O'Connell named 2020 Bush Fellow to study community leadership

Meghan O'Connell

ELK POINT, S.D. -- Cherokee Nation citizen Dr. Meghan O'Connell was named a 2020 Bush Fellow on June 9 through the Bush Foundation.

The foundation offers grants and opportunities to individuals who think big on "how to solve problems and shape a better future for their communities," according to a Bush Foundation press release.

O'Connell was one of 24 selected fellows from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and 23 Native nations that share the same geography, to receive an award up to $100,000 over a 12-24 month period to "pursue formal and informal learning experiences that help them develop the skills, attributes and relationships they need to become more effective, equitable leaders who can drive change in their communities and regions as whole," according to the release.

Fellows can use funding for opportunities in their fields such as advanced education, networking and leadership resources, trainings and workshops.

"I am honored to have been chosen to be a Bush Fellow," O'Connell said. "The application process takes a long time. I started working on it last fall. I am excited to have the opportunity to start this journey in gaining skills to become a more effective leader."

O'Connell was accepted from more than 740 applicants. She works as a family physician.

"I was called to become a doctor in order to provide medical care to Native and other underserved communities. I have cared for people in all stages of life,�both in the hospital and in the clinic," she said.

According to the press release, O'Connell "has learned first-hand that systemic change is needed to address disparities in and barriers to quality health care. To generate innovative and strategic solutions, she needs to expand her knowledge of finance, health systems, government policy and health law, and to develop persuasive communication skills. She also plans to seek counsel from other health care leaders who have led successful change in similar political and geographic environments."

"It is an amazing gift. I plan to use the skills I gain to improve health care and health outcomes for all South Dakotans," she said.

In addition, she said she is proud to represent the Cherokee people.

"We need more Native leaders advocating for positive change in our communities. I hope that I can learn skills that will help me address health disparities and improve the health of all peoples," O'Connell said.

For information visit, www.bushfoundation.org.