An RWJF Community Health Leader Remembers Her Award - One Year Later

Oct 17, 2012, 9:00 AM, Posted by

Chrysanne Grund is Project Director for Greeley County Health Services in Sharon Springs, Kansas, and a recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) 2011 Community Health Leader Award. She has touched the lives of nearly every resident of Greeley and Wallace Counties in Kansas through her work providing access to free or low-cost prescriptions, developing a parenting class, providing breast cancer awareness information and cooperating with a co-located behavioral health project. She is also the founder of the Greeley-Wallace County Health Foundation, a two-community partnership that provides funds to local cancer patients. The Human Capital Blog asked Grund to reflect on her experience in the year since she was named an RWJF Community Health Leader.


What a surprise to find it has been almost a year since the 2011 Community Health Leader awards.  In so many ways, the time has flown by and, in others, it seems like just yesterday.  To continue the conundrum, I have found that my life has changed in some immeasurable ways and yet, once again, is very much the same.

As a rural health worker in very frontier Western Kansas, I wear many hats.  I am often health care professional, volunteer, coordinator and Mom all at the same time.  The level of recognition the Community Health Leader (CHL) Award brought to my work, and most important to my health system, has been very gratifying and professionally rewarding.  It is a thrill to be recognized for excellence.

My co-workers, colleagues and community members have been very gracious in their efforts to celebrate the award.  There is a level of credibility that comes with this type of award that can’t be duplicated.  I was once introduced as a “respected rural health leader in Kansas” and had to look around to be sure it was me! We do our work because it is important to us, we understand what it means to take care of our patients and our community and daily navigate the challenges of doing so.  I’m happy to be the flag-bearer in representing rural health needs because I truly believe they are as important and relevant as those of any community.  I was, and am, committed to that cause.

My exposure to my colleagues in the 2011 cohort has been as richly rewarding as the award itself.  Scattered across the country, we represent a diverse group of professionals who do at least one thing every day to make the world a little better place.  What an exceptional group of people!!  I learn more every time we keep in touch and I remain in awe of their dedication, expertise and passion for what they do.  They have been a real resource as I began my CHL project recently — aimed at bringing patient care coordination services to our rural residents.  It’s so interesting to hear what they do and to bounce ideas off each other.   I have shaped and re-shaped my project with their support and guidance and that of the staff at the Texas-based Harris Foundation.

If we’re not growing and learning, we’re standing still.  The benefits and challenges of this award have served as that inspiration for me.

I’ll be interested to attend this year’s conference as an alumnus.  Will I know more and feel like a seasoned veteran, or will I still experience the thrill of the experience?  I imagine it will be some of both.  I am certainly looking forward to meeting my 2011 colleagues again.  In only a short day and a half, we forged a unique bond which I hope will continue through the years.

An unexpected benefit for me may be the impact on my family. A characteristic that is not unique to me is the need to put my family first.  My husband and two sons are frequently the focus of my day and I am intensely (and obnoxiously) proud of their accomplishments.  Quite a change to be the one on the front page of a major state newspaper!  Apparently my son showed most of the people in the high school before the day was out.  I believe they all understand a little more about why Mom may miss some ball games or what happens when a late night of working takes place.  I believe that it may be important for my sons to have experienced pride for their Mother and my work. I think they may have a confidence they didn’t have before and a willingness to stand up and speak for what they believe in. I hope they will be better people for this exposure to a greater world with so many problems and so many wonderful people working to make things better.  I know that I am. 

Best wishes to the 2012 Community Health Leaders.  You have a wonderful journey ahead! 

Read more about Grund’s work.
Read more about the 2012 RWJF Community Health Leaders.
Read more about the RWJF Community Health Leader program.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.