Growing up in a household grounded in faith, with parents who worked in health care, Janelle Sauz isn’t surprised to find herself with a career in community health. What surprises Sauz, Population Health Program Manager at LifeLong Medical Care, is becoming a recipient of the Geiger Gibson Emerging Leaders Award.
Each year, the Geiger Gibson Program in Community Health Policy honors young Emerging Leaders nominated by health centers and primary care associations nationally. Sauz will be one of fewer than twenty to receive the Award at the annual Policy & Issues Forum of the National Association of Community Health Centers taking place in mid-March.
“Our Emerging Leaders reflect the enormous range of talented young people who have made a career in the health center family and personify the enduring strength of health centers,” said Sara Rosenbaum, JD, founder of the Geiger Gibson Program at the Milken School of Public Health.
Sauz’s path to community health broke from her own expectations of her career. After graduating with a degree in public health, Sauz worked as a pharmacy technician for four years with the aim of building a career in pharmacy. The experience, though, changed how she viewed health and wellbeing. “It didn’t satisfy me to know that my patients were coming in every month for the same condition.”
She began thinking about the preventive measures that would change patients’ health and their lives. “If we can do anything to address the social, environmental and physical factors and understand the patient’s story of why they have heart disease, as opposed to administering medications, I think we can do a better job as health care professionals. That’s why I left pharmacy.”
Sauz started her work at LifeLong as a Health Career Connection intern in 2014, and soon after became an AmeriCorps Community Health Corps member. She went on to become a quality improvement coordinator and now serves as the Population Health Program Manager.
The Emerging Leader Award goes to professionals under 35 years old that use their positions as a springboard to go above and beyond what is expected and that show a strong commitment to the community they serve. “My commitment comes from a sense of accountability,” says Sauz. “In creating quality reports, for example, it means understanding how the report can be used to enhance the patient experience and staff experience. I ask, How can I be of service to my colleague?”
She attributes her success, in part, to LifeLong. “I have a number of mentors and people I look up to here. Though the work that we do is difficult, it has been a privilege to work alongside mission-driven staff and passionate patients. Thank you, LifeLong, for giving me the flexibility to pursue my interests, and for creating an environment that fosters my potential.”