Health Leaders Present Practicum Projects - Interview

The Ecology Center graduated its first cohort of 19 Health Leaders Fellows on Saturday, April 11. During the celebration, the graduates presented the results of their year-long practicum work. Collaborating in small groups of two to three, many fellows learned the details of their colleagues’ projects for the first time at the ceremony. With a focus on either climate, food, or toxics, practicum groups reported on their advocacy for better environmental and public health practices and policies within the institutions that employ them as well as within state government policy.

To get an idea of how the day went, I asked Liz Starke, Climate & Energy Outreach Coordinator with the Ecology Center and Health Leaders Fellow Strategic Advisor for the climate and energy practicum teams for her impressions.

First off, what was the day like? What was the structure?

Starke: Each practicum group gave 10-15 minute power point presentations. A light lunch was followed by focus groups so that we can evaluate our program and improve it for future fellows.

And how did the presentations go?

Starke: I thought they were great. Each practicum group discussed the initial goals, the strategies they used to achieve them, the challenges that they faced, and the successes and outcomes that they had. We had very different projects and groups. Some people did advocacy and policy work, while others tried to implement changes at their own institutions. It was great to see all of the different ways in which our fellows learned more about advocacy and campaign planning, and all of the impacts that they are making to create more sustainable policy and institutions.

What was the reception like among the Health Leaders Fellows?

Starke: What do you mean by reception? (laughs)

Sorry, how did the fellows respond to or receive the other groups’ presentations?

Starke: A lot of interest was shown, especially in projects outside of their individual focus issue (climate, food, toxics).

Did anything surprise you?

Starke: I was blown away by the collective impact our fellows had/are having in their institutions and in the larger community. We are very fortunate to have many really hard working and intelligent fellows, some of whom expertly overcame initial obstacles in their work. 

And some made very impressive progress in just one year. For example, two groups, one from Henry Ford Health System and one from St. Joseph Hospital, are working with the food providers of their respective institutions to supply more sustainable food options such as antibiotic-free meat and poultry.  Another group created a presentation for all fellows to use to discuss the benefits of using less energy and more renewable energy within a healthcare institution. Lastly, one fellow successfully collaborated with the board of the North Ottawa Community Hospital to pass a resolution to buy flame retardant free furnishings for their new emergency room.

How do the HLF feel now that they're at the end of the program?

Starke: It seems like almost everyone is going to continue their practicum work, as well as stay engaged in advocacy issues. Besides the program itself, many expressed the community of peers created by the program was one of their favorite aspects. Some have already arranged to continue to meet with fellows in their area, both from this past year and our new cohort. At the Ecology Center, we are looking forward to the new graduates acting as spokespeople and advocates for the environmental health issues that we work on.

For more on the Ecology Center’s Health Leaders Fellowship program, check out the program page here or go to