Linda Juszczak, President, 2008-2014

Linda’s Legacy

linda-juszczakIt is with a heavy heart that we announce today that Linda Juszczak has succumbed to her battle with cancer. Linda fought bravely for nearly three years, far exceeding her initial prognosis, and continued her work as the president of the School-Based Health Alliance until very recently. Linda never let her ailment slow her down, and remained committed to the school-based health care movement. She continued to lead the organization through rebranding and multiple conventions. Her recent work has been critical in establishing new partnerships and programs, and our advocacy efforts. Her strength and vision during this time has been an inspiration to everyone who was fortunate enough to work with her.

Prior to assuming the position as president of the School-Based Health Alliance, Linda served for 35 years as a pediatric nurse practitioner and directed hospital, community, and school-based programs for adolescents. She served as deputy director of the School Health Policy Initiative at Montefiore Medical Center and Director of SBHCs at North Shore University Hospital in New York. She was the founding president of the New York Coalition for School Based Primary Care and was one of the founding members of the School-Based Health Alliance.

Linda’s legacy is cemented in the history of the school-based health care movement. As a member of the founding Board of Directors, and more recently in her role as president, Linda has guided the School-Based Health Alliance through an unprecedented period of success. Her tenure has seen the first federally appropriated source of funding for school-based health centers; a new brand for the organization; partnerships with dozens of corporate, philanthropic, and government entities; and strides in our data, evaluation, and quality improvement work. Linda published extensively on adolescent health and school-based health care, and many of her articles are seminal texts in the academic literature on school-based health centers.

To honor Linda’s memory, the School-Based Health Alliance Board of Directors established the Linda Juszczak Legacy Fund in March 2014. The Jamie and Judy Dimon Foundation generously committed $10,000 a year for five years to establish the fund. This fund is used to strengthen the school-based health care movement by developing future leaders who can follow in Linda’s footsteps. In the fund’s first year, we were able to add an additional fellow to our Leadership Fellows Program and offer scholarships to the 2015 National School-Based Health Care Convention.

From Linda’s colleagues:

My dear friend and colleague, Linda Juszczak, exemplified professional practice, advocacy, and scholarship to improve the health and life success of vulnerable children and adolescents all over the world. She was a committed servant leader in public health and in her dogged commitment to improving access to high-quality health care in school. Linda was an indomitable national force for securing the ability of school-based health care providers to provide the full complement of health services for young people. Her voice and energy will be sorely and deeply missed. Rest in peace, dear Linda, and thank-you for your leadership and tenacity on behalf of all of the children and adolescents you cared for; we love you. Thank you for your friendship and camaraderie. At the end of the day you can say with confidence “I did my best” and school-based health care will have its own guardian angel.

-Terri Wright, APHA

In addition to being a visionary, national force in school-based health care, Linda Juszczak was a strong champion of adolescent health at national, state, and local levels. She worked vigorously to ensure that school-based health centers could fulfill their potential to meet the diverse needs of adolescents and, even while heading the School-Based Health Alliance, found the time to serve youth directly as a pediatric nurse practitioner in adolescent medicine. Her writing on school-based health care frequently focused on adolescents and raised the bar on what is possible to accomplish. Linda’s vision of youth development has stimulated school-based health centers around the country to engage students in leadership roles and has made the School-Based Health Alliance a model for other national organizations invested in young people’s health.

-Trina Menden Anglin, Maternal and Child Health Bureau

The world of children’s health and school-based health care has lost one of its earliest, most effective champions. I grieve that loss but am grateful to have been witness to her accomplishments and legacy.

I met Linda in the early 1980s when she was a recently-minted nurse practitioner working at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Linda had the laboring oar on a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant that was supporting a program to encourage academic medical centers to increase their community-based care. Among the newbies who made those experimental services run, Linda stood out. She did the job and told the truth–and as her program officer, I was deeply grateful. These were irreplaceable, but not always common, traits.

A few years later, Linda’s association with another grant application to RWJ, this time from North Shore University Hospital, assured that that application would get a close look. It did–and was successful, not because of whom she knew, but who she was–a person who did the work and told the truth. This trait was critical because this initiative, the School-Based Adolescent Health Care Program, would test a new model of health care for school-age children. That model, the school-based health center, was intended to increase access to care for young people who too often faced intractable barriers to securing the help they needed. Solid implementation, clear thinking, and candid reporting were essential to testing the model and, of course, she delivered.

To me, Linda became a leader in this field because she never lost hold of her commitment to making health care better for children, especially adolescents, and she understood that the care had to be supported by solid research, excellent quality, and linkages to the larger health system.

When Linda began working in the school-based health center world, there were about 100 or so school-based health centers across the country. Twenty-five years later there were more than 2,000. Building a nationwide movement based on successful individual programs is a big job requiring leaders with unique skills and extraordinary commitment. Linda Jusczcak was a shining star. Her talents were evident early on, but as with any pioneering effort, setbacks and discouragement were part of the path. Decades from now, Linda’s courage and persistence in pushing school-based health centers forward will continue to benefit children and families across this nation. I am grateful for Linda’s extraordinary gifts and salute her unique contributions to children’s well-being. Her passing will be felt by legions of friends and colleagues, but her work will live on.

-Julia Graham Lear, George Washington University

For almost 30 years, I have been telling the story of the first time I met Linda. I think the story exemplifies what made Linda such an extraordinary person. The story is as follows:

Dr. Stan Friedman, the Chief of Adolescent Medicine at North Shore University Hospital, had just been awarded a grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to start a new school-based health center and he had hired Linda to run it. He set up a meeting for himself, Linda, and me to discuss the steps we would all have to take to establish the health center. Linda came to that meeting with a yellow pad that had five single-spaced pages completed with lists of what she planned to do in the categories of personnel, policies, schedules, floor plans (and many more), along with the time frame she intended to follow. Dr. Friedman and I looked at Linda and said “looks good to us” and, as I’m sure you all realize, she proceeded to do everything on the list in exactly the time frame she had outlined. Linda and I worked together for close to 15 of the past 30 years and she never once deviated from the level of professionalism, expertise, and accomplishment that she showed that very first day. I have missed working with her since she moved to Washington, DC, and as exemplary a professional she was that’s how terrific she was as a person. My wife and I will always remember her with affection and respect. Our hearts go out to her family and her legions of friends.

-Martin Fisher, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System


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