An Interview with Dr. Falletta
Starting with the first Ronald McDonald House, the success of RMHC is our close ties to the medical community.
In this interview, Dr. Falletta explains the impact RMHC programs have on a child's recovery and on communities, why RMHC stands apart
from other organizations and how treating children is different than adults.
Dr. John M. Falletta, M.D. is a Professor of Pediatrics, Duke University and a former RMHC Global Board Member.
1. How did you first get involved with RMHC?
My involvement with RMHC began through my commitment to help open a Ronald McDonald House in Durham, North Carolina, 30-years ago. The opportunity to provide leadership and expertise in developing healthcare delivery systems in service to children has been marvelous. Serving on the RMHC Global Board permits the application of what I know to a much broader audience.
2. In your words, what makes RMHC different?
There isn't an organization I am aware of that focuses on the whole family like Ronald McDonald House Charities. It was so innovative when it was started, and still is. The Ronald McDonald House provides support without regard for the diagnosis or kind of illness a child is fighting. Its programs helps meet an immense need of supporting the entire family in order to strengthen the child.
RMHC also has a large number of bright, committed people who have a single focus that grounds the organization globally and locally. Our charity is unique because it has the checks and balances in place with the work of the local Chapter staff, volunteers, families, and board members to allow them to develop programs that are realistic in focus and scope and will likely yield great benefit. Any one of our core programs is a result of this.
3. Your entire career has been dedicated to investigating, treating and helping others learn about illnesses affecting children. What role does family play in their recovery?
I know that both the House and Family Room provide enormous support that is often not available any other way. I have lived through the period of seeing families sleep in hallways and parents were unable to be with their child because they had no place to stay. I am delighted we no longer require that of our parents.
Also, given my experience providing care for my child when he was hospitalized and the calm and secure way in which he was able to go through recovery because we were close by, I am persuaded of the value of these programs from the standpoint of the child and parent. I don't need data to tell me the important it is to a child's recovery that he/she can wake up and know the parents are there for support.
4. Why do programs like the Ronald McDonald House or Ronald McDonald Family Room play such a critical role in a child's recovery?
The approximation of normalcy permits a child to focus energy on a calm, safe recovery, not on fear or coping with uncertainty.
5. How is treating children different than adults?
Children need more family support. Adults are more self reliant and call upon existing relationships, experiences or information resources to cope with particular situations. Children often don't have that benefit. So it is even more important that family is nearby, and they have the support of families in similar situations, to help a child manage through tough situations. When all of that support function falls on parents it can be very emotionally draining with the end result likely to be needs of a child being unmet. That is why the Ronald McDonald House and Ronald McDonald Family room is so important because it helps support the parents so they can support their child.
6. In your words, describe the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program? What impact does it have on communities?
The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile (RMCM) is an important extension of a hospital's satellite clinics. The program permits reaching people closer to their home and makes the clinic process more human and accessible. Because of the broad range of services, families can avoid traveling to a big hospital, dealing with crowds, and waiting in an environment full of strangers. All of this happens while not degrading the quality of care.
It was a stroke of genius when it was first created. There may be other mobile health programs, but I am not aware of a program that has the range of services a RMCM provides to a community. With everything from standard medical and dental care to innovative services like blood collection in rural areas, this program fills a need. The communities they travel to are vulnerable and the families would potentially never have access to high quality health care without the RMCM program.
7. What are the critical health issues facing children today? How/why is RMHC positioned to be part of the solution?
Technology associated with modern medicine is complex enough that it isn't going to be available to everyone, everywhere. People will need to travel to get the care they need for their child. Because health care is so expensive, every effort needs to be made to minimize the cost of receiving high quality health care. Also, with more care being delivered in an outpatient setting, families will need a place to stay, such as at a Ronald McDonald House.
8. How important are the relationships RMHC has with the medical community?
Starting with the creation of the first Ronald McDonald House, the success of RMHC has been very dependent upon three broad groups: McDonald's and other corporate and individual donors; the medical community; and parents, community members and volunteers. The strength of RMHC depends on the strength of all three groups working together and has served the test of time by delivering quality, effective programs for over 35 years. The partnerships developed must remain robust to continue to benefit children and their families.
9. In what ways do RMHC and the medical community work together?
RMHC and health care providers work together in the delivery of all of the core programs. For example, the fact that the House is a safe haven where a child can view it not as an extension of a hospital room but as a place like home is a result of the medical community wanting to ensure the children had the benefit of being near the hospital with the protection of a home environment.
For the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, the development of the program is a blend of the services available through a clinical service provider, tailored to the needs of the community.
The medical community often is a donor, a partner and an advisor. In every core program there is a commitment from the hospital for space, land, knowledge and/or services. There is a credibility that RMHC has built over the years that allows hospital administrators to have confidence in the programs, to know that best practices are being shared between the Chapters and applied to new programs.
10. In your 30 years working with RMHC, how have you seen our programs and impact evolve?
Early on we focused on developing the Ronald McDonald House program but were open to new opportunities to create more impact which resulted in the creation of the Ronald McDonald Family Room and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program. We also are open to funding activities that are more exploratory but have potential to become another core program.
As board members, we are acutely aware that we don't' know it all. This openness allows us to consider new, scalable ideas that complement our mission. And, most importantly we rarely plan from the top down. All the great ideas come from the people on the ground. We simply try to capture the core elements that were successful.
Delivering health care is truly about tailoring treatment to an individual. We take that same approach at RMHC; our local Chapters tailor the services and programs to the needs of their individual communities. This philosophy will allow RMHC to continually evolve and create impact.
11. Why should RMHC be considered an investment on the behalf of a donor?
A. They would be involving themselves in an initiative that has strong record of commitment to health and the well-being of children and has the people, knowledge and relationships to make it all happen.
B. With the strong infrastructure and vast network of support that exists at RMHC, a donor's contributions would be multiplied.
C. They would be part of a large network of donors who are investing in an organization whose reputation is strong, both in duration and in its qualities, and has been tested, scrutinized and found to be excellent.