Spotlight: Encore Fellows Dr. Elisa Ross, Dennis Kucler: Cleveland Encore Fellows Making Meaningful Impact on the Next Generation

Dr. Elisa Ross, a board-certified OB/GYN, spent decades as a physician at the Cleveland Clinics. Joining the Neighborhood Family Practice, which provides high-quality, affordable health services in some of Cleveland’s highest-risk neighborhoods, she was asked to utilize data to focus on improving health-care outcomes. 

Her first project involved colon-cancer-screening improvement. Screenings at the clinic were sub-optimal: Because screenings were only recommended when a patient came in for an appointment, the clinic wasn’t reaching the volume they desired. But, since flu shots did not require an appointment, nurses saw many more patients who dropped in for the vaccinations. When the clinic empowered nurses to recommend the colon screenings, screenings increased by almost 80 percent in less than a year. For another project, Dr. Ross studied the incidence of low birth weights. Cleveland has some of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Elisa found that almost half of the mothers having babies with low birth weights are smokers, or having babies less than 18 months apart, both causes of low weight at birth. Programs are now in place to address these issues to improve infant health and decrease infant mortality. Elisa found she had a passion to use data to impact health outcomes. After her Fellowship ended, she accepted a full-time position as Quality Care Coordinator. “The Encore Fellowship helped me identify what I wanted to do in my encore career and I discovered a passion for data and a love for creating programs,” she said. “From Day 1, I discovered a mission that energized me and a new role to impact the community positively.”

Dennis Kucler took his 40 years of experience in global technology sales and sales management to the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland. Asked to create a workforce development program for at-risk youth, he soon discovered that finding jobs was the easy part; many of the students lacked basic “employability” skills as much as specific work-related skills. Many did not have a model of what having a career meant, often lacking the example of going to work every day. Dennis started an assessment program to understand the literacy and math skills young people needed to be workforce-ready, and then worked to get the club certified to assess and train the students. He identified specific work-training programs, summer job programs, state programs and IT training sites as resources. He started a mentoring program in which the students could go onsite to work environments once a month and shadow their mentors, learning about the job environment, and the skills such as teamwork, dependability, and appropriate behavior that are needed in the workplace. Finally, Dennis created an entrepreneurial program in which the youth started a business providing car-detailing services and learned about work schedules, pricing, accounting and customer service. Discovering a passion for working with kids in the inner city, Dennis continues to assist at the Boys and Girls Club, serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in the Juvenile Justice Center, and serves on the board of the Westside Catholic Center, mentoring young adults in job-training and job-seeking.