This post was written by Gretchen Hammer, a former member of our team.
Five years ago I had the opportunity to make a major life change. Since the birth of my first son in 2003, I worked part-time as a consultant. After the birth of my second son in 2006, I cut back on my workload even more to spend time with my growing boys. By the time my youngest was three and attending preschool regularly, I was picking up more work, including the opportunity to work with the All Kids Covered Initiative as a consultant. It was through this work that I got to know and love the work of CCMU. So, when the opportunity to apply for the Executive Director position at CCMU became available in the summer of 2009, I jumped.
Going back to work full-time and leading a nonprofit with a huge mission and a staff of one was certainly a big change. There were days when I drove from meeting to meeting with classical music blaring in my car so that my head was filled with big, elevating sounds instead of paralyzing thoughts of all the things I needed to get done. The CCMU Board was so instrumental during this time, keeping me focused and clear about our mission and the role we played in Colorado to fulfill that mission.
The world really changed for CCMU in 2011 when, after a year of fundraising, I was able to hire four staff. What a joy it has been to have staff that share a passion for our mission and who have such amazing talents to contribute to the organization. The chance to work with them has made me a better person and helped shape CCMU into the organization it is today.
And now it’s time for another big change. This will be my last post as the Executive Director of CCMU. In January, I will begin to serve as the Health Programs Office/State Medicaid Director at the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. As I reflect on my time at CCMU, these are the most important lessons I have learned:
- There is a way to honor the past and innovate in the present. CCMU has been around since 1997 and has a proud history. In the last five years, we have grown to a staff of six, allowing us to take our programming to new levels of excellence. We have also been part of the implementation of major health care systems changes that our board, staff, and partners have been advocating for since our founding. Through all of this, we have never strayed from our original mission and have been careful to honor our past, all the while pushing our work to new heights in the present.
- People make it all possible. CCMU was founded as a coalition because we have always believed that it will take all of us, working together, to create opportunities and eliminate barriers to good health for medically underserved Coloradans. We simply could not do what we do without the genuine partnership of our individual and organizational supporters, funders, fellow advocates, state and community level health care system partners, board, and staff.
- We must never give up. One of my favorite parts of our 15 Year Retrospective Video is when Dr. VanderArk, our founder, says, “We will never—we will never, ever give up in our fight.” This quote captures our enduring commitment to leading change. The challenges we face are huge. Too many Coloradans are not getting their health care needs met and are unable to optimize their health and, we all suffer because of it. We cannot reach our full potential in Colorado until all Coloradans have the opportunity to lead a healthy life.
The leap to become the Executive Director of CCMU was a major change for me. At the time, I had no idea just how transformative it would be to my life. It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of CCMU’s history and to make my contribution to our work. I am confident that a change in leadership now will create the same opportunity for growth and transformation, will allow CCMU to reach unknown heights, and will move us closer to our vision of a healthier Colorado.