A moment with: Janell Samuels

Janell Samuels

Janell Samuels is a proud Kentuckian who currently serves as the Market Director of Proposal Development for CHI Saint Joseph Health Foundations in Lexington, Ky. We spoke with Janell on the seventh anniversary of her joining the foundations.

After graduate school, Janell taught English and Appalachian literature at Bellarmine University in Louisville. She was completing a technical writing project for Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services just as they were applying for a $2.5 million grant. It was her first grant development experience, and she fell in love with it.

Tell us about your role and how you see it fitting within the mission of CommonSpirit.
I lead all grant pursuits across the six foundations in our health system. Our system is very large geographically and spans the entire state. A lot of the grants we receive focus on the underserved, those who either don’t have insurance, are underinsured or have a high level of poverty. We focus on community efforts that try to connect people with resources whether for housing, drug abuse, counseling services or child care – social determinants of health types of issues. We seek to address education for parenting skills, job training, work skills … in that sense a lot of what we do in terms of grant pursuits is to focus on creating healthier communities.

What do you love most about your job?
I love prospecting the most. Researching different grant opportunities and connecting them with projects we’re working on within the hospitals. I work closely with our business and strategy teams and when I find out that they're trying to implement a new service line or they really need certain types of medical equipment so that they can start providing services and I can say, “I’ve got a great funder for you!” I get really excited.

Is there one grant that was especially meaningful to you?
We just received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to build a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in a very underserved area of southeastern Kentucky. There’s only one other NICU in all of southeastern Kentucky and if a baby is born in need of NICU treatment, they may have to travel an hour and a half to the nearest one. Only certain ambulances can transport the infants and they are expensive and not always available. At this particular hospital, we have a very high number of births and a very high percentage of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome because of their mothers’ substance abuse, which is very sad.

Receiving the grant required a good amount of collaboration with local, state and regional stakeholders, including our members of congress and senators, before we even submitted the application. The project also involved all aspects of philanthropy including gala events, major gifts and even employee giving. The new NICU will open in 2021.

What is something that might surprise others about you?
If I weren’t doing this work and somehow managed to be “living the dream” — I would likely be in Hollywood working as a screenwriter. I’ve written a screenplay, a comedy about millennials, which is currently under review in Los Angeles.

Outside of the office, what does relaxation look like to you?
Relaxation for me, especially during this pandemic, involves a lot of time outside. Recently, I’ve started fox hunting with my horse and am in love with the pageantry and history of the sport.

Finally, finish this sentence: Philanthropy is….
Philanthropy is a monetary way of advocating for people who either do not have a voice and have fallen upon hard times or who were not blessed with good health. That is especially true of the types of grants that flow through our health system.