Jackie: Why am I at Children’s HeartLink? I believe all children should have access to health care
Jackie and her daughter en route to a vacation in Colorado
What does a typical day at work look like?
Every day is different, but each day involves meetings and phone calls with key stakeholders in our organization—our staff, directors, advisors, medical volunteers, donors and corporate funders.
Tell us a little about your background and why it led you to Children’s HeartLink.
I received my bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Benedict and started my career as a registered dietitian and worked in many clinical, community and research roles. Later, I returned to graduate school at the University of Minnesota and received a master’s degree in nutrition. I’ve worked in many roles but always focused on improving population health in both prevention and treatment of disease. Most of my career I’ve worked on improving access to care—whether it is improving access to a clinician (e.g., dietitian), increasing access to healthful foods and physical activity, or creating access to a treatment. This is what led me to Children’s HeartLink. I believe all people (adults and children) should have access to the care they deserve.
What motivates you?
If you are familiar with the StrengthsFinder book, my top two strengths are learner and achiever. I love learning and buy more books than I can read, and I like learning new skills. I also like focusing on goals. I am enjoying working with our staff and supporters on our aspirational 2030 goal—reaching one million children with heart disease and supporting 50 new centers of excellence (partner hospitals that become training centers). It is a stretch goal, but I believe we can achieve it!
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
We have a talented team that is dedicated to our mission and the children we reach. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing each staff member being successful, achieving impact through our work, and ultimately actualizing our mission: saving the lives of children through providing training for medical professionals and transforming health care in underserved countries. The most challenging part is the path to get to the rewarding part.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have not had a lot of spare time lately but when I do, I like to read, write, spend time with family and friends, and travel.
What’s something people are surprised to learn about you?
I have a passion for writing. Many years ago, I wrote three consumer books and had regular columns in a few national and local magazines. I’ve also been a journal editor-in-chief (Diabetes Spectrum) and editor of textbooks. I’ve written pocket guides for health professionals and have authored many book chapters and journal articles. Someday I hope to get back to my writing.
Tell us about your family.
Born and raised in Minnesota, I grew up on a farm in the northern part of the state. My family grew sugar beets, wheat, flax and barley. Growing up on a farm in a small rural community, you learn quickly the importance of family and community, and taking care of both. I have three brothers and three sisters-in-law, six nieces and nephews, and many relatives in my large extended farm family. (My grandfather had 16 siblings, and my grandmother had 13 siblings!) My daughter, Lili, is from Colombia, and we’re still adapting to our new life together. We also have a dog, Dakota, and a cat, Misifu.
There’s no doubt in my mind that my upbringing has had an important influence on my career path, of caring about the well-being of others. I came to Children’s HeartLink because I want to make a difference. I believe in our mission and vision, and I’m excited to have this opportunity to work alongside all of the staff, medical volunteers and supporters to empower health professionals to make a difference in the sites we serve, improving the quality of care delivered to the children we ultimately serve.
What is your leadership style?
I strongly believe in collaboration and teamwork, and I think it’s important to empower people to make decisions and give people opportunities to grow in an organization, no matter the size. I also believe in the importance of proactive, transparent communication and managing expectations about what can and can’t be done.
Jackie has a passion for improving lives and has spent her entire career in health care, with a special focus on population health. She was named president of Children’s HeartLink in 2015. She previously held leadership positions at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, where she was chief operating officer and institutional officer for research, and led its Hearts Beat Back program, and at HealthPartners, the largest consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the U.S. A registered dietitian, Jackie has served on the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Board of Directors. She served as editor-in-chief of Diabetes Spectrum and received the Outstanding Educator in Diabetes Award from the ADA in 2018. Jackie has an M.S. in nutrition from the University of Minnesota.
Learn more about our work.