2018 SEEN Changemaker Robert Reaves Gives Back to Detroit Communities

November 30, 2018

Robert Reaves, director of institutional effectiveness for the Wayne State University School of Medicine, volunteers for Detroit-based charities and organizations.

By Taylor Morris

Photography by Hayden Stinebaugh

As a leader within his workplace and community, Robert Reaves is driving impactful change.

“My personal vision is to develop an environment where underprivileged families in the communities I serve have access to quality health care,” he says. “My career choice and philanthropic pursuits enable me to fulfill this aspiration.”

When he isn’t devoting his time serving as board member and junior board president of the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Detroit, or spending time as a member on the Wayne State University Alumni Association Board of Directors, or volunteering as an ambassador to the Michigan Opera Theatre, Reaves works as the director of institutional effectiveness at WSU’s School of Medicine.

Not long after Reaves, a Detroit resident, joined the Ronald McDonald House Charities Detroit Junior Board, he was voted as president. From there, Reaves became a part of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Board of Directors in February 2018.

“As a Junior Board leader, Robert volunteers at many of the events and is highly active with Ronald McDonald House Charities activities,” says Jennifer Litomisky, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities. “He is a strong leader and really forms the core of what the junior board is known as today.”

Reaves recently established an ongoing partnership between the WSU School of Medicine and Ronald McDonald House Charities Detroit to launch a mobile medical unit in 2019 that will provide on-site health care services to underserved children in Detroit neighborhoods.

The care mobile — a state-of-the-art vehicle that includes two patient examination rooms and a laboratory — is a $500,000 investment with an annual operating cost of $345,000. “That will enable us to deliver pediatric health care services to over 3,000 Detroit children annually,” Reaves says. “As a RMHC board member, much of my philanthropic pursuits will focus on raising funds to support ongoing operations and to eventually expand our reach to impact neighboring cities such as Flint.”

Robert Reaves

Reaves, 29, is not only making a difference throughout Detroit, but he is also making an impact throughout the WSU community.

As director of institutional effectiveness, Reaves is responsible for working with Wayne State leaders to develop strategies that improve effectiveness throughout the university. According to Reaves, he is the youngest senior leader at the nation’s largest-single campus medical school.

“I work with the school’s top leaders to support development and implementation of strategies focused on continuous improvement to drive operational effectiveness, educational quality and institutional excellence.” says Reaves, of Detroit. “My work directly impacts 1,200 current medical students, an equal number of employees and the Detroit and regional communities we serve.”

When Reaves was hired, WSU Medical School was placed on warning-of-probation and given two years to correct 12 citations or lose accreditation. Reaves mobilized the organization for dramatic change to preserve the accreditation, national standing and reputation of the institution. Reaves succeeded and his accomplishments enabled WSU to continue graduating a diverse group of physicians and biomedical scientists. This was significant for the university and medical school, says Reaves, who adds it was a pivotal moment that propelled his career.

“Accepting the position not only provided a rare opportunity to be part of a successful revitalization of a health care institution, but an entree to the health care industry — one of the most dynamic sectors of the U.S. economy and an industry I anticipate remaining in for my career,” Reaves says.

Reaves is now working with the WSU Mike Ilitch School of Business Institute for Leadership and Diversity on projects such as its new Detroit Police Department Leadership Academy. He’s also doing research on corporate leadership and inclusion practices in Michigan’s top 100 public companies with support of the Inforum Center for Women’s Leadership.

Dr. Sheri Perelli, senior lecturer of management and professor at the Mike Ilitch School of Business, says Reaves has taken on significant voluntary leadership roles in the greater Detroit community, giving his time and talent to a variety of nonprofits. She adds his service has been recognized in a number of awards, including WSU’s 2018 Homer D. Strong Award for volunteer leadership.

“He continues to be a go-to resource for support of community service programs at the school and never declines a request for his help in organizing and executing programs, mentoring young talent and providing research support,” Perelli says. “We’re proud of his many accomplishments and his energizing drive and spirit and look forward to watching his career unfold.”

Robert Reaves is the 2018 SEEN Changemaker in Philanthropy. Read more about the 2018 SEEN Changemakers here.

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