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Dr. Tiosha Bailey: “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for”

The presence of good acts by people give us hope and have been elevated. I have been very encouraged by how we are showing up for one another during these tough times. I’ve hosted peace circles, fundraisers for important causes and donated time to serve as a mentor. Let’s all do our part. The Covid-19 pandemic […]

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The presence of good acts by people give us hope and have been elevated. I have been very encouraged by how we are showing up for one another during these tough times. I’ve hosted peace circles, fundraisers for important causes and donated time to serve as a mentor. Let’s all do our part.


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Tiosha Bailey, a highly motivated and results- oriented public health practitioner, with over 10 years of experience in key leadership positions. She currently serves as the Executive Director at Susan G. Komen Chicago, where she drives strategy to ensure measurable impact upon breast cancer outcomes through research, direct services, advocacy and public policy. As the first African American woman to head the organization, Dr. Bailey is positioning Komen Chicago to serve as a trusted thought leader that drives efforts toward erecting systemic solutions that ultimately improve healthcare delivery, access and closes the breast cancer mortality gap here in Chicago.

Before joining Komen Chicago, Dr. Bailey served as Deputy Commissioner of the Health Promotion Bureau within the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). There, she steered the public health agenda for key mayoral initiatives in the areas of breast cancer, behavioral health and violence prevention. During her tenure, she the led strategic expansion of breast health services — which resulted in serving nearly 5,000 women across hospital systems and community-based providers in 2017.

Six years prior to joining CDPH, Bailey worked for Erie Family Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center(FQHC), holding the position of Manager of School-Based Health and Adolescent Services for four years and Health Center Operations Director until she departed, where she served as a key contributor in bringing the very first FQHC to Evanston, IL.

Dr. Bailey holds a Doctorate in Public Health, Master’s in Public Health and Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I’ve dedicated my entire public health career to bringing about meaningful change on pressing issue areas such as violence prevention, mental health, and cancer prevention. Supporting the advancement of women’s health is my life’s ministry and I’ve worked over the years to align myself with organizations whose missions aligned with that of my own. Like many others, I’ve been impacted by cancer. I’ve experienced both the victory of survivorship and pain the from losing my mother, grandmother and cousin to this disease. It’s their journeys that fuel me to create a better world for women and girls. This fight is personal for me.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

Last year was an interesting year for the organization and me personally. I was in the throes of growing and sustaining an organization, writing a dissertation, and doing my best to balance home life. In the one week, I successfully defended my dissertation and was named the winner of a Gold Stevie® Award in the category of Maverick of the Year at the 16th Annual Stevie® Awards for Women in Business. Susan G. Komen Chicago was also named winner of a Silver Stevie® Award in the category of Organization of the Year (Government or Non-Profit with 10 or Less Employees). This experience sticks out to me because it felt like I had just climbed Mount Everest and there I was overlooking the valley — while feeling immensely grateful for the struggle and support received along the way.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m particularly excited about the development of the Chicago Health Equity Initiative (CHEI).

CHEI is a five-year strategic plan to advance health equity for all and eliminate breast cancer mortality disparities by addressing systemic barriers. This initiative brings together the voices, talents, and resources of many stakeholders to achieve a common goal of transforming healthcare systems that play an influential role in healthcare outcomes and disparities we see today. While the initiative will serve and track 4,000 women, it’s long-term reach is exponential — as any patient served through the CHEI partner network will benefit from system changes made. Lessons learned can be applied to any disease state. Thus, informing efforts of public health practitioners working to address disparities locally or nationally.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My success can be attributed to my ancestors, family and friends. It has been a collective effort — don’t think I could ever narrow it down to one person that helped me get to where I am today. I have a wonderful husband, Cliff, and three boys (Jaylin, CJ and Mason) without them, this journey would not have been possible or nearly as fun. My fellas have played such an important role in my life — keeping me grounded to what’s important, pushing me forward when the exhaustion tried to take me under, and loving me through thick and thin. I thank them for being my foundation. I also consider myself to be the luckiest gal in the world. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the honor of being surrounded by a circle of amazing women that taught me what courage, love and resilience looked like. These women have been a sounding board and helped me grow beyond measure.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

I’ve always worn a lot of hats but trying to manage them all with so much uncertainty has created a new challenge for me. Before the pandemic, I was able to compartmentalize the professional, family, and social aspects of my life. Today, the lines between these aspects are blurry and often run into each other. It’s exhausting! There are days when the kiddies’ activities are integrated into my work routine — with them constantly interrupting my Zoom calls.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

I’ve adopted a “day by day” mantra. Whenever possible, I try to coordinate schedules with my husband so that the kiddies can be supported when I have critical deadlines and/or meetings. In addition, I’ve been more intentional with how I fill my daily schedule and ensure that’s some downtime penciled in. I continue to learn how to accept that we are all operating outside our usual routines. The answer is to extend grace to ourselves and others — and just roll with the punches.

Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

For me, it’s become increasingly more challenging to keep a pulse on the ever-changing landscape and identify creative solutions. In addition, I feel more stretched as there’s an increased need to better support myself and team emotionally during this pandemic. I’m learning daily how to “show up” for the team and create space for them to bring their full selves to work. This sometimes means working slower than our usual pace, changing deadlines, and thinking of new ways to address challenges. As a leader, it’s critical to keep the organization stable today and work with the team to identify and implement next steps that prepare us for the future state, while honoring the fatigue that comes along with being in a constant state of evolution.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

How I’ve addressed these challenges largely evolve around prioritizing self-care with and without the team. Some examples of this include keeping with our reduced summertime work hours, encouraging staff to take personal time, modeling balance for the team, and scheduling time for the team to just connect. We recently hosted a staff meeting “on the go” where we all worked out together virtually while providing our bi-weekly updates. It’s my aim to continue finding new ways to take care ourselves and each other.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

I’m no expert on this one — as I still have quite a way to go to truly create balance. I will say what has helped is developing a schedule that we can all stick to (for the most part). This way, we are aware of our roles in making the schedule happen each day. Some days are tougher than others and I have come to accept that this all a part of the process. In the end, I am doing my best and that is good enough.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

Keeping with my biweekly therapy sessions have been crucial to my sanity! I have also surprisingly taken up spin classes, which has helped with managing my stress and ensuring that I am prioritizing something that is important to me. Virtual parties with family and friends have also been a life saver. We also try to take the kiddies out for a walk at the end of the day –sometimes these walks are complimented with ‘complete silence’. It’s our time to take back what we need or lean into what the day has given us.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. This is only a moment in time that won’t last a lifetime. The time will come when a vaccine and new treatments are available — and it will be safe for us to all be together again.
  2. We can use this time of stillness to bring something that was needed but has been absent in our lives. Reflect on what you need at this time and identify steps that can be taken to bring it closer to you. Personally, I had been seeking the permission to “slow down”. The pandemic has conspired to make this happen on my behalf. Now it is up to me to use this time to unlearn the behaviors that enabled living my life constantly on the go.
  3. We are learning new ways to connect with others. Over the months, I’ve used Zoom to play games with friends or host virtual gatherings. I also make it a point to FaceTime my eldest son at least 2–3 times a week. Once on the other side of the pandemic, we can still integrate these practices into our lives to ensure consistent connection with loved ones.
  4. The presence of good acts by people give us hope and have been elevated. I have been very encouraged by how we are showing up for one another during these tough times. I’ve hosted peace circles, fundraisers for important causes and donated time to serve as a mentor. Let’s all do our part.
  5. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of health. Use this time to assess your own health and generate a plan for bringing wellness into your life. I personally have made a commitment to eat healthier and work out 4–5 times a week.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I think it’s critical to offer support to others that are experiencing anxiety, but to also recognize that these individuals may not know what they need or that they are in need of support at all. In these instances, do your best to serve as an ear or shoulder — offering reassurance that you can be counted on. Generating small acts of kindness also can go a long way — some ideas include ordering a meal and having it delivered, sending a card in the mail, or hosting a virtual movie watch party. It’s a delicate balance because you must also honor your own needs during this time. It’s tough to show up for others when you are operating on ‘empty’.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for” — Oprah Winfrey. I actually have this quote typed and taped to my laptop so that I see it daily. As women, we sometimes tend to shrink ourselves and our voices. This quote serves as a reminder to own my power and use my voice to speak up for myself and others.

How can our readers follow you online?

I can be followed on FB @ Tiosha Goss, IG @iamtbailey007, or LinkedIn @ Tiosha (Goss) Bailey.


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