Over the next few weeks, Groundwork Ohio is publishing a “Get to Know Groundwork” series, spotlighting members of our amazing team! This week, we’re getting to know Reem Aly, Groundwork’s Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer. Reem joined the Groundwork team in January 2022.
As Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer, Reem provides organizational leadership and spearheads Groundwork’s data, equity, and accountability efforts to ensure that our policy agenda reflects research and best practices. Reem also directly oversees the implementation of our unique “Centers of Excellence”: the Center for Family Voice, the Center for Maternal and Young Child Health, and the Center for Early Learning.
Reem brings unique policy, research, and organizational expertise most recently coming from a decade of service to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO). As a Vice President at HPIO, Reem led efforts to provide Ohio policymakers and health stakeholders with high quality, objective information, focusing on equity, maternal and child health, and the intersections of the health care system and population health. In that role, Reem led a number of state-wide initiatives, including development of the Governor’s COVID-19 Ohio Minority Health Strike Force Blueprint and creation of the Ohio Adverse Childhood Experiences Impact project.
Reem currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Ohio Domestic Violence Network and the Executive Advisory Committee for the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health. Reem is also an adjunct faculty member at The Ohio State University’s College of Public Health, master’s in health administration program, where she teaches a healthcare law course.
Reem holds a law degree and master’s of health administration, as well as a bachelor’s of science in psychology and a bachelor’s of arts in international relations from the Ohio State University.
Check out our Q&A with Reem to learn more about why she’s a passionate advocate for young children and families in Ohio!
Q: What drew you to early childhood policy research and advocacy? Tell us more about your “why”!
A: I wish I had a better story, but the truth is that even as a young child, I knew I wanted to improve the lives of children. When I was around the age of 5 or 6, determined I would be a pediatrician when I grew up, I asked my mother, “Will you watch my children when I go to work?” She responded, maybe a little too quickly, that she would most certainly not be watching my children. She was already exhausted watching me.
If I could only describe to you the scene of tears and anguish that ensued as I worried about how to balance caring for my non-existent, future child patients and my non-existent future children.
As I got older, became a mother, experienced and learned about the struggles of families with young children, and witnessed the impacts of disparities and childhood adversity, the passion I had at such a young age only grew stronger. Children hold so much potential – they are treasures. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s serendipitous that I find myself in early childhood policy research and advocacy dedicated to building a foundation for every child to have a strong start in life.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received or a lesson that you’ve learned that has helped you in this work?
A: There’s an old Arabic saying that gives me levity in difficult situations. It translates to, “only the first 100 years of life are hard.” It makes me laugh a bit. Life is not without its challenges. It seems so simple, but having that understanding and perspective is important in overcoming and moving past difficult situations and periods of time. It also is a reminder of the collective challenges we face and the need for compassion and empathy in this work.
Q: Groundwork Ohio’s word for 2022 is ELEVATE. What’s your word for 2022?
A: Redefine. The past two years have really changed the way we operate as a society, the way we operate professionally, and how we operate on a more individual level. It also, for me personally, has provided an opportunity for reflection and introspection. I’m going into 2022 with new and amended perspectives, objectives, opinions, and insights. For me, it’s a year for challenging what I’ve known and learning how to apply all of the lessons learned and lessons created to redefine my journey going forward.
Q: When you aren’t advocating on behalf of young children and families, what do you enjoy doing?
A: Anything that includes spending time with my husband and children, ages 13, 9, and 4. If I had to get more specific, in no particular order, I’d say food (we are such foodies), traveling (we’ve been to four continents together), biking, watching my children’s sports games, OSU football (O-H!), hanging out with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, and movies.
Q: Describe a scene from your vision of the future for Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers.
A: Our state policymakers and leaders prioritize, value, and are motivated to invest in policies and programs that create a strong foundation and achieve equity for young children and their families in Ohio. Moreover, families with young children from diverse backgrounds have a collective voice in policy and decision-making, and have the skills and motivation they need to engage in early childhood policy and advocacy.