In 2005 Dr. Erica Turner was looking for a new part-time position as a pediatrician. A friend told her that ChesPenn Health Services had just opened a new health center in Coatesville. Soon after, she accepted a position that divided her time between Coatesville and ChesPenn’s Chester locations. One of her earliest experiences was of testing ChesPenn’s first electronic medical record before its use was expanded to the larger organization. This was in the days before the Pennsylvania Statewide Immunization Information System was created and she remembers having to enter each child’s entire vaccination record into the system.
After 17 years caring for families in the same community, Dr. Turner enjoys seeing children grow and change. She also likes a puzzle – doing the detective work to solve a mystery when a patient’s illness is difficult to diagnose. Her love of puzzles made studying science in college seem like a good choice. She jokes that the decision to become a pediatrician after she started medical school came because she saw that pediatrics was the only specialty where she could sit on the floor with her patients.
One of her biggest sources of satisfaction comes from helping children feel safe during their visits. Often children bring a doll or stuffed toy with them, so she first “examines” the toy with the child’s help, which makes the exam less scary when it’s the child’s turn. One child had no toy with him but had a bear on his shirt. Dr. Turner and the child took turns listening to the bear’s heart and checking his ears, and then she did the same for the child.
This approach gets children excited about being active participants in their visits, making them more fun and less scary.
Having also worked in a private practice, Dr. Turner appreciates the opportunity to help parents who often struggle with so many life challenges that focusing on their children’s health needs can seem overwhelming. She shared that “It feels like a win when I can convince parents to take the next step to improve their child’s health. Sometimes people need an extra minute of listening and compassion.”
Summer is here and it’s picnic time! Sadly, some of our favorite picnic foods are not our friends when it comes to healthy eating. We have some great ideas for healthy versions of picnic favorites that don’t sacrifice great flavor for good nutrition.
Here’s a healthy alternative to the infamous bucket of fried chicken with a side of fried potato wedges. This recipe from the American Heart Association brings all the flavor with almost no fat: https://bit.ly/3bo5inv.
Or for a great finger food option, try oven baked chicken taquitos from the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Food Hub: https://bit.ly/39JRAux
And if you can’t imagine a picnic without potato salad, try this one from the Diabetes Food Hub: https://bit.ly/3zQKSxA.
Another perfect summer salad choice is black bean and corn salad. It’s full of flavor, fiber, and protein! https://bit.ly/3OgmIke
After all that healthy eating, you can indulge in a treat or two. July is National Hot Dog Month. But far more important for some of us, it’s also National Ice Cream Month! So indulge a little, whether your favorite is chocolate, vanilla, or pineapple coconut.
Happy Summer Picnicking from all of us at ChesPenn!
Dr. Raquibul Islam (Dr. I to his patients and coworkers) has been a ChesPenn physician for 22 years. In that time, he has provided care for two generations of patients. Many of the adult patients at our Center for Family Health at Eastside rely on him for their care – in fact, several of our own staff have been his patients for years. Administrative Manager Mary McCullough, who has been his patient for almost 20 years, indicated that “he’s very thorough and he explains everything. He calls me to remind me to go to my specialist and diagnostic appointments.”
Dr. Islam’s choice of healthcare as a profession was a family decision. His grandfather and father both encouraged him to study medicine. He completed his medical degree at Dhaka Medical College in 1983 his residency in internal medicine at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital in Philadelphia in 1997. In 2020 he learned from a former intern whom he’d supervised that ChesPenn was looking for a primary care physician. Our Welsh Street health center was near his home and after interviewing with founding Medical Director Dr. Rekha Yagnik, he decided it would be a good fit.
Over the years, Dr. Islam has seen ChesPenn grow and change. He witnessed the opening of Eastside and has participated in a variety of initiatives to improve quality of care and workflow. His most satisfying experiences, though, have been all about his patients. For example, 10 years ago a 75-year-old woman came to him because a friend referred her. She was suspicious of health professionals but Dr. I worked to build her trust. She had a vague complaint about stomach pain that at first was difficult to diagnose. Tests showed she had kidney cancer, but she insisted that she did not want surgery. Dr. Islam was ultimately able to persuade her to have the surgery. Ten years later, she is still his patient and is in excellent health. When she visits, she tells him “I come to ChesPenn because you’re here.”
Dr Letitia O’Kicki, ChesPenn’s Chief Medical Officer, had this to say about Dr. Islam, “As a long time physician in the Chester Community, Dr Islam is well respected by his patients and colleagues. His attention to detail, at listening to the patient, along with his extensive medical knowledge makes him an excellent diagnostician. Dr Islam passionately cares about his patients, their families, and community he serves. He is also a wonderful mentor and teacher. His dedication to high quality care serves as a great role model.
Dr. Islam said as we ended our interview, “I know all my patients well and ChesPenn has been good to me. It’s been a blessing. I have no plans to retire. I’ll be here.”
