Real Life Story

Witnessing, Learning and Experiencing MCH Leadership at the AMCHP Annual Conference

By Aimee Eden, MA, PhD (c)

In August of 2006, I was a pregnant and (temporarily) uninsured graduate student with a two-year old daughter. In February 2012, I was a doctoral candidate (and mother of two!) attending my first AMCHP Conference. A lot happened in between, but those moments in time are connected – my frustrating months-long experience in 2006 trying to enroll in pregnancy Medicaid and Florida KidCare led me to seek out leadership development opportunities in MCH, which led me, ultimately, to the 2012 AMCHP Conference by way of the Realityworks & Go Beyond MCH Graduate Student Scholarship. As a graduate student, it is difficult and often unaffordable to travel to conferences, so I felt incredibly grateful and lucky to be able to attend the AMCHP Conference. AMCHP meant not only professional and academic development opportunities, like so many other conferences, but also leadership development opportunities.

The conference did not let me down. On my very first day, I attended a skills-building training called Enhancing MCH Leadership Skills Through Professional Development in Core Competencies. As an MCH Leadership Trainee at the University of South Florida, I had worked through the competencies individually, but here was an opportunity to learn more about the competencies from the leaders who developed them, and to discuss them with a room full of practicing MCH leaders. The long list of competencies, once overwhelming and intimidating, became manageable and more realistic after this session. I began the conference with a concrete set of professional and leadership development plans.

In addition to high-profile national level leaders like AMCHP President and Alaska state leader Stephanie Birch, AMCHP CEO Michael Fraser and MCHB Division Director of MCH Workforce Development Laura Kavanagh, I met and networked with many family, state and regional leaders. Most conferences do not provide so many opportunities to rub elbows with such high-level leaders. I was perhaps even more impressed with the inspiring family leaders I was privileged to meet. I came away with a new appreciation and understanding of the levels and forms of leadership valued in the field of MCH. Together, these different types of leaders make a more productive, and pleasant, arena in which to work toward common MCH goals.

That AMCHP encourages and supports its members to advocate for MCH issues and the Title V MCH Services Block Grant demonstrates yet another way that the organization promotes leadership among its members. I took the opportunity to learn more about advocacy and policy making before and during the conference, and I visited my congressman on Capitol Hill while in DC. Not only was this a great learning experience, it is one that builds confidence in the advocacy side of leadership, which is too often overlooked in academic training.

Developing leadership skills requires a certain amount of dedication and motivation, but without opportunities to meet, engage with and learn from leaders in the field of MCH, it is difficult to see how to further develop and apply those skills. In these unsure political and economic times, I appreciated the leadership development and networking experience that AMCHP could uniquely provide. Six years have passed since, as an uninsured graduate student mother, I became a parent advocate for the Covering Kids & Families Coalition in my state. Now that I near completion of my PhD and MPH, I plan to incorporate what I have learned from the AMCHP conference and continue working towards becoming a new MCH leader.


MCH PHLI: Business World Practices to Develop MCH Leaders

By Claudia S. P. Fernandez, DrPH, RD, LDN
Director and PI, The MCH Public Health Leadership Institute, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Maternal and Child Health Public Health Leadership Institute (MCH PHLI) is an executive education style program designed to significantly improve leadership skills of mid-to-senior-level leaders working in MCH fields. The program utilizes business world best practices to develop leaders that serve MCH audiences. One example of this business-world oriented leadership training is that a series of valid and reliable psychological assessment instruments form a core component of the program. These are debriefed with fellows around understanding "what makes people tick" as a basis for gaining insight into effective communication, creating collaborative team cultures, employee engagement and how to cultivate thought diversity as a core component of organizational culture.

Fellows receive progressive feedback with a total of eight assessments included in the year-long experience, including a 360-degree assessment. These "360s," as they are referred to in the business world, are a fundamental part of corporate leadership development. Fellows in MCH PHLI experience a 360 specifically designed, researched and validated for use with public health professionals. MCH PHLI fellows also work throughout the year with a doctorally prepared, instrument-certified executive coach who is an experienced public health professional. MCH PHLI has three such executive coaches forming a deep bench of experience who work with the 30 fellows enrolled per year and teach in the program.

