Darlene Hightower, vice president of community health equity at Rush University Medical Center, says while her workshop topic, “Closing the Death Gap on Chicago’s West Side,” may be heavy, you can look forward to learning about the collaborative work underway to address West Side’s challenges in a “really interactive and fun way.” Find out more about Darlene, including her suggestion to change people’s life trajectories so that everyone can thrive.
Q: If you were independently wealthy and you didn’t have to work, what would you do with your time?
DH: I think that I would still do a lot of volunteer work. I really care about kids and opportunities to thrive, so I could see myself volunteering at a school, or using some of that wealth to support school systems or community-based organizations that are doing work with kids. So that would be my focus – how are we providing opportunities for young people.
Q: What one change can we make right now in the United States that would have the greatest impact on helping people thrive?
DH: I think that we need to improve people’s opportunities to get access to quality jobs and education. Those two things can help change the life trajectory of everyone. If you’ve got a solid education and a great job, I think there’s nothing you can’t do.
Q: What one thing are you deeply proud of, but would never put on your resumé?
DH: My life’s work and life purpose have been to serve people. I don’t say that explicitly on any resumé, but I care so deeply about my community, my city, my family. Service and serving others is a core belief.
Q: Who has had the biggest impact on the person you have become today?
DH: You know, the first person who comes to mind is my mother. One of her sayings was, “Never accept wooden nickels.” What she meant by that was, you deserve the best. Run after the best. Your life should be an adventure, and there’s nothing you can’t do. And so taking those things to heart has given me wings in my career and the work I do overall.
Q: What one thing would you change about the sector if you could?
DH: I would change the constant grind of having to raise funds to do programming that matters. It’s really difficult to do effective quality programming when you’re always having to worry about how you’re going to pay for it. So if there were ways to balance that out, where we could put our energy into programs and positive impact and outcomes, and not always writing that grant, doing that report – that would be amazing.
Closing the Death Gap on Chicago’s West Side is happening Wednesday, November 13 from 9:30 – 10:45am.