leadership 

By Peter C. van Dyck, MD, MPH 

As the nation moves forward into this millennium — carrying some of the unresolved problems of its maternal and child population — this population will face current as well as new challenges. The Maternal and Child Health/Title V program and its many partners need to review their past history and approaches, modify these approaches for the new period, reaffirm their purpose and provide the leadership required. 

In the current MCHB Strategic Plan, which is currently being reviewed and updated, and is the first to include a separate goal for leadership, the first goal is to “Provide National Leadership for Maternal and Child Health.” Key strategies are the broad cross-cutting approaches the MCHB uses in order to reach its strategic goals. The five leadership strategies are:  

1)      to create a shared vision and goals for MCH;

2)      to forge strong, collaborative, sustainable MCH partnerships both within and beyond the health sector;

3)      to strengthen the MCH knowledge base and support scholarship within the MCH community;

4)      to promote family leadership in MCH service delivery, evaluation and program/policy development; and

5)      to provide both graduate level and continuing education training to assure interdisciplinary MCH public health leadership nationwide. 

The following principles for MCHB leadership roles and responsibilities guide the work of the Bureau in the implementation of its service program and its strategic plan:  

  • leadership, performance and accountability form the basis for the MCHB approach to doing business in a positive, can-do way;
  • effective leadership requires collaborative partnership as well as excellent communication among key stakeholders;
  • in accordance with the Government Performance Results Act, and as part of its leadership role, MCHB maintains high expectations for performance and holds itself and its grantees accountable;
  • evaluation is an essential tool for program management allowing sound decisions about future allocations of resources; and
  • promoting a respectful, supportive work environment is key to successful performance. 

Even as we go through lean times and face unique challenges, I think the staff of MCHB have exhibited what I call attributes of good leadership: creativeness, innovation, confidence, sureness of conviction, strategic thinking, flexibility, wiseness and what I call, “don’t get stuck” — find a way to get it done. Together, with our grantees and our partners, we are making progress. Napoleon Bonaparte said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” Let us all embrace the attributes of good leadership in an environment of hope and lead this nation in our strong sense of mission to improve the physical and mental health, safety and well-being of the maternal and child health population.