NICHQ Employee Spotlight:
In celebration of over 20 years improving health outcomes for children, we're sharing insights, memories and goals from the NICHQ team.
Full Name and Title
Kelly Edwards, Project Manager
Time with NICHQ:
How has your background/experiences led you to join a national children’s health organization?
NICHQ’s mission and projects are a wonderful combination of my passions and background. I received my bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Cognitive science from the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!) where I focused on the science of development and aging. During this time, I was introduced to the remarkable idea of health being directly linked to early childhood experiences during the critical period of development. I then attended Boston University to gain a Master’s in Public Health where I learned how changes in arguably every sector (health care, housing, education, environment) can have a direct impact on the health of individuals. While attending Boston University, I interned at a variety of organizations, all linked to maternal and child health, reaffirming my passion for this field. Now, as a Project Manager at NICHQ, I am fortunate to work on two early childhood (ages 0-3) projects helping states and communities across the country improve health outcomes for children by working within these sectors. I am proud to say I work at an organization that strives to continue learning and developing as our society learns more and more about best practices and improvements that can be made in order to improve children’s health.
Favorite moment on a NICHQ project:
One of my favorite memories from working at NICHQ was very early on. During one of my first weeks at work, I assisted with a large meeting for the Pediatrics Supporting Parents (PSP) project. During the meeting, the 18 pediatric practices we work with were invited to share the various changes they had been testing within their practices to promote children’s social and emotional development. As a brand-new member of the project, I was blown away hearing how excited and passionate the pediatricians were. Each practice shared how they were connecting with families, improving referrals, and increasing screening for children and mothers in their community. Just by listening to them, I could hear the impact that our project was starting to have. That passion has remained as I’ve continued to work on PSP and reminds me of the necessity of this work.
Biggest lesson-learned when working on a quality improvement project:
Remembering to start small. Making and perfecting small changes will allow for the larger changes down the line to be more impactful. As someone who has many dreams and is passionate about improving children’s health, I find myself wanting to jump into the bigger changes right away. However, working in quality improvement has taught me to start small, and in fact, fail small. Failing is a part of life and learning, and no change will be perfect initially. Starting small and making changes that can be adapted and improved before spreading will more likely produce the positive impact we want.
Funniest thing that ever happened on a NICHQ project:
While working on the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Collaborative Innovation and Improvement Network (ECCS CoIIN) project, we held a three day in-person meeting in Atlanta for our 12 state teams to action plan for the next phase of the project. While in Atlanta, it was very apparent how passionate every ECCS CoIIN member is about early childhood systems building. It also became very apparent how passionate we are about good seafood. The last night of the meeting, our ECCS CoIIN team went out to dinner and found ourselves in a friendly competition of “Who can eat the most seafood?” when literal buckets of seafood were served to us. After many laughs, I’m very proud to say I came in 3rd place! Having the opportunity to bond and make memories with the many wonderful individuals who work on this project is something I am very grateful for and will not soon forget!
What are you most proud of from your time with NICHQ?
I am most proud of being a part of NICHQ’s equity team, working towards making sure NICHQ as an organization and each of our projects directly address racial equity. I am proud to work for an organization that recognizes the importance of addressing racial equity and is committed to doing so.
What are your goals for NICHQ’s future?
My goal is for NICHQ to continue to be a leader in quality improvement while working hard to be equitable in our work to improve the quality of children’s health across the country. I want NICHQ to continue learning and improving as an organization while addressing racial disparities and inequity in communities. I hope that NICHQ plays a major role in closing the current gaps in health care and health outcomes.
3 Ways to Close Gaps in Sickle Cell Disease Care: Recommendations from NICHQ Projects
In the past several decades, clinicians, public health professionals, and those with lived experience have seen advancements in Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) treatments and research that have significantly improved outcomes and increased life expectancies for people living with SCD. For example, the FDA-approved medication hydroxyurea (HU) has been recommended as a SCD standard of care due to its ability to help people with SCD mitigate pain and the need for blood transfusions. Preventative measures, such as screening children and adolescents for risk of stroke and ensuring that all people who have SCD receive recommended vaccinations, have also been instrumental in reducing complications associated with SCD. And recently, development of gene therapies has presented possibilities of a new cure. Conversations on how to improve access to care should continue, and these three recommendations begin with some of the most pressing needs.
NICHQ Intern Spotlight: Macy Parakh
Macy Parakh (she/her) is a Marketing Communication Intern Summer 2022 at NICHQ. She is a Master of Public Health (MPH) student at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH). Macy is studying Community Assessment, Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation (CAPDIE) and Maternal and Child Health (MCH). She is originally from Toronto, Canada. Macy has a bachelor's degree in Communications from McMaster University. When Macy isn’t studying or working, she can be found baking, dancing, and spending time with her dog.
NICHQ Intern Spotlight: Madeline D’Onfro
Madeline D’Onfro (she/her) is an intern on NICHQ’s HNCC Project this Summer. After growing up in Massachusetts, Madeline spent seven years living in Boise, Idaho and has now returned to the Northeast to pursue her Master in Public Health at Boston University. She is concentrating her studies in Community Assessment and Program Design and Maternal and Child Health. Madeline’s Summer QI project is to increase her average running mileage. In her free time Madeline enjoys hiking, cycling, and any other activity that allows her to be outdoors!
Racially Motivated Violence is a Children’s Health Issue
In the wake of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Highland Park, and too many others, we discuss the mental health implications of racially motivated and gun violence on children and their families with Stacy Scott, PhD, MPA, Executive Project Director and Equity Lead at NICHQ, and Becky Russell, MSPH, Senior Director of Applied Research and Evaluation at NICHQ.
NICHQ Intern Spotlight: Lyndsay Brooks
Lyndsay Brooks (she/her) is a 2022 summer intern on NICHQ’s Marketing and Communications Team. Originally from Davidsonville, MD, Lyndsay is now a Master’s of Public Health student at Boston University (BU) studying Health, Policy, and Law and Maternal and Child Health (MCH). Lyndsay brings with her a background in public health, Medicaid policy, and pediatric healthcare. When she is not studying or working, she enjoys baking, knitting, and hiking. This summer, as a part of her Personal Quality Improvement Project, Lyndsay has also been training for a 5K.
NICHQ Intern Spotlight: Elyse Anderson
Elyse Anderson (she/her) is a Healthy Start Intern Summer 2022 at NICHQ. She is a Master of Public Health student at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH). Elyse is studying Community Assessment, Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation (CAPDIE) and Maternal and Child Health (MCH). She is from a town outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Elyse has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders. After her undergraduate studies, Elyse worked at a children’s hospital in pediatric audiology. Elyse is the middle child of five. Her older brother has Autism, which has inspired her interest in pediatric public health work. Elyse’s summer QI project is on developing healthy morning habits to increase her productivity throughout the day.