Leslie Aldrich, Executive Director of the Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) at Massachusetts General Hospital, discusses how she works with the diverse communities Mass General serves in order to tackle important public health issues.

How long have you worked at Mass General?

I have worked at Mass General for the last 18 years. I feel like I have grown up here. 

What excites you about community health at Mass General?

I get to carry out one of the core missions of this hospital—to improve the health and well-being of the diverse communities we serve. At CCHI, we believe in prevention and know that we can help to make entire communities, not just individuals, healthier. It is hard not to be excited about working in community health at Mass General.

What do you like most about your job?

Community health is about building relationships and working together toward solutions to improve health. Working with community partners—elected officials, police, teachers, residents, local businesses and youth—helps me look at community issues through a different lens and become a more creative problem solver.

I am constantly learning, and I am inspired by the people I work with daily. Tackling public health issues like the opioid epidemic, hunger, obesity or safety can seem overwhelming, and sometimes even impossible. But, this job gives me hope that the world may not be as bad as it sometimes seems. I know firsthand that many people are willing to work together to make a difference.  

Describe your journey into community health.

I have always been interested in trying to improve or create systems for everyone to live healthier lives. It was not until my late 20s that I realized I could build a career working on social justice issues and community health. Following my passion, I pursued my Master of Public Health (MPH) while working full time. Upon graduation, I was fortunate enough to be hired by CCHI.  To do this work with the backing and support of the entire hospital has been a true gift.  

What is one piece of advice you would give a woman entering the field of community health?

Find your voice and remain confident. As a woman without an MD or PhD, working at an academic medical institution like Mass General can be intimidating. But passion, experience and drive are of equal value. So think big and don’t get bogged down by some of the barriers that can get in the way of making change for the greater good. Some of the work we have done in the community has influenced how Mass General delivers care. This is a testament to the hospital’s commitment to this work and a constant reminder that as a woman at Mass General, I can make a difference.