LeadershipDHHS Program Celebrates New Class of Leaders

The 2018 class of LeadershipDHHS with Deputy Secretary for Health Services Mark Benton at the graduation ceremony.

The 2018 class of LeadershipDHHS with DHHS Deputy Secretary for Health Services Mark Benton, far right. 

May 31, 2018 – Encouraging eligible North Carolinians to enroll in food and Medicaid programs. Developing a health equity committee at the Division of Public Health. Encouraging new parents at DHHS to use the Family Medical Leave Act to take time off.  

Those were some of the projects worked on by five cross-departmental teams as part of the LeadershipDHHS program, which culminated with a graduation ceremony for the 2018 class on May 15. 

LeadershipDHHS, which began in 2005, is designed to break down barriers and improve networking between people and divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services. The 25 participants were selected because they are individuals who demonstrated the potential to become future Department leaders. The goal of the program is to increase collaboration and understanding of DHHS, as a whole, resulting in better outcomes for the people served by the Department.

The program includes seminars and work sessions designed to introduce participants to the issues and challenges facing DHHS. Current senior leaders and speakers from outside the agency present on a variety of issues and topics. 

“LeadershipDHHS provided me the opportunity to enhance my knowledge of leadership, organization and policy as it relates to DHHS,” said Heidi Austin, one of this year’s graduates.

A highlight of the program is the development of a special project. Participants are divided into five teams to collaborate on projects over the course of nine months. Those projects focused on: 

  • Providing information for people who have been recently terminated from or denied Medicaid. 
  • Increasing awareness and use of DHHS social media accounts within the Department to enhance proactive communication. 
  • Increasing awareness of the Family Medical Leave Act for DHHS employees who are new parents, particularly among fathers.
  • Developing a tool to assist counties in increasing enrollment of eligible North Carolinians in Food and Nutrition Services and Medicaid programs.
  • Developing a health equity committee within the Division of Public Health.

Participants said they found the program, led by Barb Kunz in the Division of Human Resources, to be a valuable learning experience that allowed them to collaborate with other DHHS employees.

“LeadershipDHHS was a great opportunity to work with a team beyond my division,” said Ana Gómez, who worked on the social media project.  

Mark Benton, DHHS Deputy Secretary for Health Services, told the graduates that their participation in the program helps them to understand the vastness and complexity of DHHS.

“You represent the very best of this Department and what it is we do,” he said. 

The 2018 LeadershipDHHS graduates are:

  • Heidi Austin, Division of Public Health
  • Melanie Baker, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
  • Jennifer Braley, Office of the Secretary
  • Jean Chiang, Information Technology Division
  • Robert Coble, Office of Rural Health
  • Aquan Douglas, Broughton Hospital
  • Justin Foster, Caswell Developmental Center
  • Katie Franklin, Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Rebecca Freeman, Division of Aging and Adult Services
  • Ana Gómez, Division of Human Resources
  • William A. Grady, Broughton Hospital
  • Celeste    Helling, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
  • C. Lisa Niemas-Holmes, Division of Health Service Regulation
  • Schemeta Horne, Cherry Hospital
  • Drew Kristel, Office of the Secretary
  • Debbie McDonald, Murdoch Developmental Center
  • Page Mikol, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
  • Wanda Moore, Office of the Controller
  • Thien Nguyen, Information Technology Division
  • April Parker, Central Regional Hospital
  • Angela Parker, Division of Child Development and Early Education
  • Wendy Patel, Information Technology Division
  • Vijay Peddapalli, Information Technology Division
  • Linda Provanzo, Division of Medical Assistance
  • Natasha Terry, Murdoch Developmental Center

This year, for the first time, more participants worked outside of Raleigh in either field-based positions or at DHHS facilities. With this class, LeadershipDHHS graduates now number more than 300. 

Amy Dominello Braun