Child Health Advocacy Institute: Growing the Advocates

December 27, 2023 by Jessica Weisz, MD, Olanrewaju Falusi, MD, MEd & Tamara Gayle, MD, MPH

When a child walks into Children’s National Hospital or one of our local health care centers, they meet health care providers who are dedicated to caring for the whole child. Often, that means doing more than “typical” medical care by reaching out to community organizations, calling the child’s school, or helping families connect to social services. We strongly believe that every faculty member – the doctors seeing patients for check-ups, dental visits, mental health visits, or inpatient care – should have basic advocacy skills. Here at Children’s National Hospital all of us are advocates in some way.   

But some faculty members desire to go deeper and create a career around advocacy, which may include writing policy statements, creating interventions that address health inequities and publishing the results, speaking to legislators about what we as health care professionals think is best for kids, and much more.  However, finding mentorship, support, and recognition in doing this work can be challenging, and this why the Child Health Advocacy Institute (CHAI) Affiliate Faculty program was created by a small group of Children’s National faculty in 2019. 

What is the CHAI Affiliate Faculty program? 

The CHAI Affiliate Faculty Program was developed to expand the advocacy mission of Children’s National by bringing together like-minded individuals to join the CHAI to:  

  • Promote a culture of advocacy among faculty  
  • Create a space for collaboration and learning 
  • Engage support for the CHAI’s advocacy work  
  • Support faculty development  

Involving additional faculty members with the current work of the staff and medical directors of CHAI makes it possible for more meaningful advocacy work to be accomplished and gives the faculty career development opportunities.  Every year, faculty are selected through an application process to be part of this valuable group, through which they gain access to educational sessions and mentorship, among other benefits.  

Who are CHAI Affiliate Faculty?  

Any faculty member of Children’s National Hospital and/or The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and School of Nursing who are contributing substantially to CHAI’s mission can apply. We hope to get members from every department in the hospital in any stage of their careers (early to mid- to late-career), and our current 55 members represent 16 departments throughout Children’s National and George Washington University.  

Our current members are listed here: Meet the Team – Child Health Advocacy Institute | Children’s National Hospital | Children’s National Hospital (childrensnational.org)   

What do the CHAI Affiliate Faculty members do?  

Faculty selected for the program are often leading or participating in projects to address community needs and uplift community assets. These projects include supporting early childhood development through the city, creating educational series on advocacy for their colleagues or for medical students, organizing vaccine clinics and community health fairs, among many more.  

By joining the CHAI Affiliate Faculty program, members continue their amazing work in the community.  They also participate in a monthly lecture series to learn from one another and experts on current issues and receive monthly newsletters that highlight advocacy activities, grant opportunities, and the work of our members. Members are encouraged to participate in CHAI activities including Community Health Improvement Plan workgroups, planning community engagement events, and speaking at lecture series.  

Spotlight: Meet One of Our Faculty 

Dr. Tamara Gayle is a pediatric hospitalist, the primary physician on one of our clinical teams when kids are admitted to Children’s National and must spend the night.  As a CHAI Affiliate Faculty member, Dr. Gayle coordinates Intern Advocacy Day with Dr. Matthew Magyar, another CHAI Affiliate Faculty member. During Intern Advocacy Day, first year pediatric residents (doctors who are training to be pediatricians) join faculty and staff of Children’s National to volunteer onsite at the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB). In this service-learning activity, a key focus is engaging pediatric residents so they start their careers with understanding the importance of working in/with the community where they and their patients live. At CAFB, they learn how to identify families who may need food resources and how families can access food and other needed resources. They also spend time working alongside other volunteers to weed and harvest in the garden and to sort pallets of donated food. Dr. Gayle is leading the way in creating the next generation of advocates. 

Dr. Gayle says, “It is such a privilege to work with the pediatric residents to get them involved and excited about advocacy early on, while serving and learning our community at the same time.” 

What can I expect from CHAI Affiliate Faculty members?  

CHAI Affiliate Faculty are leaders! You will find CHAI Affiliate Faculty leading research projects and implementing new programs, doing legislative advocacy, and leading community programs.   

CHAI Affiliate Faculty members want to support your project, your community organization, and your advocacy efforts to benefit children throughout the DMV. Our membership is growing and so are our innovative ideas of how pediatricians and other child health professionals can partner with the community to create better health.  The work does not stop here, and CHAI Affiliate Faculty members will continue to support one another and the children and families of our community. 

Header image from Pixbaby

About the author

Jessica Weisz, MD

General Pediatrician within the Goldberg Center for Community Health at Children's National Hospital

 

Olanrewaju Falusi, MD, MEd

Medical Director, Advocacy Education within the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Hospital

 

Tamara Gayle, MD, MPH

Pediatric Hospitalist at Children's National Hospital