Michelle Keller: April 2017 Outstanding Advocate

MK_UpdatedHeadshot.jpgThe NACHC advocacy team is excited to announce the Outstanding Advocate for April 2017­—Michelle Keller, Vice President of Community Engagement, Development & Outreach at Swope Health Services in Kansas City, Missouri.

Michelle has placed advocacy at the forefront of her agenda by serving as key advocate for Swope Health Services’ (SHS) representing the health centers interests in both the Kansas and Missouri state houses. With nine SHS sites located in two states, Michelle has been working twice as hard at advocating to both legislatures, where she has learned many impactful lessons to improve upon her advocacy on behalf of SHS and the Health Center movement.

As Advocates know, building relationships with your Members of Congress and other elected officials, and being involved in the legislative process, is an essential part of being an advocate. Despite being initially intimidated upon her entry into the world of politics and policy, Michelle hit the ground running and sought out advocacy training and support from NACHC to help build her skills and understanding of what it takes to be successful in this area.

Missouri's House of Representative in session

The Advocacy Leadership Program (ALP), in which Michelle participated, is a six-month course designed for those who serve as the advocacy coordinator for their organization. ALP participants learn from both their peers and NACHC staff about advocacy best practices, legal implications of advocacy, and are provided with a toolbox full of resources and support that they can draw from to bolster advocacy efforts back home. Michelle says of the ALP, It helped me understand how government works and how an advocate needs to function within those processes.”

Michelle took the lessons and strategies she learned from the ALP, and put them into practice when she returned home. One key experience she cites is her participation in a hearing about the expansion of KanCare (Medicaid). Among the many lessons learned from the experience, Michelle shared that having a clear and concise message and working collaboratively was crucial to making her voice heard. She also noted that participating in the legislative process in general is critical for advocacy success.

Michelle has participated in advocacy days at the state capitol with both the Missouri Primary Care Association and the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, numerous hearings, and the Mayor’s Day of Action on Healthcare in Wyandotte County (KS). Through her involvement with these activities, she has also been asked to participate in various panels and other discussions on healthcare.

MO Senator Kiki Curls (third from left) visits SHS.

To connect her work within the legislative process back to the work of SHS, she worked to bring elected officials to the Health Center to educate them on the FQHC model of care and showcase the services and value they provide to the community. To make sure all bases were covered, Michelle also organized an advocacy workshop for the SHS Board of Directors (another important group that can be powerful advocates for the Health Center with the right education and tools!).

Michelle works hard to ensure that SHS embraces a true culture of advocacy and engagement, and that advocates understand their role in and the importance of being part of the legislative process, because—whether it’s a discussion on changes to Medicaid at the state level, or Health Center funding at the federal level—SHS will be impacted in some way. Advocates can’t sit quietly on the sidelines while important decisions are made about them and their communities. That’s why Michelle feels so strongly about being an active and engaged advocate, especially when it comes to building relationships with elected officials. "The bottom line is: if I'm not there to tell them the SHS story, they can't help us."

We couldn’t agree more! A big thank you, Michelle, for all that you do to drive powerful, effective advocacy!


Do you know an Outstanding Advocate who deserves this recognition? Let us know! Email Elizabeth Kwasnik at ekwasnik@nachc.org.

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