MCH PHLI has three residential intensive retreat sessions. At these multi-day programs, fellows stay in a state of the art facility for executive education at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Business School, where they train next to other corporate and government learners from around the globe. Fellows learn from UNC Chapel Hill faculty, both from the Gillings School of Global Public Health and the Kenan-Flagler Business School, as well as nationally and internationally recognized experts. Fellows learn in traditional sessions, as well as in four simulations throughout the year, to give them practical and experiential based training. Fellows focus their learning on a Personal Leadership Project, which they complete within the year and present at a scientific session at their final retreat. This is similar to many corporate leadership programs where participants complete significant projects either as individuals or as teams.

Graduates of the program report that participating in MCH PHLI is life-changing: both through transformation of leadership practices at work and through personal transformation. For example, at work many leaders said they changed their office hiring practices after the MCH PHLI training in corporate-style interviewing skills, which assess fit, skill and competence. Fellows made comments such as:

"I am using what I learned in the institute literally every day."

"I’m at a very different place in my life than I was when I started this program a year ago and I really attribute a lot of that to the program. For one, I have a much broader perspective on MCH issues and kind of a vision for change I hope to create in [my state]. But more importantly, I feel like I have a clearer view of my strengths and the confidence to use them."

"For me, this experience has been truly transformative."

"I’m now able to impact on a much larger level within my state as an MCH leader and I now have a place at the table with legislators and policymakers".

To date, the program has graduated 54 fellows and

now enrolls 30 fellows annually. The Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Maternal and

Child Health, has created MCH PHLI in partnership with AMCHP, CityMatCH, Family Voices and the National Center for Cultural Competence to bring this program to MCH leaders.

MCH PHLI is supported in full by a Project T04 MC12783 from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Title V, Social Security Act), Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services.


Staff Goes ALL IN for National Leadership Program

By Maritza Valenzuela
Program Manager, Adolescent Health, AMCHP

In May 2012, I completed a unique leadership development program with the National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI), a national organization established in 1987 to address the underrepresentation of Latinas in the corporate, nonprofit and political arenas. The NHLI mission is to develop Latina women as ethical leaders through training, professional development, relationship building and community activism.

In the summer of 2011, I was selected to be one of 22 mid-level Latina leaders to participate in the third, and most recent, NHLI training program, Advancing Latina Leaders In Nonprofits (ALL IN). The program seeks to cultivate, promote, and sustain emerging Latina professionals in the nonprofit sector to develop their leadership and management skills, find their voice as effective community leaders, and build their external networks. For seven months, I engaged in a leadership journey with 21 other Latina leaders from nonprofit organizations around the country, through group in-person trainings, as well as distance learning events. Instructed by a diverse range of professional, inspiring women leaders, we built our understanding of current trends in the nonprofit sector, strategic planning, using individual strengths and talents to further our leadership competencies, leading high-performing teams, fundraising, program evaluation, and new technology. In November 2011, my cohort participated in a three-day training and attended the NHLI annual Executive Leadership Training Conference. In May of this year, we gathered for a week of events in Washington, DC that included an intensive nonprofit management training from the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership at Georgetown University.

Providing access to role models and mentors is another key component of the program so, beginning this month, I will be mentored by a graduate of the NHLI Executive Leadership Program.

I found this program to be a rare and important opportunity to receive training in skills relevant to work in the nonprofit sector; relevant to my needs and experience as a mid-level professional; inclusive of cultural, personal and interpersonal dynamics; and acknowledging of the importance of relationship building to career success. In my experience, each of those qualities is difficult to find in a leadership program, and it is even rarer to find all three in one.

As a graduate of the program, I’m bringing back to AMCHP a variety of skills, tools, and lessons that will improve both my daily work and my long-term projects. I now have a better understanding of my strengths and the strengths of my coworkers (which we have all identified using the StrengthsFinder method), as well as how to leverage them. I have a variety of tools on effectively leading, managing, motivating and inspiring. This summer I’ll be sharing those resources with the rest of the AMCHP staff and, going forward, will be taking advantage of opportunities to share the benefits of what I learned and gained from participation in the ALL IN program.

For information on NHLI and its programs, visit