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Our Commitment to Creating a Healthier Community [Podcast]

Posted March 10, 2022 by Iriel Hopkins and Marlo Schmidt

Listen to this episode of the Healthy Vitals Podcast.

Iriel Hopkins and Marlo Schmidt discuss ways in which Summa Health System contributes to a healthier community.

Featured Guests:

Iriel Hopkins, MSW, LSW | Marlo Schmidt, MBA, MS

Iriel Hopkins joined Summa Health in 2019 as the System Director of Community Relations and Diversity. During her time she has implemented many initiatives including but not limited to updating the cultural awareness mandatory employee education, securing grants for COVID education and vaccinations and partnering with local organization such as the Greater Akron Chamber, University of Akron, City of Akron and more. 

Marlo Schmidt joined Summa in 2004 as the Health Education Coordinator. In 2015 she took on the role of System Director of Community Benefit. In her role, she is responsible for steering Summa Health’s Community Reinvestment Board, leading the Community Engagement Committee and strengthening Summa’s partnership with Akron Public Schools.


Scott Webb (Host): Hospital and health systems don't operate on islands. Rather, they rely heavily on local businesses, governments, and most especially community members to assist in initiatives and inform their approaches to care. And joining me today to discuss community involvement and why it's so important to the Summa Health System, are Iriel Hopkins, System Director, Community Relations and Diversity at Summa Health and Marlo Schmidt, System Director of Community Benefits at Summa Health.

This is Healthy Vitals, a podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. So first off, I want to thank you both for being here. I've been hosting Summa's podcasts for awhile, and it's always great to learn more and to share more with the community. And as we get rolling here, Marlo, why is community involvement so important to the Summa Health System?

Marlo Schmidt, MBA, MS (Guest): Same as Summa's dedication to community involvement is really part of our legacy. It's embedded in our mission, our vision and values, and it's exemplified in our commitments to build and sustain our community. Summa, as an organization, we've always looked outside the traditional walls of our hospital and we offer a wide range of services and resources that extend beyond those walls. We understand we can't meet the needs of our community alone. And that is why we partner with our community. And that is one of our core commitments. We partner with many local agencies that have aligned missions and common values, and that helps us to implement programs and strategies that make the largest impact on the health of our community.

Iriel Hopkins, MSW, LSW (Guest): Absolutely. And Marlo, if I could just add to that, I think it's very important in terms of building trust with the community. A lot of times, there is a trust barrier and oftentimes people are just afraid to go to the hospital and maybe they go in for one thing and come out with you know, a diagnosis of something else. And so, how we build trust in the community is very important and that starts with being accessible to the community and being involved in some of the activities and programs that they have.

Host: Yeah. And Iriel, staying with you, why is the community so important to you?

Iriel: The community is very important to me because, you know, without the community, there would be no Summa Health. There would be no patients, there would be no employees. And so having the community support, having the community's trust, having them know that we support them in all of the things that they are doing and that we care about disparities and that we are intentional about filling gaps that we see in our community, is important to us, but not only to us, but it's important to the community and the patients that we serve. And so, Marlo does an excellent job of always highlighting the clinical portion, it's only 20% of a health outcome. You know, it takes the community in terms of the transportation, the food system to make sure a person receives holistic care. And so that is why the community is important because we can't do it by ourselves.

Host: And Marlo, just to, you know, hearing you both today, thinking about the partnerships and how important the community is, I'm sure that you would echo what Iriel just said.

Marlo: Absolutely. When I think about our community, it really plays an important role in every aspect of our lives. And this is my community. I'm from here, I'm raising my family here. And when we build a community that we're a part of, it makes us feel like we're part of something greater than ourselves. It gives us an opportunity to connect. And we really do want to help each other as a community, both personally, professionally, socially. And I really always appreciate seeing the outpouring of the community in supporting our local and small businesses. And when I think of a strong community, it's a place of opportunity. And that's what really gives me the most.

Host: Yeah, I'm sure. And, as you've mentioned here today, the partnerships are so important and so key, and I'm sure that you've have done some things in the past that you're quite proud of. And maybe you could share some of them with listeners, things that Summa has partnered with, or everybody has done where the community has lifted each other up and come together. Please share some of those things.

Marlo: The hospitals really do play a vital role in our community. And we know that a healthy bird community requires more than access to medical services that we provide. And in fact, as Iriel mentioned before, clinical care accounts for only about 20% of the individual's overall health and quality of life, and that is why we commit to the social determinants of health to help individuals achieve their best wellbeing. So the social determinants of health are factors that influence a person's health, but typically fall outside the scope of what our health care professionals provide. And as Iriel mentioned, it includes education or socioeconomic status and even the zip code in which we live and work.

So one of the avenues that we address the social determinants is through our community re-investment board. And the purpose of our reinvestment board is really to invest and engage and transform our communities, health and wellbeing. And we do this through sponsorship and donations support. We focus on programs and services that address the social determinants. Our community's greatest health needs. And now those most impacted by COVID-19. And in 2020, we provided some support to over 55 organizations. I'm proud to say 98% of those donations stayed local and they helped more than 208,000 individuals. And more than 77,000 individuals who were disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

The types of programs that we invested in, address access to health care, safe, housing, education, economic stability, social justice, and access to healthy foods.

Iriel: Those are awesome things. And as Marlo mentioned in terms of how we address the social determinants of health, we have volunteered as a team for places like the Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity. We roll up our sleeves and we actually work beside our community members to achieve different initiatives.

