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In Memoriam: Jillian Hopewell, MCN’s Chief Program Officer of Education & Communications

In Memoriam: Jillian Hopewell -Hero

It is with heartbreak and profound grief that Migrant Clinicians Network announces the passing of Jillian Hopewell, MPA, Chief Program Officer of Education and Communication. Jillian was surrounded by loving friends and family including several of her close friends from Migrant Clinicians Network in the weeks before her death from cancer. Jillian has spent her entire career pushing for the health needs of migrants and immigrants, and although her passing is devastating, her efforts to build better lives for some of the most marginalized people will continue to serve as MCN’s foundation as we move forward to build health justice for all.   


Jillian talks with a farmworker
Jillian talks with a farmworker. Photo courtesy of Earl Dotter

Jillian’s work at Migrant Clinicians Network supported the education of thousands of clinicians across the country, equipping them with the tools and knowledge to meet the health needs of their migrant and immigrant patients on a wide range of issues. Jillian has presented at Stream Forums, conferences, and online in countless webinars for decades. Her expertise was regularly called upon for training and technical assistance on farmworker occupational health, migrant health disparities, infectious disease including tuberculosis, diabetes, intimate partner violence, and more. Her work behind the scenes within MCN’s technical assistance programs has built MCN into a well-respected leader in migrant health. She also oversaw numerous communications efforts that have elevated MCN’s presence nationwide, ensuring that more people can connect with the information they need to better serve their vulnerable patients.  

Beyond her external work efforts, Jillian was a rock within the MCN team, an intuitive and caring colleague and supervisor who stopped to listen, who worked to understand our efforts within the larger framework of the organization, and who would inevitably provide stellar perspective and support, that enabled us to work from a position of strength and confidence at the top of our skill levels. Her unique superpowers within the virtual halls of MCN were her sincerity, empathy, and open heartedness, which set the tone for the entire organization as she guided us through weekly staff meetings and through our annual strategic planning processes, which she coordinated and led. While she preferred the behind-the-scenes tasks over the spotlight, Jillian’s tireless efforts and strategies enabled many of MCN’s successful programs to flourish. She has been a magnetic force at MCN, pulling colleagues and friends into the organization when she believed it would be a good fit, and providing them pathways to growth and success. She leaves behind hundreds of colleagues who call her a friend, and many close MCN colleagues, that she amassed over her 28 years at MCN. 

Jillian with a migrant family. Photo courtesy of Earl DotterJillian with a migrant family. Photo courtesy of Earl Dotter

Jillian grew up in Berkeley, California. The summer after eighth grade, her family moved to Peru for a sabbatical year for her father Philip Hopewell, a physician specializing in global health and tuberculosis. Life in Peru “was really eye-opening,” Jillian told MCN in 2020. “I was exposed to social justice issues, to incredible disparities.” After her return to Berkeley, she became involved with Amigos de las Americas, a youth leadership and public health program. Jillian missed her high school graduation because of her work in the program, swapping the grad ceremony for a yellow fever vaccination team in the jungles of Ecuador, where she brought vaccine coolers via pack mule to remote communities. While Jillian was at that point fluent in Spanish, she discovered that connection and trust required more than language. Her growing orientation toward helping people shifted to include the “realization that I can’t come in and tell people what to do,” moving instead to efforts to empower and support people within their own communities.  

These experiences influenced her decision to study public policy at Occidental University in Southern California. In 2022, Occidental profiled Jillian’s life and career. One of her early professors in that piece recalled that Jillian “combined a top-notch intelligence with a commitment to social justice and a deep tenacity of spirit. She also had a wry, wicked sense of humor.” She continued with Amigos de las Americas as a leader, where she gained her first experiences as a supervisor, recognizing the importance of setting up situations in which people are supported to make their own decisions and work independently, this time on the side of the health workers. She became the country director for the Dominican Republic, taking an independent study quarter to supervise seven staff members and 80 volunteers, building latrines and putting in cement floors in projects directed by the local department of health.  

