Mia Stange & Monica Kavanaugh

GHC alumni Mia and Monica work for Community Pediatric Programs (CPP) at Montefiore Medical Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center located in the South Bronx, New York City. They spent 2020 channeling their leadership and technical skills to respond to COVID-19. Their story underscores the importance of strong primary care systems and equity-driven leadership in protecting health and wellbeing during crises.

Monica began working at CPP as a GHC fellow in 2016 and has since assumed the role of Grants and Program Administrator. Her team implements quality improvement, health, and special research initiatives designed to address health disparities for families. She also coordinates the Resiliency Initiative, a series of clinical programs directed at mitigating toxic stress in prenatal and young pediatric patients. 

Mia got her start at CPP as a GHC fellow in 2014, primarily executing programming for the Resiliency Initiative. In 2015, she took on an additional role coordinating Terra Firma, a growing medical-legal partnership program that provides coordinated and co-located medical, mental health, legal, and enrichment services to newly-arrived immigrant youth and families. Over the years, her role expanded to overseeing program operations, grants, and external partnerships.

When COVID-19 hit, Monica and Mia worked with their teams to implement policies and procedures to keep patients and staff safe, all with an equity lens. They spearheaded some of their team’s efforts to pivot to provide telehealth consultations and expand the infrastructure of emergency food supplies and patient outreach, working to mitigate the catastrophic effects of the pandemic for CPP patients as early and proactively as possible.

Equity remained Monica and Mia’s north star, as they grappled with the stark reality that COVID-19 deaths per capita were twice as high in the Bronx, which has the highest proportion of racial and ethnic minorities, the most persons living in poverty, and the lowest educational attainment of all the boroughs in New York City. 

Both women leaned on the GHC community and the training they received to navigate their daily work meeting their patients’ needs and sustain their commitment.  

Mia reflected on the lasting power of the network: “I participated in a video call recently with the group of seven women with whom I lived during our incoming GHC training in 2014. GHC was a foundational community and established the importance of finding others who have different experiences, backgrounds, and skill sets but a shared dedication to the principles of human rights and social justice. It is telling to me that six years after my fellowship year I am still in such close communication with a global network of friends and colleagues, and I believe it is a testament to the program’s ability to cultivate leadership and vulnerability in equal measure…In a fundamental sense, it reflects why I became interested in health equity and joined GHC initially — we are only as strong as the sum of our communal efforts, a truth made more stark in emergencies.”

For Monica, the crisis underscored just how much leadership can be a determining factor in who does or doesn’t suffer and die at the hands of illness and disease like COVID-19. “This moment of collective vulnerability has exposed leadership in a new light for me. It has been so remarkable to see leaders emerge at all levels, and at different times, of the pandemic. As the reality of the depth and duration of this pandemic set in, I saw the value of different kinds of leadership to bring about shared impact. Each leader is invaluable in their own way and for their unique contributions…leaders are mobilizing to boost morale, reiterate our mission, and offer light in an increasingly dark time. When the clouds eventually clear, I imagine we will more clearly see where our own leadership fit into the whole, in retrospect.”

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