Above: Monica Hendrickson, MPH has been the face of public health in Peoria County during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID has challenged all of us, but it’s been particularly hard on women,” says Dr. Sarah de Ramirez. As chief medical officer of clinical innovation at OSF HealthCare, she is a key member of the OSF Innovation Team that works to create data-driven solutions to healthcare’s most complex problems. In 2020, their portfolio expanded to include a multi-pronged response to the pandemic, leveraging digital and mobile technologies to safely care for those impacted by the virus.
With her global mindset and broad, multidisciplinary approach, Dr. Ramirez looks beyond short-term fixes to the larger picture. “As a society, we reacted to what was obviously in front of us (COVID), but failed to predict what lies beyond,” she suggests. “It’s time to redesign. We’ve got to think about the long-term repercussions of our actions...” That is no easy task in today’s environment, marked by a flood of misinformation, shortsighted desires for instant gratification, and the poisoned well of our politics.
As Peoria City/County public health administrator, Monica Hendrickson has been forced to fight two pandemics—not just the virus itself, but misinformation as well. “We cannot control all that is shared on social media,” she notes, “and this has created a constant distraction from the already monumental task of responding to a pandemic.” In the face of this immense challenge, Hendrickson has admirably led the way.
Each year, our December issue is published in conjunction with the Women of Influence Forum, a half-day event for professional development, personal growth and collective inspiration. As we planned this year’s event, the theme of “Persevering Women” quickly emerged, for obvious reasons.
For the first time, our panel discussion includes the same slate of honorees as featured in print. Joining Hendrickson and Dr. Ramirez are Rachael Parker, Peoria County Clerk; Mary Jo Papich, retired educator and arts leader; and Jodi Hoos, Peoria County State’s Attorney. Each has persisted through the historic challenges of this year: by maintaining calm through tragedy, by reimagining programs with creativity, and by working through unprecedented turbulence. That is the kind of leadership we need right now—though I think all of us could us a break from the constant struggles of 2020. —Jonathan Wright, Editor in Chief