Member Spotlight Featuring Shawna Hedlund and Connie Sheehan


Meet ModernWell-ers Shawna Hedlund, Executive Director, and Connie Sheehan, Program Manager, of Minnesota School-Based Health Alliance. Shawna and Connie have been a part of the ModernWell community since April 2022 when they came seeking a place to work and meet. Collectively they work to optimize health outcomes and education equity for young people in Minnesota through access to integrated health care in schools. 

On May 24th, Governor Walz signed a bill into law which defines School-Based Health Centers (SBHC’s), establishes a state program office at Minnesota Department of Health, as well as secures grants and technical assistance for SBHC initiatives. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of SBHC’s in Minnesota and the first dedicated state money for this work, Shawna and Connie provided us insight on the importance of SBHC’s and how they maintain balance in their daily lives. 

Why did you decide to join ModernWell? 

Connie: Shawna chose MW because its women owned, a beautiful space and centrally located.

Shawna: Yes! All those things. Also, since we were starting a new nonprofit, I wanted to ensure that we began with values that would guide our ongoing work. I was attracted to the bold conversations Let Go Let Flow was fostering between Black and White women. I was looking for an exemplary workplace culture that promoted community, wellness, and women’s leadership. Finally, having worked in nonprofit and government work my entire life, I wanted an “office” with windows. What we have found in ModernWell is a space with more light than walls, physically and metaphorically.   

Self-care is so important and is such a big part of our ModernWell Mission. What is your self-care MUST? 

Connie: Getting outside EVERY day no matter the weather

Shawna: Me too! Connie and I share the love of the outdoors and when we can, walk and work or take lunch outside.

Who is your biggest inspiration? 

Shawna: Connie, our board members and like Connie, the care providers in schools. They are incredibly passionate about children’s health. How they took care of their students throughout COVID and distance learning is a great example. Connie offered her students fitness instruction on Zoom. Nurse practitioners met students at McDonalds to ensure they had their medications.

Connie: All the folks who work tirelessly to provide care for students.

Many of us struggle to find some sort of balance in our lives. How are you balancing your positions as Executive Director and Program Manager with other roles you hold such a mom or wife? 

Shawna: This is hard, especially if I add in being a daughter and spouse and having a healthy body and mind! I have tried not working outside of parenting, working part-time, and working full-time. None of them created a magic balance. I have come to find balance is something we have to choose every day and each day it might look different. Working at ModernWell ½ of my week has been an advantage because I have 2 quiet days a week without a transition and commute. But three days a week, I keep work and home separate. I feel like it is harder on my kids to feel me near but have no access to me. When I am at ModernWell, I say “not now” a lot less often, and I like that.

Connie: As I am an empty nester it’s easier to balance work and being a Mom. My bigger challenge is not to use my free time on work. I purposely do not check work email on my days off. When I’m at work I’m all in. Which by the way is a huge benefit of MW. MW offers a space to work and not be distracted. When I walk in and see others working it inspires me to work and stay focused.

Can you tell us about the Minnesota School Based Health Alliance and your role there?  

Shawna & Connie: About 50 years ago, a small group of educators, medical providers, social workers, nutritionists, and health educators opened the doors of one of the first school-based clinics (SBCs) in the nation. Over the next decades, SBCs expanded in Ramsey and Hennepin Counties. Pioneering healthcare providers worked together and helped foster a national cohort of school-based health care leaders. By 1995, the National School Based Health Alliance (SBHA) was organized and eventually, state affiliates of the national alliance started opening across the U.S. to offer technical assistance and uphold core competencies in SBCs.

In 2016, school-based care leaders and the Minnesota Department of Health formally launched the Minnesota School Based Health Alliance as a volunteer-driven coalition between six school-based clinic networks. At that time, MN had about 25 school-based clinics in the metro counties, the majority operated by local public health and federally qualified health care centers. In the 50 years since their inception, the growth rate averaged 2%. Since the Alliance opened in January 2021, the growth rate of SBHC initiatives has grown to 55%, and fastest in rural communities and schools with the highest levels of social vulnerability among residents. With the opening of the Alliance and the legislative change this week, we have created an infrastructure to rapidly expand preventive healthcare services to children and youth where they spend time – in school!

The Alliance’s priority is to ensure best practices in school-based care, address sustainability and equity of care delivered in schools, and expand school-based health initiatives, particularly now when the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that unmet health care needs among children and adolescents have soared over the course of COVID-19. Studies show that reduced access to care has exacerbated already firmly rooted inequities in education and health outcomes. School-based health centers provide a durable safety net in communities and foster equitable opportunity to thrive in school. 

The passage of the School-Based Health Center provisions in the Health and Human Services Budget this year is monumental as it has been a work-in-progress for 7 years. The definition is a start to ensure no child is turned away for their ability to pay, the care that is delivered is high quality and student-centered, and school districts understand this is a feasible option for increasing student equity. Over decades, we have seen that dedicated state funding is a key factor in expanding services. We are proud that SBHCs had their genesis in MN 50 years ago, but even more proud that in the year of that anniversary, MN is now investing in them at a critical time for students.   

What do you enjoy most about your work at Minnesota School Based Health Alliance? 

Shawna: I love the entire concept of healthcare at schools. When adults place healthcare in schools, they are communicating to every child that their health as a person is valuable to their learning. Healthcare in schools means kids without other access don’t have to go without cares such as dentistry, eyeglasses, care for chronic conditions like asthma, reproductive healthcare, mental health support, immunizations or medications that keep them healthy and in-school learning. It creates ease in families, improves the health of communities, and helps kids who face the most significant barriers to an optimal education. They do not replace school counselors and nurses; they work hand in hand with their school’s student support team to go above and beyond for kids and their families.

Connie: Gosh I love working to support kids. Our hashtag #HealthHelpskidslearn is spot on. Health can take many forms. A healthy body helps kids learn.

The ModernWell team loves having this inspiring duo as part of our community! Thank you to Shawna and Connie for sharing part of their story with us. You can learn more about Shawna, Connie, and the Minnesota School Based Health Alliance here.

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Minneapolis, MN 55405 763-999-7920

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