The Evolution of a Life Committed to Service

By Jason Patnosh (@CHC_JPatnosh), National Director, Community HealthCorps & Associate Vice President, National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC.)

jpatnosh-headshotOver 15 years ago I started an internship with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) and the Community HealthCorps. We were only two staff and one intern (me!) with just under 100 AmeriCorps members across eight states. Since then I have served Community HealthCorps in several functions, and as a team with our partners, we have grown the program to 535 AmeriCorps members across 16 states and Washington, DC. For the last eight years I have had the honor to be the National Director for the program. I came in during a rough patch for the program fully committed to ensure its stabilization and longevity. Today, we are a well-oiled machine, that even with our bumps along the way, is agile and responsive to the needs in our health care system.

It has been my honor to be entrusted with this important role and to ensure Community HealthCorps has been a voice in the national service movement. Leading this program has allowed me:

  • the opportunity to be in the presence of President Obama and all of the living Presidents (multiple times), Vice Presidents, and First Ladies;
  • to be at the table to help shape the Edward M Kennedy Serve America Act and work with congressional leaders to shape the future of national service;
  • the chance to work with heroes and mentors so early in my career that it has empowered me to also develop future leaders for the national service movement; and
  • to see America and the impact national service makes in the lives of millions served by community health centers.

gjolly-headshotIt is with great excitement to share that I will be stepping down at the end of this month and that Gerrard Jolly (@JustJolly), our current deputy director, will be stepping into the role of National Director for the Community HealthCorps. Gerrard continues a long belief for the program that we can grow leaders who will do amazing things. Already very accomplished as a past National Park Ranger and non-profit leader, Gerrard has become one of the most respected voices in the movement by his colleagues for his knowledge, leadership, and humor. He has been a leader internally at NACHC and within the AmeriCorps movement—coordinating an affinity group of other health-related AmeriCorps programs and often being asked to speak at conferences. Last year Gerrard was selected as an American Express NGen Fellow through Independent Sector where he helped to shape an important report for the non-profit community – Strategies for Talent Diversity. Gerrard has been a trusted colleague and friend to me personally over his seven years with the program. I have full confidence he will be a transformational leader in the years to come and I will be there to support him along the way. Over the next few weeks Gerrard will further introduce himself and his vision for leading the program into our next 20 years.

During any transition it is often a bittersweet moment for the outgoing leader to give up the day-to-day role with the team. I have had such a great team for so many years and even when there has been transition I have remained close to those who have moved on to other opportunities that I like to say we helped them discover during their time with us. I would be remiss though if I did not single out Pamela Ferguson (our soon to be new Deputy Director). Pam and I have worked together since day one when she was a program coordinator in Lubec, ME for us. When she told me over a decade ago that she was leaving the health center I offered the opportunity to come to NACHC where she has been ever since. Pam’s commitment to this program and the health center movement is an inspiration. She is a tireless champion, an AmeriCorps Alum of this program, and a friend.

I can go on for days about all of the good this program has provided for me, and I hope I have provided at least as much to the program. I am fortunate that I will continue to be with NACHC in a new role focused on development and partnerships. NACHC has provided me an amazing opportunity to help shape a stronger NACHC and health center movement, and I thank Tom Van Coverden, CEO and Dave Taylor, COO, and many others who have supported my trajectory over the last 15 years.

I have committed my life and career to ensure the medically underserved are provided access to primary and preventive health care and I’m thrilled to take on these new adventures.

Thank you and in service to all,

JPsignature-black

Posted in AmeriCorps, community healthcorps, National Association of Community Health Centers, national service | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

20 Years in the Making – AmeriCorps’ Shared Sense of a National Community

By Jason Patnosh, National Director, Community HealthCorps & Associate Vice President, National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC.)

This week marks the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps and President Barack Obama will be joined by Presidents George H.W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush to celebrate their bipartisan commitment to national service and volunteerism. I have enjoyed being part of this movement for the past 15 years and at the helm of the Community HealthCorps for the past eight. Even prior to joining the Community HealthCorps I volunteered side-by-side with AmeriCorps members in Plainfield, NJ as EMTs on the local rescue squad—supported 100% through AmeriCorps and volunteer efforts at the time.

What many don’t know is that my father ran that AmeriCorps program through New Jersey City University in addition to running a Youth Corps program that helped young African-American and Hispanic men and women from NJ’s northern inner cities attain their GED and work skills. So, you can say AmeriCorps has been in my blood since the beginning, and both my mother and father have instilled a belief that you give back to your community for all they have given you.

The Community HealthCorps is also thrilled to launch its 20th class this year. Started by the National Association of Community Health Centers and a small group of community health centers at eight sites with only about 80 members in 1995, the program has grown to 535 full-time members across 40 sites and over 200 service locations nationwide. To learn more about the program’s impact over the past 20 years click on the image below for an enlarged version of the Community HealthCorps 20th Anniversary poster, featured at NACHC’s 2014 Community Health Institute.