Jillian poses for an interview with her Alma Mater Occidental CollegeJillian poses for an interview with her Alma Mater Occidental College

After graduating from Occidental, Jillian received the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which took her deep into the Peruvian Amazon, studying Indigenous political movements fighting against oil company and government intrusion, followed by studies of the ceramics tradition of the Canelos Quichua, and then again shifting gears and heading to Indonesia to further her investigation of the spiritual element made practical in the art of ceramics. She returned home to Berkeley after the conclusion of her fellowship; it was at this time that she first met her future husband, Geoff Hill. Soon after, she began a joint public policy and Latin America Studies double-Master’s program, a unique offering at the University of Texas, Austin that was aligned with her interests and experiences thus far. On the very first day of grad school, she met Amy Liebman, MCN’s now Chief Programs Officer for Workers, Environment, and Climate.  

During her time at UT Austin, Jillian interned with the government office of immigrants and refugees, where she learned not just more about the needs of migrants as they arrive in the US but also the inner workings of a team. At a later internship at the Texas Department of Health, Jillian was assigned to the tuberculosis team, where she engaged in binational TB work. Through this work, she met Karen Mountain, MCN’s founding chief executive officer. Soon after, a part-time position at the American Lung Association brought her to work with Karen and Deliana Garcia from MCN. Together, they developed the initial structure for binational TB case management, which became TBNet, the precursor to MCN’s Health Network. It was at this time that Jillian wrote her Master’s thesis on binational TB programs.  

After graduating, Karen hired Jillian to begin working part-time for MCN. She continued to work for ALA, and also began part-time as a professor at UT Austin. A departing member of the early MCN team left a full-time opening; Jillian jumped at the chance, becoming just the fourth full-time staff member in MCN history.  

It was 1995, and the three paid staff members of MCN -- Karen, Del, and Jillian -- worked out of a tiny apartment in Austin. Jillian also worked closely with Ed Zuroweste, an early supporter of MCN and eventually MCN’s Founding Medical Officer, on issues of TB and migration at MCN. After Jillian and Geoff got married, Jillian gave birth to her son, Nathaniel, who became the MCN office baby. With MCN’s support, Jillian was able to continue working with Nathaniel at the office for the first 18 months of his life before he transitioned to childcare. This was a welcomed change from the typical situation of requiring immediate childcare within weeks after birth, but also cemented some of the strong relationships that Jillian had with MCNers as more than just coworkers, but close friends who engaged with her growing family.  

Jillian moved to Chico, California in the early 2000s, establishing the first satellite office for MCN and launching our remote work capabilities that MCN would rely on for years to come. MCN was an early proponent of virtual trainings and the virtual office, largely due to Jillian’s ongoing efforts to refine our remote workplace skills. She and her husband, Geoff, had two more children, Owen and Kate. 

As the years went by, Jillian became not just a force for health justice, but a fierce advocate for the efforts of her colleagues. It is worth noting how many of MCN’s longstanding employees have credited Jillian with their work at MCN, either for coming to MCN in the first place, or for creating the supportive and enriching environment that encouraged them to stay long term with MCN.  

Jillian on the job
Jillian at work. Photo courtesy of Earl Dotter

Jillian was an active and deeply loved member of her community in Chico, California. She shared her communications acumen as an adjunct faculty member of the Communication Arts & Sciences Department at California State University, Chico. She co-founded and served on the board of directors for Wildflower Open Classroom, a TK-8 free public charter school. While she loved Chico, Jillian also enjoyed traveling and experiencing new cultures, which led her to travel across the world.  

Jillian and her family have stayed close with MCN staff for decades. They raised their children together, they vacationed together, they celebrated life and professional milestones together. And now we are mourning together, over the loss of a stalwart advocate for health justice, a close friend, and an incredible human being. We love you, Jillian.  

With the support of Jillian’s family, Migrant Clinicians Network has created the Jillian Hopewell Fellowship to support Migrant Clinicians Network staff and applied interns in designated activities to strengthen their education and pursuit of careers in migrant health. Learn more and contribute to this new fellowship here: Jillian Hopewell Fellowship 

In the coming weeks, Migrant Clinicians Network will offer another post celebrating Jillian’s many contributions to MCN and health justice featuring notes and memorials from MCN staff. If you would like to share a memory or a kind word about Jillian, please feel free to comment on our announcements on MCN’s social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter/X) or email Claire Seda, Please continue watching our social media and blog post for future announcements to celebrate Jillian’s full and impactful life. 

Thank you for your support during this difficult time.