Interview With LeeAnn W. Oakley, NSWM 1st Year Policy Fellow

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you work?

A: LeeAnn is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker supporting practice transformation at Arkansas Children’s Patient Centered Medical Home, an innovative Medicaid funded program seeking to improve the health of kids and reduce preventable hospital admissions for chronic medical conditions including Asthma. LeeAnn completed her undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of Arizona and her Masters in Social Work at the University of Minnesota. LeeAnn is interested in the roles of individual responsibility and social institutions in the promotion of long term recovery and change. Within her clinical work she has learned the interconnectivity of trauma, mental health, basic needs and body mass index and the importance of building awareness within systems of care about these relationships and how to best support reliance with vulnerable populations.

Q: What attracted you to the NSWM Policy Fellowship Program?

A: In the spring of 2018, I presented at the Association for Community Health Initiatives in Denver, Colorado. This conference is mostly Public Health professionals discussing collaborations between government and health systems to improve the lives of children and families. The conference taught me the importance of data and the need to become more comfortable to collect, analyze and share data to demonstrate the value of social work intervention. I believe that social workers need to be better self-advocates and more visible about their contributions, most importantly social workers need to develop mechanism through which to push groundwork to policy work. My hope was to develop greater comfort with how to influence policy at the highest level from the work on the front line.

Q: Who is your mentor?

A: My mentor is Jack Register. He is a kind and thoughtful mentor who provides more time than he has to support my awareness of my skills and abilities. He has given me permission to facilitate group work, delegate tasks and flex deadlines. Jack and I are big system thinkers with direct practice experience, we understand the implications of policy on front line staff and families. Jack is encouraging me to take my work and share it broadly to promote the work of social workers in non-traditional settings. He is supportive and grounded in power theory, I am fortunate that he is willing to support my work.

Q: What has the mentorship experience taught you?

A:This experience has taught me to try new things, and increase my professional collaboration across setting. Trust that others are willing to support and work toward common goals and everyone has unique skills to move a project forward. Most importantly, he has taught me the value of self-care honoring personal limits and taking my time. He is a great mentor, I am thankful for his time.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your final poster project. What policy issue are you focusing on?

A: My poster project will focus on Measuring whether systematic identification of social health needs, followed by awareness of community resources leads to utilization of the community resource.  My quality improvement work is in collaboration with the hospital Medical Legal Partnership, Helping Hands Food Pantry and the Division of Child Advocacy and Public health. Cross sector collaborations can promote system wide processes to increase patient and family awareness of basic need resources.

Q: Why did you select that particular issue? What do you hope everyone will get out of your presentation?

A: Previously, systematic screening with intervention provision within the clinical setting was unsuccessful. By utilizing social work direct practice skills, assessment, joining and intervention, I hope to demonstrate the unique qualities that social workers bring to supporting system changes to improve the health and wellbeing of children and their families.

Q: What advice would you give to those who are currently thinking about applying to the NSWM Policy Fellows Program?

A: I would say go for it, being able to collaborate with a mentor who gives you permission to take risks, seek collaboration and delegate has helped me tremendously. This program is connecting me with like minded professionals who share a common interest to promote our profession, take our skills to the next level and improve the health and well being of our most vulnerable.

About the author

LeeAnn Woodrum is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working to improve systems of care in a safety net practice in Central Little Rock. Using quality improvement cycles and cross discipline collaborations, LeeAnn develops social systems of care that are reflexive and respond to the needs of patients and staff. She is interested in the improvement of behavioral health care in the primary and community settings. LeeAnn desires to support system improvement no matter the setting she inhabits. She envisions herself building compassionate systems of care to support and serve the needs of patients and families at the national and global level.


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