Think Big: A Message from the President

“You just don’t know how magnificent you might be. Think big.” 
Dr. John Tyler Caldwell, 
8th Chancellor of
 NC State University (1959-1975)

Maggie-SauerI recently ran across this quote from Dr. Caldwell from NC State and it reminded me of the opportunity we all have as we begin 2015.  It also reminds me of the work and passion of the Bernstein Fellows present and alumni…they think BIG and challenge us all to do the same!  There is no work worth doing unless we do it together…partnerships, team-based care, community…these are not separate discussions, it’s inclusive.  It’s not new but it is hard!  The Fellows continue the ideals, passion and courage demonstrated by Jim Bernstein to be bold, think big and work in communities to “imagine how magnificent” they can be.

In the past year, I’ve attended numerous meetings that focus on what communities (rural in particular) don’t have, lack and need.  Hmm…recalling Dr. Caldwell’s words, is that really the place to start?  The NC Institute of Medicine’s Task Force on Rural Health released its NC Rural Health Action Plan in August.  As a participant, it was wonderful to see a variety of community members not always included in healthcare discussions: public safety officers, county managers, and church council members, to name a few, working together with a common goal.   I enjoyed the comradery of my fellow participants, particularly their passion for their communities and their sense of pride, fellowship and commitment.  In fact, the group was insistent that the report reflect a balance of strength and opportunities for improvement.  This quote from the report perhaps best represents this sentiment:

 “NC’s rural communities face many challenges, but they are also quite resilient. There is a strong sense of place and an understanding of community assets. Rural people know the needs of their community. They know what strategies to improve health and well-being will not work and are also open to learning from others. While rural communities are often under-resourced, there is an innate sense of commitment to the community and to each other. And because of this, rural communities are often able to accomplish a great deal with limited resources.” 

Since the report was released the work has continued. The Foundation is working with a large group of stakeholders across North Carolina as part of the NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance.  This group has met for over 20 years beginning with a small group that included Jim Bernstein, Gene Mayer of AHEC, Harvey Estes, MD and Tom Irons, MD.  The Alliance is restructuring its work to address the goals set out in the recommendations of the NCIOM report.  Stay tuned….

The new Rural Forward NC program at NCFAHP works with communities as part of the Kate B. Reynolds Trust Healthy Places NC to highlight and identify the strengths in community with the community.  Calvin Allen and Brandy Bynum are working in partnership with communities in Halifax and Rockingham Counties to begin.

While we have a lot of work to do, I will keep Dr. Caldwell’s words firmly fixed within my view.  As we continue this work together, let’s see just how magnificent we can be: think big!

-Maggie Sauer, CEO & President