AHP Connect Member Profile - Erin Stitzel
Erin Stitzel, CFRE
AHP member since 2009
It seems like you got into the health care philanthropy industry pretty quickly right out of college. What immediately appealed to you about a career in this industry?
Health care is in my blood. Most of my family works in health care so it was a natural decision for me to take an internship with the PR department at a local health care system one week out of college. I found the foundation rather quickly through a writing opportunity and I never looked back. Health care philanthropy appealed to me at the onset because I was able to wear many hats and learn so many different skills. Today as a consultant, I specialize in a niche area, but I am so thankful to have 12 years of frontline health care philanthropy experience managing nearly every aspect of our industry.
You say in your Forty Under Forty profile that working with physicians is your favorite part of your job. Why is that?
Physicians are highly trained and educated, and they got in this work for the same reason I got into this work – to help people. Early in my career, I had the opportunity to assemble a group of physicians who were philanthropically minded and who cared deeply about the organization and together we worked to engage more physicians in the work of the foundation. I still revere those physicians as some of the most generous and philanthropically minded people I have ever worked with and working with them solidified my love for health care philanthropy.
As I said in my Forty Under Forty profile, working with physicians is my favorite aspect of my job. I think there is nothing better than connecting a grateful patient back with their physician and seeing the two come together because they have a common vision in wanting to provide something for the community that doesn’t already exist. I have personally been grateful for physicians and have seen firsthand the power of gratitude that drives so much giving in our industry. The information regarding the science behind gratitude that has been published in the last two years by Accordant President Betsy Taylor has had such an impact on how I approach my work in grateful patients and physician engagement. It’s fun and awe-inspiring to have a conversation with a physician about the science of gratitude and to help them understand that when one of their patients is grateful, it’s because they have given them the first gift. So many times at the end of the conversation, the physician will say “Thank you – this has brought me back to why I got into medicine in the first place.” It gives me chills and affirms for me every single time how much of an honor it is to be able to do this work.
You talk about spending a significant amount of time on the hospital floor. Why is this so important?
First and foremost, it can be terrifying to go in the hospital when you are not clinically trained. Many years ago, I had this same fear and had to overcome this and force myself to start rounding and actively meeting with nursing leaders and prospective physician partners. But in health care philanthropy, most of our donors are patients and the largest influencer of gifts is the physician. Therefore, it is incumbent that we embrace this and work to build incredible, deep, trusting relationships with our physicians and care providers. And this is done by meeting them on their turf, in the care setting.
You were one of the presenters for our new learning lab session format at the 2018 AHP Annual International Conference in San Diego. How was your experience with that more interactive format?
It was incredible! First and foremost, to have the opportunity to present at AHP International was tremendously rewarding and humbling. I think when people come to a presentation, they want to learn, but they also want to be able to talk about and share their own unique circumstances and pain points. The interactive format allowed for this and I think people appreciated that.
You are a part of our inaugural Forty Under Forty class. What does being a part of this group mean to you?
It’s a huge honor. Just reading about the other honorees and their tremendous success and being a part of that group is very humbling. In addition to the immense honor, it’s been exciting to have a natural introduction to a new network of people with similar experience, resume and success. I have already been in contact with several honorees since meeting them at the conference, and I look forward to continued companionship and collaboration with them in the future.
It was a common theme when meeting the other honorees that we all take very seriously to be role models and to pay it forward for the younger generation of health care philanthropy leaders. I know for me, I attribute my success directly to others who have helped me, guided me and mentored me over the years. It’s now time for me to help others the way I’ve been helped, and I believe that everyone in our Forty Under Forty class feels the same way.
What is one piece of advice you would give to somebody new in health care philanthropy so maybe they can eventually see their name on a Forty Under Forty list?
I am going to quote one of my mentors, George Maynard, who is not only a former Si Seymour award recipient, but also someone I am deeply honored to call a colleague and friend. Upon meeting him, he said something to me that will stick with me forever: “Philanthropy starts at the bedside.” This could not be more true, and as health care philanthropy professionals, we need to get to the bedside. So, to someone new to health care philanthropy, I would say embrace health care. Learn the hospital. Build relationships with physicians and caregivers. Embrace being a part of the hospital’s leadership team if given the opportunity. I served for six years on a hospital executive team and I am so grateful for all that I learned from that experience. I know this can be challenging and overwhelming for someone new to health care, especially if the foundation office is not within the hospital. If that is the case, make it a point to get into the hospital as much as possible to interact with patients and – more importantly – the frontline staff and physicians who are taking care of your patients. It’s tremendously rewarding and humbling to witness the care going on and all the good that is being done. In any job, it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and work in your own silo, but I think in health care philanthropy we need to go be with our patients and care teams because that is what this is all about. Donors are giving through us because they were patients or know someone who is a patient, and they care deeply about the care that’s being provided at our organizations. Thus, we have the opportunity to be the catalyst and connect them with why they are giving and ultimately help our patients and families. So, first and foremost, get into the hospital and embrace, learn and love it. That has made all the difference in my career.