I started my Fellowship journey three years ago, before we knew what COVID-19 was and the devastation it would cause around the world. The global pandemic and the disruption it caused to daily life - and the course of my Fellowship journey and career more broadly - could never have been predicted. I wrote my Fellowship application as a clinician who wanted to do more to improve the health of individuals by improving the systems in which we receive health care. As my Fellowship comes to an end, I am a clinician who does public health and have been working for nearly two years to ensure those systems keep everyone safe and well. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have created these opportunities for me to work on larger systems issues, the Bush Fellowship provided me with the tools and courage to seize them.
Initially, I saw my Fellowship as a way to gain skills and knowledge to address issues important to me sometime in the future. The two-year Fellowship, I believed, was like a staging area, where I could gather materials and make a plan before going into battle. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, threw me, and all of us, directly into the war. I no longer had time to learn about communication and policy, for example, I needed skills in those areas immediately to do my part of the global effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Crucially, the Bush Fellowship gave me the resources to get formal training in areas related to communication, leadership and public health. I generally used these skills while I was learning them, providing public health services to tribal communities throughout the region concurrently with my courses, programs and coaching sessions.
However, my Fellowship also furnished me with the mindset and perspective that I can and should be a leader in the transformation of health systems. This psychological support was, in many ways, more crucial than the financial support. I took more risks and explored more ideas than I would have if I had not been a Fellow. As cliche as it sounds, your biggest roadblock in making substantial change and achieving big ideas is often your own beliefs about your abilities and what is possible.
The many changes and stressors over the last two years have challenged us all to reevaluate the type of lives we want to live and have brought into focus what we hold most dear. My Fellowship helped me to change the course of my career and move from individual care in the exam room to care of communities. It also reminded me to take care of myself through exercise, friendships, and general relaxation, so that I can continue to do this work long-term. I am more protective now of myself and my life outside of my work and am sure to make self-care a part of my daily routine and my long-term plans.
My Fellowship journey was not always easy. There were times when I was forced to think long and hard about my strengths and weaknesses after being evaluated in a leadership course or in talking with a coach. It can be difficult to learn how others see you or that maybe you aren’t as skilled in some areas as you think you are. But it is all part of the process of growing to become a stronger advocate and leader.
Sometimes, my journey was hard because I was not sure where I was going! Oftentimes, I felt more like I was wandering, lost, than on a clear path leading me to a specific destination. I tried to embrace this type of journey as well - because by wandering you will have experiences and opportunities for which you never could have planned.
My Fellowship has not only allowed me to explore my interests and ideas, but has encouraged me to do so. Some of these explorations have resulted in concrete products or results, some have resulted in nothing but a dead end. Others are still open, with paths left to be explored.
I want to thank the Bush Foundation and the Foundation staff for the opportunity to be a Bush Fellow. I greatly appreciate the support in my growth as a leader and the change in how I see myself to be able to lead. The specific elements of my Fellowship journey were nothing like I would have thought three years ago, but, somehow, I have ended up in a space where I am doing work that is exactly what I should be doing.