Community Partner Spotlight: A Conversation with Amy Ramirez

Healthcare Foundation Board Member Montserrat Archila recently spoke with Amy Ramirez of Providence's Community Health Investment team about their vision for investing in community health.

Healthcare Foundation Board member Montserrat Archila is the Mission Leader for Providence’s Healdsburg and Petaluma hospitals as well as at Providence’s Physician Enterprise in Sonoma County. Before serving in her current role at Providence, Montserrat served for 16 years in its Community Health Investment (CHI) department, a team that supports the Healthcare Foundation’s Community Wellness Center initiative in Windsor and in Healdsburg as part of its focus on underserved communities in north county. Montserrat recently spoke with CHI’s Amy Ramirez about this unique and impactful partnership, and a shared vision for investing in community health in northern Sonoma County.

How would you describe your relationship to Sonoma County?

I grew up in Sonoma County. I was born in Santa Rosa and attended Santa Rosa High School and Santa Rosa Junior College. Both my parents and my grandparents also grew up here. I feel very invested in Sonoma County. 

How did you become involved in the work you do?

After attending the SRJC, I went to San Francisco State and studied psychology and child and adolescent development. I worked a lot with children in several afterschool programs and was a teacher’s aide at a local middle school. During this time, I was offered an internship at Raphael House, a family homeless shelter, and fell in love with that place and the work. I loved working with families, meeting the day-to-day challenges, helping to establish routines with parents, and watching the families take a deep breath in a place where they could relax and feel safe. 

After graduating, I took a job at a local school. I liked it but missed the shelter. One day I got a phone call from Raphael House asking if I wanted to move in and work there. My husband and I moved in not long after. I started as the breakfast cook, getting meals ready for the families and making sure they were well fed. My husband taught art classes for the kids. I loved every minute of it. 

What brought you to Providence?

After Raphael House I went on to work for Catholic Charities for five years, in various positions, eventually working in a more expanded role serving families in meeting their ongoing needs.  Having a child of my own around this time gave me a new perspective on the importance of this work. So I went on to graduate school and began interning for the court system. 

Soon I was asked to intern as a social worker with Care Network at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital (SRMH). Care Network, an interdisciplinary team, focuses on ensuring patients receive wrap-around services and the support they need to thrive. I learned a lot, working with all units and understanding the care delivery system from different perspectives. I was eventually assigned to patients with very complex cases. 

From SRMH, I had gone on to work for Sutter Health on their Palliative Care team. Seven months into my new role, I got a call from the SRMH, now Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH) Care Network team. They were looking for a manager. I couldn’t resist. Santa Rosa Memorial was my home. At Providence I was ultimately encouraged to apply for the PSJH Community Health Investment manager role, which is where I am now. 

It is a dream job. I have the opportunity to oversee incredibly impactful programs and create budgets that strategically fund this work.

“The Healthcare Foundation provides deep-rooted knowledge of, and history in north county. They serve as an instrument of checks and balances. The Healthcare Foundation can tell us if the work of CHI is ethical and equitable.”

Amy Ramirez, Providence

How would you describe the relationship between Community Health Investment and the community?

Community Health Investment (CHI) partners with like-minded organizations to understand what is and isn’t working in the community and find ways to collaboratively fill in the gaps. The work of CHI is to lean in and strategically bring partners together to address the unique needs of the communities we serve. And I strongly believe that the funding must directly impact the most vulnerable. That’s a reason the work of CHI is incredibly impactful. 

In 2022, we were dedicated to learning as much as we can and placing CHI on a strong foundation as Providence grew throughout the community. I see 2023 as the year to evaluate the impact the programs are having, and to continue collaborating with others to best meet community needs.  

What is the Healthcare Foundation’s part in these collaborations as you see it?

The Healthcare Foundation continues to be an important partner for several reasons. Northern Sonoma County is a new service area for Providence, now that Healdsburg Hospital is a part of our Providence family. We have a lot to learn about this community. To this end, the Healthcare Foundation provides deep-rooted knowledge of, and history in north county. They serve as an instrument of checks and balances. The Healthcare Foundation can tell us if the work of CHI is ethical and equitable. 

Just as importantly, the Healthcare Foundation brings the voice of the community forward. CHI cannot do this work alone. CHI must ensure that our work is the right fit for the community. We feel that the Healthcare Foundation provides the necessary insight and can help guide us in meeting the needs of our north county neighbors.

How is the Community Wellness Center initiative a good example of this partnership?

The Community Wellness Center initiative is a great example of how Providence’s mission and strategic priorities align with those of the Healthcare Foundation. The Healthcare Foundation researched and found a program that had been well established in Richmond that elevated community voices to design a wellness center that met their needs and aspirations. 

The Healthcare Foundation sought to understand how to address a need, bring people together for a common purpose, and seek ways to fund this most important work. This research and investment by the Healthcare Foundation has been invaluable. They were able to dig into this grassroots work and report back to say, “This is what is needed.” 

The Healthcare Foundation continually seeks to understand the most pressing needs of North County. They listen to the community members and partner organizations alike, and they establish trust with the people they serve. It is this trust that has led Providence to fund grants to the Healthcare Foundation that were then parceled out to the community. Because of this partnership, we feel confident that the funding is going where it is most needed and where it will have the most impact. And that means with every investment we collaboratively breathe life into the Providence mission of being in service to the most vulnerable.

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