May 31 will mark the end of an era for disaster preparedness and emergency readiness in the Tristate region: it’s the day Tonda Francis, VP of Regional Coordination and Clinical Initiatives, retires from The Health Collaborative after 15 years of dedicated service.
Tonda’s early career was spent as an EMT, an emergency department nurse, and Director of Emergency Services for Mercy Health, a role spanning more than 20 years. After earning her MSN from Xavier University, her “second career” began when she came to the Greater Cincinnati Health Council during the post 9/11 era, when disaster preparedness was brought to the forefront of every discussion.
Tonda served as the first project lead for our region’s “HRSA” bioterrorism readiness grant awarded to 17 area hospitals by, and named for, the Health Resources and Services Administration under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – click here to read an article accounting the first grant received in 2004, continuing through today. She also took responsibility for leading the Council’s, and now the Collaborative’s, Trauma Coalition including centralizing trauma education and instituting data-driven improvement initiatives in the region.
To capture Tonda’s impact on our region’s collective readiness for natural or man-made disasters, and the impression she’s leaving in the memories of her colleagues, we asked those who know her best to share their thoughts and wishes for her departure. Here is what they had to say:
Margot Daugherty MSN, MEd., RN, CEN
Education Specialist II, Trauma Service
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
I have known and/or worked with Tonda for the past 27 years. Throughout her tenure at The Health Collaborative we have worked closely to establish regional trauma education in our region. Her tireless efforts to unify the education efforts of the trauma hospitals has improved the availability of courses and has helped to create a collaborative effort between institutions.
Not only do we host these classes together, staff members have the rare opportunity to network and share experiences with others from organizations other than their own during these educational offerings. This helps to create a united front in the treatment of the injured patient.
Tonda: I thank you for your insightfulness and willingness to see the big picture. I’m also thankful for our shared love of lakes even if yours is Cumberland!! Let me know when you’re ready to come to a ‘real’ lake! I wish you the best in your retirement.
Steven J. Englender, MD, MPH
Director, Center for Public Health Preparedness
Cincinnati Health Department
I have had the privilege and pleasure to work with Tonda during her entire tenure as Regional Health Coordinator. We have shared countless hours developing plans for events and exercises, staffing the ESF 8 [Emergency Support Function #8 – Public Health and Medical] desk at the Regional Operations Center, and responding to outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics. For more than a decade I’ve considered her a most valued colleague and friend. She will be greatly missed as she transitions to a well-earned and deserved retirement.
Director, ASPR Emergency Preparedness
The Center for Health Affairs
Thanks for the chance to wish Tonda the best, because she is the best. I met her 13 years ago when I came into the same position she has, only I was located in the Cleveland area. My boss told me to get a hold of Tonda Francis in Cincinnati to glean what I could from her regarding the ASPR grant program. She told me that Tonda was the person who understood the grant the best and that I would learn a lot from her. So, I made the 4 ½ hour trek to Cinci to meet this person.
We spent an afternoon at a pizza shop and talked and talked. She gave me her insights and totally influenced my attitude toward my new job.
I have learned to listen to Tonda when she speaks because she always has the logical perspective. When many of us are flying off the handle and frustrated with the “system” we listen to Tonda and she is a calming voice. I appreciate her and will miss her at work. She is not only a co-worker but also a friend with whom I have shared many experiences, laughs, and many martinis. She may be gallivanting all over the country having a great time in retirement but she will not be forgotten among her coordinator friends. At every meeting we will continually ask ourselves, “What would Tonda say?” We wish her the very best. She deserves it.
Manager, Regional Trauma Services
The Health Collaborative
Working with Tonda over the past eight years has been a great pleasure! She has taught me many things I will continue to use throughout my career. Best of luck in retirement Tonda, you will be missed!
Hamilton County Public Health
I’ve known Tonda since the Emergency Preparedness grant started in 2001. Through Tonda’s leadership, the hospital systems and public health systems throughout our region are better prepared and better aligned to respond to any type of disease outbreak due to terrorism or a naturally occurring event.
I would add that she’s been a great friend and leader to public health, as we have had to change the culture and mindset among hospital staff and public health staff that bioterrorism events require us to serve as a first responder.
Manager of Support
The Health Collaborative
First, congratulations on your retirement, Tonda – it’s hard to believe the time is here! I had the privilege of working for Tonda for over a decade in the emergency readiness department. What can I say about Tonda? She is an extraordinary boss, leader, public servant, advocate, and most importantly, a true friend. I will be forever grateful for her words of wisdom and nurturing guidance.
It’s hard to imagine a “work world” without Tonda, but I know that our region is well prepared because of her tireless service and dedication. Tonda, you are a one-of-a kind person and will be missed dearly. Wherever the next path takes you I wish you all the happiness – this is your time – enjoy every moment!
Your # 1 fan – Nakia
PS: Funny story – I once asked Tonda how she kept her long nails from breaking and she said the secret is greasy burgers & food! 😊
Manager, Healthcare Workforce Innovation
The Health Collaborative
One day, I expressed to Tonda that I was worried about the possibility of my mom falling again, and she took the time to connect me to one of her colleagues in Northwest Ohio who helped my parents out and even put on an ongoing event for their community center about fall prevention.
Tonda: I know it may seem like a small thing, but I really appreciate you for taking the extra step and for following up with me to make sure we had that resource. My mom even shared how she almost fell a couple of months ago but was able to avoid it using the things she learned. Thank you so much for that and for always sharing a smile.
Dr. Colleen O’Toole
Chief Administrative Officer
The Health Collaborative
I had the good fortune of being Tonda’s preceptor when she was finishing her Master’s degree at Xavier, and from that experience, knew what a great addition she’d be to the Health Council’s staff as its VP overseeing emergency preparedness.
It was at a time, following 9/11, when we were significantly increasing our role in preparedness activities and with her extensive experience working in and overseeing hospital emergency departments as well as previously working as an EMT, she was perfect for the new position. Plus, who other than Tonda would have had both the political acumen and patience to deal with the state and federal disaster response bureaucracies? The biggest blessing in Tonda’s retirement will be that she won’t have to submit any more applications, budgets, spending plans, or myriad revisions through GMIS, Ohio’s Grants Management Online Information System!
It’s impressive to reflect upon how far the Council’s and now the Collaborative’s emergency preparedness programs have grown, become more sophisticated, and been so successful because of Tonda’s leadership. She’s nurtured relationships with all the partner response agencies, such as police, fire, emergency management, and public health, to name a few – and has earned the solid respect of their leaders.
In addition, she’s taken on a number of very important clinical initiatives over the years including standardizing maternity hospitals’ approach to testing delivering moms and their babies for opioids and Hepatitis C, a critical component in the quick treatment of babies born with addiction and stemming the spread of Hep C.
It’s been my pleasure and honor to know and work with Tonda over the years and I wish her fun, adventure, health, and great wine in her well-deserved retirement!!
Robin Thomas RN, BSN
Regional Emergency Preparedness Coordinator
The Health Collaborative
Tonda was very supportive of my regional public health coordinator role. I really enjoyed collaborating with her on both public health and healthcare preparedness.
Jared Warner, MEM, RS
Though she may not realize it, Tonda has had as much influence and impact on my professional development as anyone I have ever worked with. She taught me how to gracefully tell people things that they don’t want to hear, how to respectfully disagree with someone, how to follow through on commitments, how to create change, and most of all, what it means to be a bold leader.
One of the things that always amazed me about Tonda is her openness and support of innovation. Often, someone who has seen and done as much as Tonda will be set in their thinking. Tonda continues to be an innovator, and is often out in front of the state in developing tools and resources for our region. She is the reason our region of the state has such a strong sense of collaboration and regional coordination, and why we are seen as leaders in healthcare preparedness in Ohio.
I don’t think I can find the right words to truly capture the impact Tonda has had on me personally, on the work of emergency planning and preparedness in Ohio, and on the safety of our community. How do you summarize decades of service into a few lines? Maybe something simple is best. Tonda has served her community faithfully, tirelessly, and with the utmost excellence. She has been a true mentor, leader, and friend, and I wish her a very happy retirement.