Community HealthCorps 20th Anniversary Poster

Community HealthCorps has not only become a pipeline for over 7,000 individuals to embark on their careers in health and social services, but its impact has helped millions of Americans improve their access and utilization of health care services. Most recently, the program has committed to improve financial and health insurance literacy of health center patients and has partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to train all of our AmeriCorps members on their new Your Money, Your Goals curriculum to empower individuals in personal financial management.

For the past two years, I have served as co-chair for Voices for National Service and, as we look to our future as part of AmeriCorps, I am hopeful that bipartisanship support will continue to fuel support for this program. This week, Community HealthCorps was featured as part of Voices’ release of “I Will Get Things Done for America—Celebrating 20 Years of AmeriCorps”. Serving one’s country, whether through the military, Peace Corps, or AmeriCorps, should never be a partisan issue.

Finally, AmeriCorps must always remember its roots, “Getting Things Done”. Simple, concise, and directly to the point. The ability to serve one’s community and country does not look at how many degrees someone may have, the color of their skin, who they may love, or how they pray—it is an expectation we should have for all.

A personal hero of mine dating back to when I first did a book report on her in the 5th grade is Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas. She said so many powerful things over her life that ended too soon, but one sticks out to me the most as we look towards the next 20 years of AmeriCorps.

“We must address and master the future together. It can be done if we restore the belief that we share a sense of national community, that we share a common national endeavor. It can be done.”

Community HealthCorps restores the hope every day for someone to lead a healthier life, to gain access to health care for their children, to improve their financial well-being over time, and to recognize they are part of a larger movement to do great things for their community and for America.

Posted in 20th Anniversary of AmeriCorps, community healthcorps, Corporation for National and Community Service, National Association of Community Health Centers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“HealthyPregnancies” are Healthy Futures

By Liz Hovel and Erin McGlynn, Community HealthCorps® Members, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (SSCHC), Milwaukee

Each year, over 200,000 women in the United States develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during their pregnancy. Racial and ethnic disparities are rampant in GDM; Hispanic/Latino Americans, African Americans, and American Indians are especially at risk. As AmeriCorps members serving with Community HealthCorps in Chronic Care (Liz) and Women’s Wellness (Erin), we noticed the prevalence of GDM in our culturally diverse Milwaukee community and were motivated to do something about it.

Gestational diabetes programming at SSCHC, was started five years ago by Myriam Olivera, and is currently coordinated by Carmen Cosme. According to Carmen, GDM offerings have historically been “very educational but missing the fun part of movement.” As fitness enthusiasts, we saw the perfect opportunity to get involved! Capitalizing on our collective experiences in exercise and nutrition, we dedicated ourselves to the creation of “HealthyPregnancies,” our innovative and multi-dimensional prenatal program that we believe will contribute to healthy futures for moms and babies in Milwaukee’s south side.

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Liz & Erin posing with “HealthyPregnancy” Participants!

We knew that it would be a cooperative effort to develop a class that best helps our patients prevent and manage GDM. Carmen is an excellent mentor, and in true community health center style, a variety of SSCHC staff members from midwives to nutritionists have been our best resources throughout this process. As Community HealthCorps® teammates, we also find ourselves in a unique position to collaborate across departments. Our interdisciplinary partnership combines the diabetes expertise of Chronic Care staff and a strong connection with the patients most at risk for GDM via Women’s Wellness.

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Erin & Liz teaching yoga to “HealthyPregnancy” participants.

During the program development, we considered the social determinants of health for our patient base in order to accommodate the increasingly diverse population served by SSCHC. For example, our class is bilingual so that Spanish and English speakers can equally benefit, free so that financial barriers are eliminated for all patients, and offered in two locations complete with child enrichment (thanks to Community HealthCorps teammate Bethany Canales) so that patients without transportation or child care can attend. During our class, we also debunk myths about “eating for two” and “avoiding all exercise” during pregnancy, which are common due to lack of education.

On October 11, “HealthyPregnancies/EmbarazosSaludables” was born! The program was “brought to life by our Community HealthCorps® Members in collaboration with myself,” Carmen says. Since then, we have been offering hour-long classes during which we lead our patients in dynamic stretching, low-impact dance aerobics, and prenatal yoga. The class also features themed nutrition education and the occasional healthy snack.

Community HealthCorps Member, Bethany, engages a "HealthyPregnancy" participant.

SSCHC Diabetes Educator, Carmen Cosme, engaging with a “HealthyPregnancy” participant.

Our regular participants love having such a comprehensive class made comfortable for pregnant women to meet and support one another; several of them have already delivered healthy, full term babies! In turn, we have been empowered by the opportunity to make a positive difference in their lives and will be stronger health care providers in the future because of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in AmeriCorps, community healthcorps, gestational diabetes mellitus, national service, pregnancy, service, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, Social Determinants of Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment