In this volunteer spotlight, we learn more about Associate Board Member Meghan Phillipp! Our 2020 Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year, Meghan hails from the northside of Chicago and is the Executive Director of the Health Care Council of Chicago and Managing Director of Third Horizon Strategies. In this article, she shares more about her connection to the clinic and motivations for volunteering.
In a few sentences, tell us more about yourself and your background!
I was born and raised in the southwest suburbs and have lived within Chicago’s city limits since after I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Lawrence University. Throughout my career I have worked in start-ups and nonprofits occupying a mix of development, marketing and fundraising leadership roles. In my current position, I manage a member-based collaborative that brings leaders from across the healthcare ecosystem together to support Chicago’s most important health-related issues. Having studied music and theater, I continue to perform with local bands and work on various performing arts projects when opportunities arise. I am a self-proclaimed foodie with a weakness for donuts and tortilla chips. And, when I am not imbibing in Chicago’s greatest offerings, I am always seeking out unique cultural experiences and indulgences wherever I travel.
Is there a specific area of healthcare you are interested in or healthcare experiences you are seeking?
Advocacy for access and equity – I am not a clinician nor do I have any sort of formal health care training. All my experience and what drives my interest in this space is that at the end of the day no one can do anything without their health. It is truly important to ensure people get access to not only healthcare services but other social services and economic opportunities that influence their overall well-being. I am always seeking ways to collaborate, connect people and help in any small way to ensure that we all are effectively delivering opportunities to be healthy to our local communities.
If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?
Telepathy – I often want to understand and read people, so it would be so fascinating to be able to read people’s thoughts. For good of course!
Do you have any special talents/skills you’d like to share?
I studied music, so I can play piano, flute and a wee bit of ukulele, but my main instrument was voice, so I love to sing.
Outside of volunteering with CommunityHealth, how do you like to spend your free time?
Walks with my dog Bruno, singing either for gigs or just for fun, seeking out the best donuts and cocktails with my husband either locally or when we travel, and spending time with my family and friends, especially if there’s some food or drinks involved.
What’s your favorite book or movie?
Book: Eat, Pray, Love
Movie: “Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion”
What is something that not a lot of people know about you?
My mom named me Meghan not just because it was a popular 80s name, but after a character in a book – The Thorn Birds. I was almost a Margaret.
If you could be one animal, what would you be and why?
A leopard – well first I would love to look like one, because I already try to with my many leopard print things. However, they are not only beautiful, but also stealthy, independent, perceptive and a bit elusive in a good way. So like a cool cat!
What does your ideal vacation look like?
Completely unplugged! I feel like its so rare that even when I do go on vacation I’m still managing things back home. So a truly cellphone free one would be amazing, but also scary! Definitely would also include some great food, good company and beautiful scenery whether in nature or a city. I love to explore places I have never been!
Why and how did you begin volunteering at CommunityHealth?
I actually was employed at CommunityHealth from 2016-2019, when I made the very difficult decision to pursue an opportunity that presented itself. I promised that I would not be far away! I have been serving on the Associate Board since 2019, and love being able to support the All In Chicago Campaign, Messages for Meds and Giving Tuesday, as well as being part of cultivating ways for the Associate Board to help raise awareness and make an impact on behalf of CommunityHealth.
Do you remember your first day? What surprised you?
So my first day was actually working there before volunteering, but I still remember it well. I was incredibly impressed with the depth and breath of what we offer inside the 4 walls of the clinic. When you think of a ‘free clinic’ often times you think of something very transient or not providing the highest level of quality. I was so impressed by the level of care and quality metrics that are being achieved in what some would deem a less traditional medical setting. CommunityHealth functions at a very high level and standard, and it still continues to amaze me how they are able to accomplish so much on behalf of their patients.
What has kept you volunteering all this time?
I believe in the mission. I work with many partner organizations of CommunityHealth and am always finding ways new ways to help foster collaboration and connectivity within our local community. It is important to keep raising awareness for free clinics like CommunityHealth, because of their necessary and yet sometimes underrated purpose within the healthcare landscape.
How has working with CommunityHealth influenced your perception of healthcare?
Healthcare is more than just providing access to medical care. The challenges some of CommunityHealth’s patients face go beyond just diagnosing their symptoms and prescribing medications. There needs to be a holistic and wrap-around approach to understanding the whole person before you can treat them. Their symptoms are sometimes a product of their circumstances, and we must look at all of those factors in order to improve people’s overall health.
Can you share an especially memorable moment working with a patient/fellow volunteer/staff member?
We interviewed this patient to feature during our 25th anniversary. I was there to take her photo and just make sure things went smoothly, while my colleague was translating her interview questions. I couldn’t understand anything she said until I read the transcribed version later, but when I asked her to do the photo, she posed with a great big smile. She was so grateful and excited to speak with us, and it was just a testament that not only are we providing such a necessary service and experience for CommunityHealth’s patients, but they are truly grateful and appreciative of it as well.
Why is volunteering important to you? What do you get out of it?
I am privileged to have been brought up in a family and community that took care of me and ensured that I was able to lead a healthy and fulfilling life. Everyone truly deserves that, so although I cannot provide direct patient services, I can be supportive as an advocate and be an ally to ensure that those who need it are able to access what they need and deserve.
What advice would you give to a new volunteer at CommunityHealth?
Be curious, be gracious and open yourself up to learn from those we serve.
Thanks so much to Meghan for her enduring support of CommunityHealth and broader work in the Chicago healthcare scene at large!