by CARMEN SIERING
Bloomington Health Foundation President Michelle Gilchrist says her first few weeks on the job were spent meeting people and learning about the health care issues facing the community. It’s something she had been looking forward to since she read the job description.
“As I was completing my doctorate, I learned that when we look at health care, health disparities occur because there is no collaboration,” Gilchrist says. “When I read the job description, I realized [this job] was very much about wanting to improve health equity and health care access, to improve health determinants, and to work with community health care partners in a collaborative space. That really attracted me.”
Gilchrist, 51, moved here in September from Memphis, Tennessee, where she spent five years as the CEO for the National Foundation for Transplants. She’s also worked as a major gifts officer and senior director of major gifts at the University of Tennessee Science Center and in leadership roles at Community Health Charities in North Central Texas and United Way of the Mid-South in Memphis.
She and her husband, Chester, have three grown daughters— Eriel, 29, Amber, 23, and Alexis, 20. They met as Marines at Camp Pendleton in California.
Gilchrist earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and an executive master’s in business administration at the University of Memphis. She’s currently finishing a doctoral program in health care administration from the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
On paper, it might look like Gilchrist is used to living in cities much larger than Bloomington, but the truth is slightly different.
“I did work in Dallas, but I lived in DeSoto, Texas—population 40,000,” she says with a laugh. “And I say I lived in Memphis, but it was really in a much smaller community of about 60,000. I never actually lived in the main cities, I just lived near them. So, Bloomington is my cup of tea. It has everything I need.”
There are other reasons her new city appeals to her, as well.
“We have shared expectations,” she says. “We want good schools. We vote and have a voice. When you are in a smaller community like Bloomington, people—no matter where they are on the socioeconomic line—all want
it to be better. I love that shared interest in meaningful, societal change, and I’m excited to be a small contributor to that.”