Exclusive Interview: Who Are Our MSD* Fellows?

Headlines don’t lie. This is an exclusive interview.

Jill Croucher and Leigh Anne Good are employees of Merck & Co., Inc.* [known as Merck in the United States and Canada and MSD everywhere else]. MSD is a pharmaceutical company which develops new medical treatments including vaccines and contraceptives; and thanks to particular programs within the company, with the needs of the underserved in mind. As part of that work, MSD developed the Richard T. Clark Fellowship for World Health, “a global program designed to leverage the skills and talents of Merck and MSD employees to help build and support the efforts of humanitarian organizations to address the health needs of the underserved.”

Jill Croucher and Leigh Anne Good were both chosen for this fellowship and placed with Jacaranda Health for June, July, and August. They left their homes in New York State and Georgia, respectively, and moved, reality-television-show style, into a shared apartment in Nairobi to spend the summer lending their talents to Jacaranda as we build a thriving social enterprise of maternity care centers for lower-income women throughout East Africa. As their time here comes to a close, we thought we’d take a few minutes to ask them some questions and share with the Jacaranda community of supporters why we’ve come to respect these two women so much and share our gratitude for their time with us!

Jill, James, and Leigh Anne outside of Jacaranda's Kahawa West clinic!

Jill, James, and Leigh Anne outside of Jacaranda’s Kahawa West clinic!

What made you decide to go for the MSD RTC Fellowship initially? Had either of you done anything like this before? 

Jill Croucher:  I am involved in many church and community outreach projects and have always felt the need to get involved if I thought I could help. I attended a WebEx lecture through the MSD Women’s Network that highlighted the RTC Fellowship program. Jan Nissen, a VP at MSD was a member of the first group to be assembled for this cause. She spoke so passionately about her experiences and the work that she was able to accomplish. Through the Women’s Network I became an MSD for Mothers Ambassador for my region and was so excited about the life saving work that was being done in the area of reducing maternal/infant mortality in developing countries. When I noticed that the RTC Fellowship was preparing to open the application process to form a new cohort to continue these great projects I really started thinking about applying and preliminarily began putting out feelers to family, friends and MSD management. The support that everyone shared was overwhelming! Jan shared with me all of the awesome things that I might become involved in with my field sales experience and I became even more enthusiastic about applying for one of the fellowship positions. I noticed Jan’s recommendations on one of her blogs: “You really just have to do it. You really need to just jump in!”

They left their homes in New York State and Georgia, respectively, and moved into — reality-television-show style — a shared apartment in Nairobi to spend the summer lending their talents to Jacaranda to help us build a thriving social enterprise of maternity care centers for lower-income women throughout East Africa. 

Leigh Anne Good:  I’ve been exposed to the power of impacting the globe through the sharing of skills since 1993 when I first joined Junior Chamber International as a member of the Greensboro, NC Junior Chamber of Commerce (The Jaycees).  It was in Greensboro where I participated in and led many projects dedicated to helping others.  From raising funds to help burn victims at the NC Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, to building wheel chair ramps for the homebound, to traveling to Canada to renovate a shelter for women and children, my passion for using my skills and talents to help others has been a huge part of my adult life.

When I first heard about the RTC Fellowship, I was thrilled to learn that MSD is partnering with global humanitarian organizations to help the underserved.  What better way to advance MSD’s mission of “saving and improving lives” than to make improvement “footprints” all over the globe.  Much like my time in the Jaycees, I saw the RTC Fellowship as an opportunity for me to use my talents and skills sets to assist in projects focusing on global healthcare…and at the same time, learn a tremendous amount that would help me be a better contributor at MSD.  The RTC Fellowship truly was a once in a lifetime experience to be able to give and to gain.

What’s been a favorite memory here at Jacaranda, during your fellowship?

Jill and Leigh Anne: When we first arrived at Jacaranda, James [Editor’s note: James Kiumbe is Jacaranda Health’s Director of Business Operations] sat us down and shared his vision for a “Customer Service Champion Boot Camp.”  He shared that one of the things that differentiates Jacaranda from other maternity clinics is the excellent customer service that Jacaranda gives to our clients.

“How can we take customer service to the next level?” was our charge!  We started down a path of designing a training Boot Camp and we quickly realized that the more stakeholders with which we consulted on the content, the better and more relevant the training became.  Participants from each department at Jacaranda were chosen so there would be a champion to serve as a model/coach across all aspects of the organization.

We realized that the need for a clinic like Jacaranda was even bigger than we thought.

On the first day of training, the energy level began high and then skyrocketed!  From the laughter during energizers to the sharing of best practices to the brainstorming around questions to the field trip to the presentation of certificates, not only did each person develop new skills, we connected as a team and left dedicated to the “why” of Jacaranda – “Caring for you and your baby”.

We’ve moved on to other Jacaranda projects, but not a day goes by when we aren’t reminded of the impact the training had on Jacaranda.  Through face to face conversations and emails and photographs, attendees have embraced and adopted new customer service skills and non-attendees have heard the buzz about the training and are eager for the next training!  We are in the process of transitioning this project over to a Customer Service Lead at Jacaranda with a focus toward sustainability and sharing of the model with other clinics.  It is James’s vision that Jacaranda will be a company of Customer Service Champions and that Jacaranda will be the flagship clinic delivering exceptional customer service to internal and external clients.                  

Is there an idea you originally held about pregnancy and childbirth care for low income women here in Kenya that’s shifted after having lived and worked here for several months?

Jill and Leigh Anne: While we knew that low income women were challenged in their ability to access quality maternal care, we had no idea that these challenges would also include the accepted expectation for many women, that they will likely be treated extremely poorly, in some manner, during the birthing process.  The personal testimonies that were shared from women here in Kenya describing the horrors of their care during childbirth left us speechless. We realized that the need for a clinic like Jacaranda was even bigger than we thought.

At Merck, with the company focus on maternal health in developing countries,  we knew there was a global challenge of maternal care, but we had no idea of the full scope of the need to help mommies and babies.  The real life need became real for us when we set foot on Kenyan soil and spoke personally to women who benefited from Jacaranda’s care.

Is there anything else you want to add about Jacaranda and your experiences?

Jill and Leigh Anne: One of our biggest heart felt moments was the first time we saw “The Parade” (what we now know is the experience provided for every delivery client at Jacaranda). Maria, a patient care assistant, carried a newborn baby down the ramp outside of the center, with mom, dad and other family members proudly participating in the parade leaving with a new bundle of love…and having experienced quality care, warmth, good food, highly trained staff all at an affordable price.

*Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, USA is known as Merck in the United States and Canada and MSD outside the United States and Canada.

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