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Remembering Jillian Hopewell: Health Justice Warrior

Jillian Hopewell illustration by Mario Puerta
Illustration by Mario Puerta

This week marks two months since the passing of Jillian Hopewell, MPA, Migrant Clinicians Network’s Chief Program Officer of Education and Communication. Jillian’s loss is devastating, but her impact on the world of health justice will continue to reverberate. Here, we spend a few moments remembering Jillian’s remarkable impact on those of us lucky enough to have worked with her. We miss you, Jillian!

Jillian speaks with woman at farmers market

"With compassion and understanding, Jillian could simplify the complex by focusing on what really matters to people. Always seeking the best outcome for everyone, she’d take the time to listen and learn before leaning into the work. She would speak their language and meet them where they were. Jillian’s commitment to health equity fueled the efforts of anyone who worked with her and she drew inspiration from that collaboration. She continues to influence my work and my life. I am so grateful for her."

– Giovanni Lopez-Quezada, Communications and Graphic Designer

"When I joined MCN back in 2015, I could not imagine the enormous impact Jillian would have on my life. She started as my boss, and as our working relationship grew, Jillian my boss became Jillian my mentor and soon after I was so proud to refer to her as my good friend Jill.

So, to my good friend Jillian Hopewell, I want to say, ‘thank you.’ For your encouragement, your humor, and your way of always making me feel heard and appreciated. I want you to know that I love you. I want you to know that I will never forget you and all the light you brought to my life. Jill, my friend, I’m so, so deeply heartbroken that you are gone but I am so happy that I had the opportunity to tell you how important you have been and always will be to me.

Boldly Go Jill! Boldly go knowing that at some point we will all follow, and be together again."

– Martha Alvarado, Online Education and Evaluation Program Manager

Jillian speaks at a conference

"In the early years of Migrant Clinicians Network, Jillian, Karen Mountain, and I worked closely together in Austin, as the only three paid staff members. Jillian eventually moved back to California and began working for MCN remotely – but for the next 20+ years, we would continually joke that I never got over ‘her leaving me’ for family! She was such an incredible thought partner. We could finish each other's sentences when developing a good idea. One example: early on, we recognized that the migrant farmworker “stream” map was inaccurate. The map we created instead, showing the complexity of migration in the US, is now orthodoxy."

– Deliana Garcia, MA, Chief Program Officer of International and Emerging Issues

"If I had to pick one word to describe Jill it would be hungry. Hungry for laughter, to learn, to make a difference and always hungry. She found so much joy in satisfying her hunger. Her eyes would just light up when she talked about her MCN team, her kids, a book she was reading, working on a challenging project, or eating something really good. When Jill walked into the room it just felt more alive and when she hugged me I knew I’d been hugged."

– Karen Mountain, MBA, MSN, RN, Founding Executive Officer

"Oh Jill, why did you leave? Do you remember this day? ‘Hi there, I wanted to check in and see how you are doing ... I know this has been a stressful process for you and I want to make sure you are OK. I am sure it is going to be great, but even if there are problems, we always know how to handle them. Please don't worry 😊’ After this, and many more expressions of support and love, how not to miss you?"

– Mónica Fossi, MA, Translation and Communications Coordinator

Jillian with her son, Nathaniel

"A best friend. A co-madre. And my MCN colleague for three decades. We were 20-something when we met on our first day of graduate school. We became fast friends, sharing our love for Latin America and health and development. We enjoyed our different styles, Jillian laid back and me quite the opposite. But we loved to share stories, drink wine, laugh and figure out ways to make the world better. Little did I know that we’d stay friends for life. Once you’re in Jillian’s orbit, there’s no going back. And it was Jillian who brought to MCN.

As we married (Jillian was the one who first thought that my husband would be perfect for me) and had children, our oldest only months apart, our friendship deepened, and our families bonded on joint vacations. 

In our friendship and at MCN, Jillian had this way of bringing out my strengths. She was inclusive, creative, and visionary. She believed in our mission and her talent helped make MCN what it is today. With Jillian’s death I have lost a piece of me, my partner in crime, the holder of my memories and so many stories. But I remain filled with deep gratitude. Jillian made me a better friend, better leader, and better person."

– Amy K. Liebman, MPA, Chief Program Officer of Workers, Environment, and Climate

"I will always remember how impressed I was at how quickly and how well Jillian was able to create beautiful slides to accompany MCN trainings. She was also so talented in spoken communication and always was a leading voice at the annual strategic planning sessions. She was a very proud momma of her extremely talented children, who obviously have inherited a lot of her talents."

– Gayle Thomas, MD, Board Chair Emeritus

Jillian speaks with a family

"I have spent the last few decades thinking about and working with a model of witnessing. I am always on the lookout for instances of it. When I joined MCN and went to my first staff meeting, I was amazed and delighted to observe that Jillian had a knack for instant witnessing. When we shared our photos at the beginning of the meeting, we could always count her to make a supportive, kind, curious, and upbeat comment. It was the briefest of witnessing, but witnessing nonetheless. We felt seen, heard, and cared about with the lightest of touch. That was just one of Jillian’s gifts I appreciated."

– Kaethe Weingarten, PhD, Director of Witness to Witness

"Although my time knowing Jillian was brief – just a short 10 months – her legacy speaks volumes, transcending boundaries and leaving an indelible mark on Migrant Clinicians Network and beyond.

Jillian was a national voice and leader in migrant health, tirelessly championing the cause. She was the heart and soul of our organization and community, weaving connections and fostering collaboration with a warmth and generosity that touched all who knew her. Her absence leaves a void impossible to fill, her spirit forever imprinted in the essence of MCN.

Though Jillian may be gone, her legacy lives on in the lives she touched and the countless hearts she inspired. The deeply moving tributes we have received from her colleagues, friends, and family from across the country are a testament to the impact Jillian has had. We honor her memory with gratitude and reverence and will deeply miss Jill. Rest in peace, dear Jillian."

– Kim Nolte, MPH, MCHES, Chief Executive Officer

We invite you to celebrate Jillian’s legacy by contributing to the Jillian Hopewell Fellowship. The Jillian Hopewell Fellowship is dedicated to supporting current staff and applied interns at Migrant Clinicians Network in specific activities aimed at strengthening their education and advancing their careers in migrant health. Learn more about the Fellowship and donate.

The Jillian Hopewell Fellowship