Kenney Miller: Reflecting on His Role as a Leader & the Impact of the Health Equity Alliance

On October 10, 2019, Kenney Miller, Executive Director of the Health Equity Alliance (HEAL), received the 3rd Annual Dr. Wendy J. Wolf Health Leadership Award from the Maine Health Access Foundation.

While accepting the award, Mr. Miller gave remarks reflecting on his role as a leader and the impact the critical work the Health Equity Alliance has done under that leadership. Some excerpts from his remarks are below

On leading with a lens of equity and inclusion:

Being a white, heterosexual, cisgender man – I cannot fully understand what it means to live otherwise.  I cannot change what I am, but I can use my privilege to accomplish something good.  It is not equitable or inclusive for me to horde power and privilege to advance my own agenda, as well-meaning as it may be, on behalf of marginalized communities.

It’s about deep listening, building strong connections with the communities, and establishing safer, affirming space to better understand the issues they’re facing. It’s about inclusion – trying to live the adage “nothing about us without us” and trying to push past tokenization towards meaningful empowerment and representation.

It’s about leading from behind. Leadership in a health equity organization is about who we build up – and I’m thrilled to have a phenomenally diverse, inclusive, dynamic, and capable leadership team that propels HEAL’s work forward.

When I reflect on all this – it’s not about me, it’s about us – and this mentality is crucial to my leadership style, born from a sense of cultural humility that I feel is crucial for the success of any public health and social justice organization. This is how we achieve health justice.

On the impact of the Health Equity Alliance in his tenure:

The Health Equity Alliance has worked tirelessly to champion the narrative surrounding LGBTQ+ identities beyond acceptance and tolerance and towards inclusion and celebration – advancing cultural competency and affirmative practices.

Our work has elevated and amplified the call for compassionate care, grounded in harm reduction throughout the state – shining a light on the way the mythology of substance use perpetuates stigma and systemic discrimination. We have also supported and empowered thousands of people throughout northern and eastern Maine, including people who use drugs, people living with HIV, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

We have advanced public policies that have changed and saved innumerable lives – expanding access to naloxone, passing Good Samaritan protections for people reporting a drug overdose, and many others.

Mr. Miller’s nominator noted that he, and the Health Equity Alliance, “gave a voice to the voiceless.” The sentiment is echoed in his remarks and in the work Kenney Miller does each day.