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Q&A with Kate Schroder, president and CEO of Interact for Health

Jan 14, 2022

On Jan. 1, Kate Schroder joined Interact for Health as President and CEO. Schroder previously served as interim chief strategy officer for the Health Collaborative, where she spearheaded an effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations throughout Greater Cincinnati. A member of the Cincinnati Board of Health since 2016, Schroder has worked in public health for decades. Her experience includes 12 years with the Clinton Health Access Initiative where she worked to improve access to care in Africa and Asia.

Interact for Health: You ran for Congress in Ohio’s 1st District in 2020 and were considered a potential candidate in 2022, but you chose to join Interact for Health instead. What made you choose nonprofit work over public service?

Schroder: I’m motivated by solving problems and where I can have the greatest impact. With its strong relationships, foundation resources and legacy of impact, Interact for Health is uniquely positioned to make a difference improving health outcomes and health equity across the 20-county Greater Cincinnati region. And now more than ever, we need organizations like Interact for Health to help our community –not just to recover from the suffering and loss of the pandemic but also to build back stronger. Growing up, my grandma always used to remind me – quoting Mr. Rogers – to “be one of the helpers.” When I lost the congressional race, I wanted to jump in and find other ways my skills could best help our community. There are many ways to serve, and I’m someone who is always open to that calling.

Interact for Health: You’re starting your job just as the nation is about to enter the third year of the pandemic. How will COVID-19 affect the foundation's priorities for the immediate future? How will Interact for Health continue to support the community’s response?

Schroder: COVID-19 is upending and reshaping the priorities of every individual, family and organization. We are starting the third year of the pandemic, and yet, we are all still learning so much and pivoting to respond to the latest challenges. At Interact for Health, our immediate priority is to help strengthen the regional response, particularly for neighborhoods and communities that have been marginalized or left out. This means making sure that testing, treatment and vaccines are available to everyone who needs them, especially those who are most vulnerable.

Interact for Health: Longer term, where do you see the greatest opportunity for Interact for Health to make an impact?

Schroder: Looking at the future, Interact for Health has tremendous potential to strengthen health impact and equity in the region – working with partners not just to improve overall health outcomes, but also to reduce the disparities in health outcomes that occur by race, by neighborhood and by income level. We have a unique opportunity to respond to the challenges and inequities that COVID-19 has laid bare and to build on the collaboration and urgency of this moment to meaningfully address these challenges going forward in a longer-term way. We have to ask ourselves: if not now, when? There are substantial resources going into public health and health equity now, and we need to use these resources wisely to tackle the biggest health challenges in our community.

Interact for Health: How has your previous experience prepared you to guide Interact for Health toward achieving this goal?

Schroder: I’ve spent my career building coalitions to solve complex health challenges – particularly bringing together health partners, government, non-governmental organizations, businesses and foundations to reduce preventable deaths in kids. During my 12 years in global health, I led an $80-million project across five countries (Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda) that helped to reduce treatment prices 40% and increased the number of kids receiving treatment by over 50 million. In 2021, I helped to lead vaccine coordination efforts in Greater Cincinnati across hospitals, health departments, NGOs and pharmacies. Whether addressing COVID-19, health equity, the opioid epidemic, mental health or other priorities, success depends on having a common vision, a clear understanding of the problem, strong measurement and learning, and alignment of resources around the most effective, feasible solutions.

Interact for Health: How would you describe your leadership style?

Schroder: I’m a collaborative leader who focuses first on building trust and relationships. Listening and learning are critical going into a new organization. So is being open to feedback. I’m always eager to learn what I don’t know. I love working with partners and teams to clarify the problems we are trying to solve, to dig into the root causes of these challenges, and to identify the most effective, feasible solutions to address them. I’m a results-driven leader who is focused on inspiring and aligning teams around a common vision and providing support and accountability needed to make measurable progress. I also bring joy and passion to my work – relishing the daily opportunity to learn, to struggle, to connect, to grow and to do big – and small – things.

Interact for Health: What makes you want to come to work every morning?

Schroder: The team and the work are what motivate me. Even when days are stressful parenting young kids and managing life in a pandemic, I appreciate the opportunity to do meaningful work – to help solve complex problems that have the potential to improve the length and quality of people’s lives. The work fills me with perspective and gratitude. And to work alongside a team of such talented, committed colleagues is wonderful.

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