Get to know: Julia Marreel

Julia Marreel (pictured with her family) serves on the board of directors of Dignity Health Foundation - East Valley in Chandler, Arizona where she chairs the foundation’s women’s philanthropic society, Power of the Purse. Earlier this year, in celebration of her service, Julia was recognized with the first-ever Board Director of the Year Phillie award at CommonSpirit Health’s Philanthropy Education Summit 2022. This recognition distinguishes Julia among the hundreds of directors who serve CommonSpirit’s 80-plus foundations across the country.

Chandler Regional Medical Center holds a special place in the hearts of Julia and her husband Tom, both of whom have served the hospital and the foundation in various leadership roles. Their adult sons, Andrew and Michael, have continued the family’s legacy over the years, volunteering and playing in the annual George Rozsa Golf Tournament, which Tom has chaired.

What was your first connection to the hospital?
My experience with Chandler began in the 1980’s when my father, Dr. E. Colin Smart, was the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer and served on the Hospital Community Board. I started volunteering when I was 23 with my mother, Celia, giving thousands of hours to hospital fundraising and community events.

How did you become involved with the foundation?
My husband, Tom and I became involved with the foundation in 2003. My father passed away in 2002 and he was very passionate about the hospital and its future. We wanted to continue his legacy not only in his honor, but also to understand what it takes to run a hospital in the Chandler community. The opportunity came along when the foundation was creating a group of like-minded people who wanted to learn more about the hospital. I was on the first steering committee of four people and we created “The Founders Circle,” a group of hospital champions who were dedicated to excellence in patient care through philanthropy, service and education. We would meet monthly to hear from hospital staff members or departments about their specific needs or wants that weren’t covered by budgets or capital funding. Our group was tasked to come up with a way to help raise money to meet some of these needs and the “Laughter is the Best Medicine” gala was born. We hosted our first Laughter gala in 2004 and we retired it after the 2018 event. Over the course of time, Tom and I chaired the event once and I was auction chair for a number of years.

Tom served on the foundation board for 10 years and is currently serving on the Hospital Community Board. I joined the foundation board in 2018. I also serve on the board development committee and I have been involved with the women’s philanthropic group, Power of the Purse, from its inception in 2014.

Is there a specific project that stands out to you during your time with the foundation?
Tom and I wanted to do more to recognize the people behind the scenes working hard to make each patient’s stay more comfortable and get them well enough to go home. In 2008, with the help of the foundation we came up with the annual Marreel Excellence in Service Award which promotes philanthropic support at Mercy Gilbert and Chandler Regional Medical Centers and the urgent care sites. The awardees are clinicians, employees and volunteers who have been recognized by patients and their families for outstanding care and moments of kindness. We wanted to recognize all arms of the two hospitals, not just clinicians. It has been very rewarding and heartfelt to us, reading each year how employees go above and beyond to help patients or families. We award anywhere from six to twelve employees each year with a medallion in a glass box.

What excites you most about the future for the foundation and hospitals?
Our foundation is continually evolving and it’s exciting to hear about all the things that CommonSpirit is doing to grow the organization. It’s nice to be part of Dignity Health and see how they impact our local community and stay one step ahead by introducing new initiatives and state-of-the-art equipment to help make patients’ stays better.

 

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