20 Years at Maternity Care Coalition: JoAnne Fischer

May 1, 2009

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Olivia Hamilton

Nominee: JoAnne Fischer, Maternity Care Coalition, Executive Director

joanne20fischer20color20headshotJoAnne Fisher is not only my Women’s Health Hero, she wears that cape for every birthing woman in Pennsylvania.  This year she celebrates her 20th year as Executive Director of the Maternity Care Coalition.

MCC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making the needs of mothers and their families visible through policy advocacy and research, and meeting those needs in the community every day through the outreach of teams of Community Health Workers.

Since 1989, JoAnne has raised MCC from a fledgling neighborhood project with a staff of 3 to a statewide organization with staff of over 70, and a budget of $116,000 to over $4.5 million. MCC’s programs include the operation of MOMobile outreach sites providing services to at risk mothers right in their neighborhoods including one in the Riverside Correctional Facility,  two Early Head Start locations, The Cribs for Kids program which provides safe sleeping options to families in need, the Smoke Free Mom’s initiative, and an HIV/Aids prevention program for at risk women.

In addition JoAnne leads MCC’s efforts to advocate for policies that support the women served by these programs – most recently through the report “Insuring Healthy Births” which she will present jointly with area mothers impacted by the faulty insurance system at a rally in Harrisburg at the Capitol Rotunda on Monday May 4th.

JoAnne says of her work, “Birthing is a powerful experience whether it results in a baby or an organization. I am grateful to have been a midwife to MCC, to work with passionate and talented people and to advocate for women and children every day.” Joanne’s own talent and passion are evident everywhere I go, when I say I work for MCC inevitably someone says “Oh, you know JoAnne Fischer?” Her reputation, energy and warmth precede her.

At a recent staff meeting JoAnne’s anniversary was recognized by those who work with her every day.  We were all invited to stand and convey our own experience of that warmth and vitality.  It was evident to me, even as a new member of the MCC community, that she had made an effort to connect with every woman (and the two men as well!) in that room.

I had my own experience of this: at another meeting I had the chance to contribute some of my own ideas – and shook like a leaf the whole time I was speaking because I was so nervous. When I got home that evening there was a message on my Facebook page (yes, JoAnne is on Facebook!) complimenting me on my effort and my ideas. It is a small thing, but when you consider how large a job she has, and how many people she takes the time to connect with in that way in any given day it is no wonder that her name is known far and wide.

I literally found out about this contest ten minutes ago and today is the entry deadline. If I had the chance I could compile story after story just like those tributes I heard at the Maternity Care Coalition staff meeting about what a fantastic leader and mentor JoAnne is. I know there is no better, stronger, more dedicated champion of the health of childbearing women than JoAnne Fischer and no one is better deserving of the recognition of the Our Bodies Ourselves community. Celebrate with us at MCC by joining with us to honor her 20th Anniversary year of serving the women of Pennsylvania!

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