A moment with: Kathy Krebs-Dean

Photo of Kathy Krebs-Dean.

Kathy Krebs-Dean is the System Director for National Grant Development with the CommonSpirit Health national philanthropy team. Kathy joined the philanthropy team four and a half years ago.

Kathy has 25 years of experience in community health-related work, supporting vulnerable populations impacted by racism, poverty, addiction, behavioral health challenges, violence, and homelessness. Her experience also includes nearly two years supporting environmental health researchers addressing autism, asthma and genetic disorders at the California Department of Education with pre- and post-award management of research grants. She is currently working toward her Master’s degree in public health. She views her work as a way to channel her background as an anthropologist to learn what a population needs, what their values, strengths, challenges and weaknesses are and how communities can be mobilized to become agents of change. For Kathy, it all comes into play in philanthropy.

Philanthropy is …
Philanthropy is about making an impact, improving people's lives and tapping into funding, resources and partnerships so that we can advance community health and equity.

What brought you to CommonSpirit?
The exciting part of working for a health system is being able to leverage CommmonSpirit Health’s role as an anchor organization and work with other stakeholders to improve health of individuals affected by access disparities. I think the most exciting part of my work is when we as a health system partner with other key anchors – funders, treatment providers, and others on shared goals and pool resources. It's that aspect that really drew me to CommonsSpirit ... the ability to work with a large organization with the scale, scope and ability to engage others with the potential to make transformational impacts.

Can you describe your role?
It’s really about mobilizing internal and external stakeholders, and that includes funding partners, to be able to tackle challenges and pressing health needs we're trying to address. The process is about coming up with ways to break out of the status quo and try something different. Grant funding allows us to pilot test solutions and often allows time to test a proof of concept. It allows us put theory into action.

What do you love most about your job?
What I love most is supporting the health equity vision that we have at CommonSpirit Health. I hope I have contributed by leveraging a wide array of funding to address various facets of this, such as expanding specialized care for survivors of human trafficking and expanding behavioral health services. I love being empowered to do that. I feel very aligned with the Hello humankindness mission. It wouldn't be as satisfying if the work wasn’t meaningful.
A good day for me is a day when I can meet with visionary leaders -- people who are ready to make change happen and who are not mired in bureaucracy. I get to meet with many people like this in our organization. This is very energizing to me.

Is there a recent project that stands out to you?
One of the biggest wins for me this year was working with a group of our system, divisional, and local leaders to secure funding to build up our rural telehealth infrastructure. The funding was through the Federal Communications Commission. A cross section of incredible leaders came together and ultimately we designed a program that would address the chronic health management needs of populations living in health professional shortage areas and medically underserved regions. It was gratifying to see the funding come to fruition.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My mom is Japanese and I was five years old when we moved from Tokyo to the United States. Here, she endured a lot racism and challenges as a non-native speaker and a person of modest means. Her limited English language skills made it hard for her to assimilate. She worked in food service and ended her career as a phenomenal pie maker. Some of those early pain points of witnessing her struggles sparked my interest in studying anthropology and made me more attuned to equity-focused work.

What’s something that might surprise others about you?
My background in anthropology and plus years of experience working with government agencies, health organizations, and community-based nonprofits helps me to be effective in my role. I am keenly interested in people and enjoy the process of working with others to develop a plan of action to strengthen under-resourced individuals and communities. Fostering collaboration and getting stakeholder buy-in to be able to move solutions or projects forward is what motivates my interest in seeking and securing funding. Outside funding is often the necessary spark to get things moving.

What does relaxation look like for you?
Well, I don't have a lot spare time right now. For fun though, what I really love is my golden retrievers. Aspen is a therapy dog so before COVID we were visiting assisted living facilities and providing canine assisted therapy. In the summertime, we do “dock diving” for fun. My family and I just got a nine week-old golden retriever puppy named Mizu, which means ‘water’ in Japanese. I'm hoping she's going to be a dock diver or therapy dog too. Maybe she'll do some agility work or perhaps truffle hunting. We'll see where her skill set is and try to find places to channel that. These types of team activities help to reinforce the human and dog connection, which is a constant source of joy for many people, especially me.