We make sure we have a community leadership institute that immerses are assuming employees into the community and in some of the grassroots organizations, especially during COVID, we partner with some of the local funeral homes that are trusted members in the community. We've provided PPE in terms of sanitizers, gloves, and a vaccine cart holders. Anything that we could think of to sustain the health of our community. And to help people while they're going through, as Marlo said, disproportionate loss of life because of COVID. And so, again, as we mentioned, not only addressing the social determinants of health through our giving, but actually rolling up our sleeves and working beside and alongside some of our community partners as they're experiencing some of the gaps from COVID.

Host: Yeah. And you both COVID- 19 and the pandemic, and it's certainly, entering in our third year now. It's something we just can't get away from. Those things do appear to be getting better for all of us. Want to have you specifically talk Marlo about what Summa has done during the pandemic to help.

Marlo: Well, early in the pandemic, when many services and people felt very isolated, Summa quickly pivoted to a virtual platform. And we were able to hold classes and serve our patients through Telehealth visits. And we had provided over 132,000 virtual visits in 2020. We provided virtual events. And we presented information to the community about COVID-19 from how to properly wear a face mask to giving birth safely and also receiving the care that they need.

And we're very proud of the Summa Health Equity Center, and they were also committed to finding solutions for their patients. And they quickly move to a virtual model to allow the expectant mothers as part of our centering program to continue to receive that support when they needed us most. And we also partnered with the community to provide a COVID-19 testing event.

And when vaccines became available, we supported a community-wide program that Iriel will share.

Iriel: Absolutely. So our Vital Vacs Campaign, really targeted places around Akron and zip codes that had, at the time it was a less than 40% vaccination rate. And so we used our data and heat maps and the health department in terms of really finding out where we could make the most impact with taking our mobile unit.

And so I would say that is the biggest success and achievement in terms of bringing services to the community, as you know, the emergency departments were full. We had a short staff with not just our hospital, but many hospitals. And so providing that alternative method to get care was very important. And not only did we do the first dose, but we may appointments to go back for the second dose to make sure everyone was served. Also in this time we took the opportunity to connect with each of our communities and zip codes to find out specifically what were the most effective ways to get messaging and communication as it relates to COVID. As we know that there was a lot of miscommunication around COVID. And so one of the things we really studied is, you know, how does each community receive information, whether that be short YouTube videos or Tik TOK videos, or billboards or yard signs. And so this really forced us to be creative in terms of messaging.

And how we got the message out about measures our community could take to remain safe, but also where to get care. And so that was something that I think will not only help served us with COVID, but in the future, we'll have a better relationship and communication pattern with our communities that we serve.

Host: Yeah, it sure sounds. So and Marlo, what can we expect in the future? Like what are you excited about that's coming?

Marlo: Well for 2022, I am really excited. This is our needs assessment year. So we will, once again, partner with the Summit County Public Health, and that is to conduct our community health needs assessment. And the purpose of the assessment is really to help improve the health of our community. So, during the process, over 200 indicators will be reviewed. Then community leaders and residents will be consulted through a variety of venues, of focus groups, interviews, and surveys. And from there, the significant health needs will be identified. Then we will come together as a system with our community partners in how we will address those needs. So, I'm excited to learn from the findings, how we can be even more intentional to impact the health of our community from those programs and services that Iriel has shared.

We do have a strong foundation and we're positioned to expand the programs, but I'm excited as mentioned to be more intentional and really address the most critical needs impacting the health of our community.

Iriel: I also agree with that statement. Not only do we have the community needs assessment, but we want to continue the Vital Vacs, not only vaccines. We want to be prepared if there's any other boosters that come out, we want to be prepared to, be able to serve the community. We also know flu vaccines are still available and requested. So we want to also make sure we are able to provide those as well as preventative care. One of the things we saw since COVID, a lot of people stop going to the hospital for their preventative care or surgeries that they may have needed. And so, we are catching up in terms of making sure people, you know, are up to date on those screenings and preventative care, you know, guidelines and things that they should be monitoring on a regular basis to again, make sure we have no gaps in care.

And so, again, we're going to continue with making sure access is very important to our community. As it relates to healthcare services. We want to continue our messaging and our relationships with the community partners that we built, not only just with COVID, but future services that we want to make sure the community is aware of. Again, keep being innovative and challenging ourselves to explore how we can provide more equitable care.

Host: Yeah, that all sounds awesome. Great to learn more about what Summa is doing, how Summa has been partnering with the community, how everybody is working together to reach each other, to lift each other up and give last words to you, hear Marlo today. How can folks find out more about Summa's work in the community? And most importantly, how can they get involved?

Marlo: Well, Scott, the easiest way for people to learn more about us is to go to But through our needs assessment, we really want to hear from the community. So I would welcome either email or phone calls. My direct line is 234-312-5261 that they connect with me directly.

So then that way their voice can be heard doing the needs assessment. Also, as we engage with community partners and there's opportunities for us to work together, Iriel is really our lead that really connects with our community partners and she can share opportunities for how we can help them, and they can help us to improve the health of our community.

Iriel: As Marlo mentioned, I am the liaison and contact for all community related initiatives or requests, so please feel free to reach out. Best method of contact would be Hopkins.I@Summahealth.

Host: That's great and great to hear about the needs assessment. You know, it's one of those things where in order for an organization, a hospital system like Summa to help the community, you have to know what the community's needs are, what they need, what they want, what they expect. So glad that you're both so receptive to folks reaching out to you through phone, email.

As we mentioned, go into is a great place to start. Awesome learning about all of this and getting to know you both a little bit today and the work that Summa is doing. So thanks so much and you will stay well.

Marlo: Thank you.

Iriel: Thank you.

Host: Visit to learn more. And if you found this podcast to be helpful and informative, please share it on your social channels and be sure to check out the full podcast library for additional topics of interest. This is Healthy Vitals, a podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. Stay well, and we'll talk again next time.

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