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| Laurie Cammisa, Esq, vice president of Child Advocacy
M. Laurie Cammisa, Esq., is the Vice President of Child Advocacy.
The Office of Child Advocacy (OCA) is charged with overseeing the
community service portion of the hospital’s four-part mission.
What is the mission of the Office
of Child Advocacy (OCA)?
The OCA was formally established in January 1999 and combined the
Community Benefits and Government Relations departments. This united
our advocacy efforts for children on both the community and government
Working in partnership with the community, we identify major public
health issues for children and develop programs to address them.
The programs focus on prevention, wellness, treatment and living
with a chronic disease. On the Government Relations side, we try
to influence public policy to address issues on a broader, state-wide
Another important element is advocating for improved reimbursement
from the state and federal governments for Medicaid, free care,
research and medical education. As we say, “no margin, no mission.”
Does Community Service get overlooked
by Children’s staff?
I don’t think individual employees give much thought to whether
or not the hospital is engaged in community service—they just do
it everyday in their jobs and even on their own time. I am continually
amazed at the “extracurricular” activities that employees in this
hospital undertake. For example, some of our nurses volunteer at
their children’s schools one day a week to address budget cuts for
There are also countless employees who integrate community service
into their jobs here. One good example is David Mooney,
MD, director of the Trauma Program. After caring for too
many children with preventable injuries, he and a team of staff
from Clinical Research, the Emergency Department, General Pediatrics,
OCA, Nursing, and Trauma reviewed injury data, met with community
leaders and together, designed a comprehensive prevention strategy.
While OCA is charged with guiding Children’s community service mission,
this commitment is a shared responsibility for the entire hospital
community, weaving itself firmly into our everyday activities.
Community service isn’t a new notion here. It’s what we’ve always
What is different this year about
your approach to community service?
We want to recognize all of the community service initiatives that
are ongoing here at Children’s and use those initiatives as the
foundation to do more with and for the children in our local community.
To have the broadest impact, we hope to better coordinate our efforts
internally, partner more effectively with the community, better
acknowledge and support Children’s staff who are doing community
service, and increase both financial assistance and administrative
resources to help staff tackle pressing pediatric health issues
in a more comprehensive and coordinated way along the entire continuum
of care for a child.
What are some examples of those kinds
Parents, churches, schools, community-based organizations, health
centers, the hospital and pediatricians are partners in the community
because they work directly with families. Other partners are legislators
and elected officials who effect broader public policy change.
One of the best examples is the collaboration among the Department
of Psychiatry, the OCA, community health centers, schools, the Boston
Public Health Commission and various elected and appointed officials.
These partners are doing a great job of raising public awareness
of mental health issues, helping train teachers and guidance counselors
to identify mental health problems and refer children to resources,
bringing direct care services into the community health centers
and changing public policy to better benefit children.
How are we supporting and encouraging
hospital departments to do community service?
One of the most important ways is through the work of Children’s
Hospital Trust. The Trust has done an incredible job raising money
to support our community service initiatives. But they are eager
to do more. It is up to the OCA to bring together the hospital staff
and community partners to develop the programs so that the Trust
can find the funding to support them.
The OCA will also provide technical assistance to groups working
on community service initiatives—from program development and implementation
to fiscal management to grant writing to legislative advocacy support.
The Trauma Department, for example, is working on a bill to improve
seatbelt and child safety seat laws. Our staff members have advised
them on providing testimony at the statehouse and pulling together
a coalition. When the appropriate time comes, we can then activate
the 1,300 members of the Children’s Advocacy Network who have volunteered
to support our advocacy efforts by writing or calling their legislators
on issues of importance to children.
What can the hospital do better?
We need to transcend departmental lines and leverage our vast resources
of expertise, knowledge and creativity. Our new office motto is
“the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
In working with the community, we need to be engaged in true partnerships
where we work together to identify the needs and then together develop
and implement programs to address those needs.
This would truly be a cultural shift.
How do you make a cultural shift
Resources. Teamwork. And, a message from above. Dr. Mandell recently
held a meeting of staff from the various primary care programs at
Children’s in which he reaffirmed the hospital leadership’s commitment
to community service as an integral part of our mission. He also
charged those in the room and throughout the hospital to develop
a shared vision on how we can do more to better serve the children
in our community. Finally, he pledged the support of hospital leadership
to accomplish these goals.
Why does community service matter
to you personally?
I started my career working in public policy. Prior to coming to
Children’s, I worked as a legislative aide to a Member of Congress
working on health care issues. During that time, I came to Children’s
Hospital Boston as part of a visiting program designed to help show
those of us who were writing legislation how what we were doing
was affecting what went on in the hospital. I fell in love with
this place. Six months later, I jumped at the opportunity to come
work here, because I saw it as a way to expand my work in public
policy and tie it into community service. And, I saw it as a way
to work with a terrific group of truly dedicated people. Fourteen
years later, I am still here doing what I love.