Amy Olejniczak

40 Under 40 Class of 2019

Madison, Wisconsin

Associate Director

Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health
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Leadership means building a community of people who share their resources and knowledge to help other shine.

BOLD SOLUTION: Ten years ago, Amy founded the Providers and Teens Communicating for Health (PATCH) Program with a $10,000 grant. Since then, Amy has mentored, trained, and hired over 70 young people to improve adolescent health and wellbeing by engaging, educating, and empowering youth and adults as trusted partners in care. The program has been nationally recognized and has been replicated across the nation.

Five Questions for Amy

Amy celebrates with PATCH participants after their final day of teen educator training.

1. Who or what inspired you to enter the field of public health?

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a master’s degree in communications, I landed my first real-world job at a local HMO. I quickly realized that my passions aligned more closely with the folks in our Health Promotion and Quality Management departments than in my own marketing department. After exploring a bit more, I discovered there was a name for this shared passion of ours — public health! Within a short time, I was back to school — this time with a true calling) — working on my MPH.

2. What is one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on in public health?

I’ve spent the last 10 years building and growing the PATCH program. This program centers around incorporating youth voices in conversations about adolescent health and healthcare quality. Working directly with so many teens has been the most rewarding experience of my professional life! They fuel with me with a vision of tomorrow and future generations of healthier youth. When we listen to, connect with, understand, and love the people we are serving, we are truly able to create impact.

3. What are the greatest challenges you face in your work?

Because I’m in a small and scrappy nonprofit, my greatest challenges are always adequate funding and capacity! Luckily, I enjoy grant writing, as it gives me the chance to describe, celebrate, and make a case for investing in public health.

4. What would success in public health look like to you?

Success would look like a dedication to health equity in all policies; a commitment to family, youth, and community engagement in all programming; and adequate funding for public health prioritized by all decisionmakers.

5. What’s a story or experience that keeps you going, even when you’re feeling challenged?

In 2008, I lost triplet girls at birth. The experience of facing a high-risk pregnancy, infant loss, and the subsequent physical, mental, and emotional health challenges that come with grieving have instilled in me a perspective of public health that directly translates to individual human experiences. I never lose sight of the direct personal impact of the policies, programs, and systems that we work to build. This experience colors my passion with a unique level of compassion and drives me to advocate for women and girls in all life stages and circumstances to ensure optimal health and well-being.