Macalester Fellows Study Sustainability in Pediatric Cardiac Care

by Ryn Wiebe, Communications and Grants Specialist

Anyone who has been to the Children’s HeartLink headquarters in Minneapolis knows that it is not as grand as it might sound. Our 11 Minnesota-based staff occupy a small brick building in the parking lot of a funeral home. Our building used to serve as their administrative offices, and we take up as much space as the structure allows us. But this summer we managed to squeeze in an extra three people when we had the pleasure of hosting students from Macalester College’s Sustainability Fellowship Program.

Funding for the students’ activities and travel this summer was generously covered by a grant from Macalester’s Educating Sustainability Ambassadors (ESA) initiative, which aims to give students a multifaceted, real-world perspective on the framework of sustainability. At Children’s HeartLink, Farah AlHaddad, Milliecia Lacy and Chris Pieper seized the opportunity to study sustainable pediatric cardiac programs in low-resource settings.

Farah, Milliecia and Chris got the chance to travel overseas to two of our partner hospitals in June. They participated in an International Quality Improvement Collaboration (IQIC) conference at Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, in Kochi, India, before continuing on to Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence, Institut Jantung Negara (IJN), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The three Macalester students attended lectures and meetings, observed hospital proceedings, and interviewed patients and families, medical teams and hospital administrators for their project.

Showing no signs of jet leg, Farah, Milliecia and Chris have now returned to Children’s HeartLink to compile the data into a report detailing their findings for the last weeks of their practicum.
“We know that 10 weeks was a short amount of time and our work is only a small addition to the huge collection of projects, research, initiatives, plans, strategies, knowledge and visions of Children’s HeartLink, but we hope it is useful and will be utilized to create programs that are not only stronger, but also more sustainable, “ says AlHaddad.

The three students will present their findings to the fellowship program at Macalester, and will also share the final recommendations with IJN.

“On a personal level,” Lacy reflects, “working with such dedicated people from around the world, working hard to make differences and ultimately change people’s lives has been truly inspirational. Dr. Siva, a surgeon at IJN said that ‘our marriage with Children’s HeartLink was the best thing to ever happen to our organization.’ This quote really showed us firsthand the far-reaching impact that small, dedicated teams can have on the lives of real people around the world.”

“Most of us didn’t really think seriously about starting careers in NGO work after college,” Pieper adds, “but what this experience showed us was how powerful the impact of small organizations like Children’s HeartLink can be.”

Farah, Millecia (center, back row), and Chris (center, front row) with staff at IJN