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Portraits of Health Equity: Angela Ellison, MSEd

Portraits of Health Equity videos spotlight some of the clinicians, researchers, educators and community-based practitioners who are pursuing health equity through their work at UI Health. Their mission is to passionately promote health equity for vulnerable populations and marginalized communities across Chicago and beyond.

Angela Ellison, MSEd Heading link

Angela M.Ellison MSEd

Senior Director, Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships (OCEAN-HP)
Director, School Based Health Services, Mile Square Health Center
Project Director, UIC Healthy Start

Video Transcript Heading link

My name is Angela Ellison, and I am the senior director of the UIC Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships and the director of school-based practice for Mile Square Health Center.

Why This Work?

I remember in 1969, I was nine years old and my mother had just given birth to my sister on November 26th. On December 24th I was in the beauty shop getting my hair done in order to go see my mother because she had been in the hospital after she had given birth. And my father and my aunts pulled up across the street and were walking across the street looking very distraught, and when they came in my father told me that my mother had passed. And I realized my whole world has changed. I don’t know if I realized it at nine, but I felt it for years. And it’s been my life work to try to eliminate there being any more Angelas and Claudets in the world, that they can grow up with their mother.

Serving Communities

The Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships was founded by one of my mentors, Dr. Cynthia Barnes-Boyd, who passed unexpectedly in 2017. Cynthia was a pioneer, and so she wrote the first school-based health center grant. And the beautiful thing about school-based health centers is they are located in schools where kids can access every day. But they are also comprehensive health centers where parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters can also get their care.

Healthy Start is a federal initiative working to address infant and maternal mortality, and we serve families in three target communities: Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Austin, and we work with the Mile Square Health Centers and their health centers that are located in those communities.

When we think about health, we think about whole health, the whole person, and that’s how we come to the table: understanding that we need to address the whole person.

I think as I’ve done community engagement, one of the early lessons I learned is that the first step is to go to communities not as if you’re a savior, but you’re there to be a partner. And I know that communities have the assets and the strengths to help solve any problems that they may have.

Daily Inspiration

I get inspiration from the people I work with, and I get inspiration from the people I work for. And what I mean by that is we work for communities, and my staff often tell me stories of how they might have saved a life in one of our school-based health centers because they caught something no one else caught, or how we were in the hospital when a baby was being born and the doula helped support that woman. It is those stories that give life to the work that I write about to keep this work going.

Legacy of Health Equity

And when I want to leave behind – and this sounds cliche – is I want to leave behind a sense of hope and a sense of partnership, and those two things I think make for success. Hope that you can make a difference, and partnership and collaboration because together we can make a difference.