Strengthening Leaders and Building Partnerships Through Health Leadership Fellows

Photo of Karl Shallowhorn and text that reads Stories of Impact - Building Partnerships Through Health Leadership Fellows

As we celebrate the Health Foundation’s 20th year on the path toward health equity, we are sharing the stories of our grantees, fellows, and partners and the impact they have made on the community’s health over two decades.

Launched in 2005, the Health Leadership Fellows is one of the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York’s longest running programs. The Fellows program brings together health and social care leaders from across western and central New York for an intensive 18-month fellowship that seeks to build new collaborations, address common challenges, and strengthen our regional networks of care providers to better meet the needs of the people they serve.

During the program, cohort members are assigned to small teams, and together develop projects that aim to address a community health issue. Since the program was founded, more than 300 leaders have become Fellows—a growing network with lasting impact across western and central New York.

Karl Shallowhorn says his contributions as a leader in mental health services were enhanced greatly by his experience as a Fellow. Karl is a Cohort 8 graduate, as well as President and Founder of Shallowhorn Consulting, LLC.

“My experience with the Health Leadership Fellows program was outstanding,” said Karl. “The work I did with my team helped me better understand both collaboration and developing our own strengths as individuals. We each had our own leadership and personality styles, but we brought those strengths together for the purpose of the project we developed.”

Karl and team collaborated to develop a project centered around supporting the needs of family caregivers of court-involved individuals. He noted that one team member, Karen Nicolson, executive director of the Center for Elder Law & Justice, was able to integrate the outcomes of their project into the organization’s work.

For Karl, the impact of being a Fellow extends well beyond the eighteen months he participated in the program. In 2015, he joined a convening led by two Fellows graduates—mental health advocacy leader Max Donatelli and Marlene Schillinger, now-retired executive director of Jewish Family Services—to talk about how organizations across western New York could collaborate to combat mental health stigma and help more people seek the support they need. The Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition was born out of those conversations.

The Anti-Stigma Coalition’s goal is to raise awareness and greater understanding of the importance of mental health care across the community—for older adults, veterans, children, business leaders, and others—and make it easier and more accepted to talk about these issues. The coalition is comprised of 16 western New York organizations, and more than 3,500 community members have ‘taken the pledge’ to end the stigma of talking about mental health.

Watch: Hear from Karl in his own words how the Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition was launched as the ‘brainchild’ of a group of Fellows grads.

At the first meeting that led to the coalition’s launch, Karl noted how powerful it was to see leaders from across the community come together.

“You have all these high-performing leaders in their fields, all in the same room. You can imagine the energy that was there. And the thing that was amazing was there was all this passion, and that passion was driving us—and is still the driver today.”

Years later, Karl still feels the impact of his experience as a Fellow. “I feel such a great privilege to be part of this incredible group of individuals,” he said. “The network we have through the Fellows Action Network has been phenomenal—just to know that there’s people out there that, if you need help with something you’re working on, they’re just a phone call or email away. Even if you don’t know the person, you say ‘hey, I’m a Fellow,” and they say, ‘let’s talk.’ That’s a great privilege.”

Learn more about the long-term impact of Health Leadership Fellows initiatives here.