40 Under 40

Jessa Brooks

CommonSpirit Health - Marian Regional Medical Center Foundation
Santa Maria, CA

Why is a 40 under 40 winner

1. In Jessa's first full year of leadership, the Marian Regional Medical Center Foundation raised $4.7 million, the most successful revenue year in its 35-year history.

2. She completed a $2.5 million community campaign to expand emergency services, adding 50% more space to the busiest emergency department in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

3. Under her leadership, the Marian Regional Medical Center Foundation's magazine, Innovation, has received numerous awards, including ADDY, MarCom, and Healthcare Marketing Report recognition.

4. She led the Foundation's work to secure a $1,175,000 award from the State of California to further residency programs at Marian. This is the largest award received by the foundation from any private or public funder to date.

Q & A

1. How did you get into health care philanthropy?

My first position with Dignity Health was an intern in the Marketing Department at Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, California. I then was hired as a Marketing Specialist after college graduation. I worked in marketing, media, and communications at the hospital for five years and then transitioned to the Foundation—I have remained in this department ever since and in January of 2019 I celebrated my 10–year anniversary with the organization. 

2. Why did you choose to make health care philanthropy your career?

I enjoyed doing Marketing projects (writing, media, speeches, events), thus it was a natural fit when I was hired by the Foundation to lead communications efforts. As my communications responsibilities grew, my supervisor allowed me to have hand in annual giving, major gifts, planned gifts, grants, and events.  I enjoy the focused work and team approach needed to drive results towards a tangible revenue goal. Our work in development is very rewarding as we measure our accomplishments and successes each year.

3. Tell us about a pivot point or crucial step in your career journey.

I’ll tell you about two experiences. The first was when I decided to give my notice in the Marketing Department and do consulting work. As a Marketing Specialist, I was named the point person and media lead for the opening of Marian Regional Medical Center’s new hospital in 2012. In preparation for the new hospital opening, I dedicated a year to the planning and media campaign work needed to open the doors of the hospital. The new hospital opening was a great success and when work went back to business as usual, I was hungry for a new adventure.  Even when I thought I was ready to leave health care for something completely new, I still remained at Marian Regional Medical Center as a previous mentor and supervisor asked me to remain on the payroll to do part-time Foundation communications projects. It was a leap of faith leaving my previous position and it was very meaningful to me that the Foundation leader at the time pursued me to become part of her team. Needless to say, I didn’t get far and soon after beginning in the Foundation, I was full-time again and ended my consulting business. 

The second crucial step in my career journey was when I secured my first principal gift. This gift was a $2.5 million irrevocable planned gift from a longtime Foundation Board member and hospital supporter. This gift was a challenging journey to navigate and at one point it almost didn’t happen. The work to secure this gift predominantly took place with the donor’s attorney, a man she trusts like her son. Although we had hurdles to cross to confirm the naming associated and the legal documents to secure the gift, what was beautiful about this gift is that the donor truly feels this gift is her legacy. This donor does not have any children and at 94 years old, she is the last living member of her family and friends. This meaningful life gift, will undoubtedly carry on her legacy in our community—and is a perfect example of why philanthropy is so important. I often reflect on how this gift continues to impact my work and heart. 

4. What was your first job, and what is something it taught you?

My first job was when I was in seventh grade as a summer nanny. As a youngster myself, I cared for twin-six-month-olds and a four-year-old.  With caring for twins, I learned the importance of planning and keeping them on their schedules. I also recognized how important it is to be prepared and ensure physical safety; these young, precious lives were literally in my hands. Lastly, I learned the value of relationships since this gig was the first of many babysitting jobs and I soon was the sitter for the entire block.

5. What are your future aspirations?

My future aspirations lie in cultivating the skills of my team and growing my office as a regional leader to develop best practice standards for innovative major gift work. We have a generous and unique community where there is much opportunity, however we are just scrapping the surface. My public relations experience is also an element of my background I am very grateful for. I would love to build a patient experience program geared towards taking negative service recovery situations and applying an algorithm/plan of work towards resolving the patient/family issue, with the ultimate goal of cultivating a prospect to secure major gifts.  
Jessa Brooks

Fun Fact:

As a kid, I starred in a Spanish language Disneyland commercial (I rode the Dumbo ride all day long to film a 30-second commercial). Being in the 4th grade, I thought this was the best day of my life.