By Ann Morgan
I’ve been with the Heart Network for just over six years now. I started as the tobacco cessation program coordinator in early 2015, and then at the end of May 2016 took over as executive director when our founding director, Margot Gold, retired.
My first experience with the Heart Network, though, was not as an employee. Rather, I was appointed to serve on the steering committee that helped to establish the organization. At the time, I was working at Adirondack Medical Center as their community health and wellness director. AMC’s CEO at the time, Chandler Ralph, had been approached by Carthage Area Hospital about a grant they received and asked if she would be willing to support development of an organization that would work to reduce heart disease across the North Country. She was interested and asked that I represent AMC at that planning table. I participated for the first several months of planning, and then got AMC’s cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation program director involved.
As the organization took form and the founding executive director was hired, I stepped back and the cardiopulmonary director was appointed to the organization’s newly formed board of directors. I had occasion over the years that followed to collaborate with the organization on several projects. I never imagined at that time, though, that I would eventually become the executive director.
Fast forward to 2014. I had been working outside my field for several years. Unable to find a community health job in this area, I started looking beyond the North Country and ended up taking a position in Montpelier, Vt. That job required me to be away from my family during the week, but it was close enough that I was able to get home on weekends. Everything went well for the first few months. Then I lost my father to an aggressive form of lung cancer. He had been a heavy smoker for most of his life and while he had been smoke-free for his last five years, the damage had been done. I was devastated.
I continued to work in Vermont, but as time went on I became increasingly unhappy. I was really missing my family which made mourning the loss of my father that much more difficult. While I was home for the holidays that year, I ran into Margot and she mentioned she had a position open. I was still in a “fake it until you make it” mode, so didn’t think much about it.
Two months later, though, I lost my job. As I started to make my way home that day, I was overwhelmed with a sense of fear and anxiety. I didn’t know what I would do. Then, I remembered the conversation I’d had with Margot a few months earlier. I pulled over, called her, and was instantly relieved to learn the position was still open. By the time I got home, I had an overwhelming sense of peace and calm — partly because of Margot’s quiet assurance that no matter what, everything was going to be OK. But I was also comforted by the thought that my father, from “above,” was involved … helping to get me back home and to guide me to work that would help soothe the anger I was feeling at an economic and political system that has for far too long allowed companies to legally sell a product that when used as directed will at best cause chronic disease.
One always knows when they are doing what they should be. It’s not the first time I’ve had this experience where all obstacles seem to disappear and clear the way for a new opportunity. That’s what happened here. I was called “back” to the Heart Network, and I couldn’t be happier.