These volunteer leaders have been elected by you to provide for the care and future direction of AMCHP. This information is meant to provide you with a resource for a new MCH connection, a better understanding of the role of board members, or simply to pique your interest in the work of your peers.
This month, we have the privilege of introducing you to Heather Smith and Mary Ellen Cunningham, both of whom currently serve on the AMCHP Board of Directors.
Heather has been an AMCHP member since 2010, serving in multiple volunteer capacities including as a member of the Family and Youth Leadership and Emerging Issues Committees. She has also participated in the AMCHP Next Generation MCH Professional Work Group. Heather is new to the AMCHP board in 2015, serving as the Interim Region VII Director.
She currently is the director for Special Health Services for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).
Heather has worked in the health care field in some capacity since 16 years of age in primary care, hospital outpatient surgery, home health, and inpatient hospital care. In 2006, she began working at Children's Miracle Network in multiple positions throughout her three year employment, including planning fundraising events and projects and serving as the liaison between the families and the organization.
After graduating with a Master's in Public Health in 2009, she interned with the KCMO Health Department then began working for the Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) at KDHE as the project coordinator for the D-70 Integrated Community Systems grant. In October 2011, Ms. Smith was promoted to the health planning consultant position and began working more closely to assist in aligning the program's state objectives and activities with national performance measures and national initiatives. She was accepted to the Kansas Public Health Leadership Institute and completed that program in 2012. In 2013, she began serving as the Kansas Special Health Services (SHS) director, overseeing the Kansas Metabolic Newborn Screening, Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, Infant/Toddler Early Intervention (Part C), Birth Defects, and Special Health Care Needs programs.
Ms. Smith serves on multiple state and national committees or councils related to CYSHCN, disability, and public health. Annual participation in the AMCHP conference has supported her professional growth and development and expanded the awareness of CYSHCN and disability in Kansas. Having been selected as a presenter at state, regional, and national conferences continues to serve as a catalyst for change and opportunities to share with others lessons learned in for systems building for CYSHCN.
Mary Ellen Cunningham has been an AMCHP member since 2012. Prior to joining the Board of Directors, she also volunteered her time to the Workforce and Leadership Development Committee of AMCHP. Mary Ellen has been an active member of the AMCHP board since 2015 as the Interim Region IX Director.
Mary Ellen is currently the chief of the Bureau of Women's and Children's Health at the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). The bureau houses the Offices of Injury, Women's Health, Children's Health, Oral Health, Children with Special Health Care Needs, Assessment and Evaluation and Business.
As the bureau chief she serves as the Arizona Title V/ MCH director. Prior to becoming bureau chief, Ms. Cunningham served as the agency's high risk perinatal program manager and chief of the Office of Children's Health, which manages the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting grant. She serves as the ADHS designee to the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board, on the U.S. Mexico Border Reproductive Health Maternal Mortality workgroup and as a consultant to the Arizona Perinatal Trust Board of Directors. In 2009, Mary Ellen was selected as the Arizona Chapter of the March of Dimes Prenatal/Pediatric Nurse of the Year.
Mary Ellen is a registered nurse who has worked in many health care settings from metropolitan ICUs to a Cambodian Refugee camp. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from American University and a Master's in Public Administration from Arizona State University. Originally from the Bronx, she has lived in the desert for 30 years. She's also been married for 30 years and has two grown daughters.
In terms of why she was interested in serving on the AMCHP Board, Mary Ellen said, "I believe positive change for our nations' women, children and families can only come about through the collective action of knowledgeable, dedicated people. I aspire to be a part of that group."
We thank and honor these two professionals for giving their time and expertise to AMCHP. Please take a moment to visit the AMCHP board page for more details and how you can reach Heather Smith and Mary Ellen Cunningham.