In March of 2006 Pastor Mary and I were still getting to know each other and firming up our vision for a free clinic to serve people who had common health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure but nowhere to go for regular medical care. Still to come: applying for non-profit status, raising our first dollar, hiring our first employee, converting the church annex from a bakery into a space where we could see patients, securing volunteers, obtaining medical supplies and equipment, developing partnerships with local health systems, settling on a name for our organization, building a website, developing promotional materials, and – most importantly – building the trust of the community. It was overwhelming at times. I often tossed and turned during the night, worrying about how it all was going to come together. But then Pastor Mary would sit me down next to her in the church and tell me, “You don’t have to see all the way to the end. Just focus on the next thing and we’ll get there.” She was right. We did get there.
And we’ve come so far! This year has been our busiest ever. We treated more patients inside our walls and reached more people through community outreach. We added a fourth barbershop to our successful Cuts and Checks barbershop blood pressure program. Early this year we brought on a third part-time medical provider, long-time volunteer Dr. Michele Babaie. Last month, after over a year of planning, we made the transition from paper charts to Epic, an electronic health record used by all the major health providers in our area. Read more about this big “LEAP” forward here. We also spent much of the past year looking for a larger space to accommodate our growing staff and expanding patient population. You’ll find details here about our great news related to a new home.
Through all of the growth and changes, our top priority has been to provide the highest quality care to our patients. Many have had negative experiences in the medical world, and it takes a while to rebuild their trust. This means we shower our patients with affection as well as gentle reminders about keeping their appointments, taking their medicine, getting regular exercise, staying off the soft drinks, and quitting smoking. One patient was overheard in the waiting room telling his friend, “I used to be sick before I started coming to North by Northeast. Now I’m not sick anymore.” Although he still has the same serious health issues as before, he feels loved and supported. He feels well.
We’re celebrating our tenth anniversary all year long and hope you will join us. Maybe you’d like to join our Chronic Givers Club with a gift of $10/month, or mark our anniversary with an especially generous one-time donation. We’ll be throwing a party next fall and you’re invited. Stay tuned for the details!
Pastor Mary likes to quote Arthur Ashe, who once said, “Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.” These words inspired me in 2006, and the work of North by Northeast Community Health Center has been my great joy over the past ten years. It’s been a privilege to work with our staff, volunteers, board members and community partners to make a difference in the health of so many people. Thank you for being part of our past success and for coming along with us into the future!
- Jill Ginsberg, MD MPH, Medical Director