Women of Distinction – YWCA to honor six for community service

By Debra Carr-Elsing, The Capital Times, May 5, 2005

They believe in giving young people a second chance. They fight for equal access to health care – which they see as a basic human right – and they know that community service is everyone’s responsibility. The six recipients of this year’s YWCA Women of Distinction Awards willingly pitch in to help make their communities – and the world – a better place to live.

They are big on social justice and empowerment of women, which are mainstays in programming at the YWCA in Madison.

The 2005 Women of Distinction Award honorees includes: Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, manager of interpreter services and minority community relations at University Hospital & Clinics; Connie Ferris Bailey, executive director of Operation Fresh Start; Martha “Meg” Gaines, a UW-Madison Law School faculty member and director of the university’s Center for Patient Partnerships; Gwendolyn Jones, director of emerging market development at American Family Insurance; Lindsay McClernan, a family support specialist with the Dane County Parent Council Inc.; and Jeanan Yasiri, vice president for service innovation at Dean Health System.

Jeanan Yasiri: As vice president for service innovation at Dean Health System, Yasiri enjoys helping her organization develop a meaningful presence in the community.

"I have the privilege to be able to build programs that address needs of targeted – and still vulnerable – populations," she says.

This includes improving access to health care for the uninsured, along with expanding the organization’s interpretive services and cultural outreach.

"It’s very important to me that my work on a day-to-day level has a strong service element to it," she says. "I need to know that I’m impacting positive change for consumers."

"I want to constantly be learning, but I’d better be turning that information around and processing it into something of value for somebody."

Yasiri has a bachelor’s degree in business and economics from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and a masters in consumer science from UW-Madison, where she continues to teach in the School of Human Ecology.

From 1984 to 1992, she was a newswoman for NBC 15.

Yasiri serves on boards for the Boys & Girls Club, the UW’s School of Human Ecology, and the Wisconsin Alumni Association. She’s also an active volunteer with United Way of Dane County, serves on the board of Friends of WHA-TV, and co-chairs a major fundraising event for the Madison Community Health Center.

"To young women today, my advice is to recognize the need to be lifelong learners," she says. "Education is absolutely critical not only to gain knowledge, but so that you also gain confidence in your ability to execute positive change on behalf of your family and for the organizations you represent."