Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Q: Sue, you have been named interim president & CEO and people want to know a little bit about your experience.
Sue: I come from a nursing background. I started out as a staff nurse in a hospital, became director of nursing services in a small rural hospital and then moved to public health, where I was the administrator for two county health departments through the 1980s. Much of my clinical work during those years was in AIDS education, prevention and surveillance and community organizing around AIDS.
In 1989, I was given an opportunity to represent the interests of the nursing profession at the state legislature in Minnesota, and I served as a lobbyist and public policy leader for the nurses for 17 years. I was the chief lobbyist, passing 27 major pieces of legislation over those years.
I was then recruited to the Minnesota Hospital Association, where I continued to work as a lobbyist, focusing my energies on hospital reimbursement issues and mental health system reform for another five years.
Q. How long have you been with the Amputee Coalition, and what have been your roles?
Sue: I came to the Amputee Coalition in January 2011 to provide leadership to the government relations program as well as communications. Since starting with the organization, I have had oversight responsibilities in the areas of government relations, communications, research, the Limb Loss Resource Center and, most recently, peer support. I have also worked with many of our partners, including the Veterans Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Orthotic & Prosthetic Activities Foundation (OPAF), and overseen key initiatives such as our Limb Loss Task Force, the Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp, and the advancement project for our peer visitor program.
Q. Are you or any of your family members an amputee?
Sue: I am not an amputee, nor are my family members.
Q. What are your experiences in working with amputees?
Sue: Since coming to the organization, I have twice had the privilege of going to our National Conference and also our youth camp. I routinely interact with amputees across the country on the many committees we have at the Amputee Coalition. I think it is vitally important to include the “voice of the amputee” in all that we do. I am especially sensitive to this because, as a nurse, I understand the importance of having a person who lives with limb loss helping us develop programs and services. I work hard to ensure we are inclusive in making critical decisions and have knowledgeable members of our constituency as advisors, committee leaders and members and on work groups.
Q. What is your philosophy about work?
Sue: My approach to work starts with my background in nursing and a belief in holistic care and the right of patients/consumers to direct their care and to be in charge of their own healthcare.
To give people an idea of the philosophical base that drives my perspective, I always go back to Florence Nightingale. Florence was an amazing woman who spent her early career in battlefield hospitals during the Crimean War. She did everything – managed supplies, trained staff, fed patients and emptied bedpans. When she returned from the war, she spent the remainder of her life advocating for better hospital conditions and healthcare for the soldiers. If you look at the letters she wrote to friends as well as powerful people in the British government during those years, the words “always remember” were written in the margins of her letters to remind her of her beloved soldiers. She wrote this to ground herself in purpose.
I believe it is important to continually ground ourselves with regard to why we do the work that we do at the Amputee Coalition. It is not about the credit or the glory – it is about our mission to serve people living with limb loss and their families
Q. What are your plans for the organization going forward?
Sue: We are continuing to follow our five-year strategic plan. Next year is our final year of that plan, and we are happy that we have accomplished many of the major goals already. This year, we have had a banner year so far with a record-breaking National Conference and hugely successful Limb Loss Education Days (LLED) pilot series. In accordance with our plan, we will continue to build on our LLED success with a larger national footprint for locations in 2014. We will also focus on making more online resources available and expand on resource tools, such as videos and apps. We will also continue to advance our peer visitor program through our hospital affiliations, program quality improvements and other collaborations to reach more amputees faster.
Q. What are your perspectives on having amputees on staff?
Sue: The Coalition staff has included amputees over the years. Currently, no amputees are on staff, but we work with two contractors who are amputees – Debra Kerper, with our Travel Adventures Program, and Peggy Chenoweth, who manages our Facebook page; we also have two interns who are amputees – Daniel Carroll and Wonseok “Eddie” Lee. Additionally, we have a broad number of committees made up of amputee volunteers from across the country, and more than half of the members of our board of directors are amputees. While we believe we have solid inclusion of the amputee perspective in our programs and decision-making, we work hard to ensure that openings – when we have them – are broadcast across the limb loss community. It would be unfair to hire solely on the basis of whether a person has limb loss. We hire employees based on their qualifications for the job.
Q. What motivates you about the Amputee Coalition?
Sue: The organization’s mission is very compelling. The community is very open to the work we do. The board has been, and continues to be, exceptionally supportive and the staff is focused, in sync and works as a team. The overall culture of the Coalition has energy, purpose and a sense of urgency. So, the work excites me and the issues are intellectually compelling. Having a dedicated board and a well-functioning staff team makes the work enjoyable. But the most engaging aspects are the people we serve through the Coalition and the opportunity to see how lives are positively impacted by the work we do.
Q. How do you relax?
Sue: My husband Tom and I enjoy golfing, fishing and traveling. We have two dachshunds that keep us busy.