Sarah Johnson is a strong woman who is deeply tuned in to her body’s signals. Several months ago, she began to feel that something was off. She noticed tingling in her hands. During a visit with her OB/GYN at ChesPenn’s Center for Family Health at Eastside she requested a urine glucose test and the results were shocking. Her glucose level was over 600 – so high that her physician sent her to the hospital. After she was released, we enrolled her in our Catalyst Program for patients with uncontrolled diabetes. Funded and facilitated by United Healthcare, the program is offered in partnership with Manna of Philadelphia. Manna’s mission is “to use nutrition to improve health for people with serious illnesses who need nourishment to heal.” They provide clients with meals that are nutritionally tailored to their specific health challenges along with nutrition education.
A nutritionist from Manna met with Sarah virtually to provide nutrition counselling, ChesPenn’s Community Health Educator, Tina Beahm, followed up with regular coaching meetings, helping Sarah understand how to keep track of the sugars, fats, and calories in the foods she ate, and offering encouragement along the way. Manna volunteers delivered 21 meals to her weekly. At the end of the
3 month program, Sarah’s glucose level had fallen to 187.
Tina sat in on our interview with Sarah. The rapport between the two was clear as they described how they worked together. Sarah shared that Tina had really helped her think differently about her food. She encouraged Sarah to read food labels carefully and Sarah was shocked at the amount of sugar in many products. She began selecting foods that recreated her favorite meals from the Manna menu and learned to drink her coffee without sugar. According to Sarah, the program “absolutely changed my life. I feel better, look better, my life is better.”
To date, 61 ChesPenn patients have participated in the program, with such outstanding results that we have received a second round of funding from United Health Care. The synergy created by healthy meals and nutrition counseling courtesy of Manna
combined with healthcare and coaching offered by ChesPenn’s physiciansand Patient Education Coordinator
have proven to be powerful tools to help
patients manage their diabetes.
Dr. Minyong Chen had the best possible motivation for becoming a dentist – going to the dentist made him nervous! He wanted to make dental visits as pleasant and fear-free as possible. Dr. Chen was born in China and moved to Malvern with his family when he was 10. He remembers thinking at that age that his old home must be just down the road – the vast geographic and cultural distance he and his family had travelled was more than a 10-year-old could process. He attended dental school at Temple University. He previously worked at Greater Philadelphia Health Action, another community Health center, where he received the Pinnacle Award for leadership and quality of patient care.
Dr. Chen joined ChesPenn on April 22 and provides dental care on Fridays to patients at our Coatesville health center. Office Manager Susan Sullivan shared that they love him. He teaches as much as he treats, and he makes his young patients feel like they’re working with him as a team so they are not so afraid. He shared that he finds practice both frustrating and rewarding. Knowing patients don’t really want to see him is difficult, but he enjoys seeing patients get excited when their pain is relieved or their smile restored. As more parents understand the importance of preventive care, fewer children will have to experience fillings and fewer adults will need extractions and dentures as they age.
Dr. Chen also loves to teach. He related the story of a seven-year-old boy who came in with multiple cavities. In addition to filling his cavities, he spent time teaching the boy’s dad the importance of good dental hygiene and regular visits, even for young children. The health of baby teeth effects permanent teeth, but more important, cavities hurt and children don’t always know how to tell their parents what they are feeling. Worse, they can cause infection to spread through the entire system.
Dr. Chen looks forward to building relationships with his patients and we know he will be wonderful addition to the ChesPenn team.
Since February, ChesPenn has participated with seven other Chester County nonprofit organizations in the Nonprofit Justice and Equity Institute under the leadership of the Alliance for Health Equity. After months of great facilitation by The Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, LLC, we are wrapping up this month with a draft plan to review our diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging policies and practices.
In many ways, health equity is encoded into the DNA of Community Health Centers. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), we are “community-based and patient-directed organizations that deliver comprehensive, culturally competent, high-quality primary health care services to the nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families, including people experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers, residents of public housing, and veterans.” We are mandated to remove barriers to care, including those created by income, race, ethnicity, ability, and sexual orientation or gender identity. Half of our board members are ChesPenn patients, bringing our patients’ voices right into the boardroom.
But health equity is about more than making sure everyone can see a doctor or dentist. It’s about creating a supportive, psychologically safe environment for everyone who comes in the door – regardless of their color, culture, abilities, how they identify, or whom they love. It’s about knowing what each patient needs and how they personally access healthcare. And it’s about knowing how to direct them to other support systems such as housing, food, and utility support. Not only that, but equity, inclusion, and belonging begin at home. Employees who feel respected and included are better able to provide the same care and consideration to patients.
To quote AHE’s President and CEO, Vanessa Briggs, “ If ever there is a time to stay the course to change how nonprofits reduce health disparities, the time is now. The hospital closure of Tower Health Brandywine Hosptial has unequally impacted access to care and the ongoing rise in mental health conditions, particularly among Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), who suffer disproportionately compared to other low income racial/ethnic groups. At The Alliance for Health Equity we proudly piloted The Nonprofit Justice and Equity Institute with our first cohort and look forward to our learnings to assist the nonprofit sector get at root causes of injustice and inequities to improve the overall health of marginalized and vulnerable populations.”
We are grateful to the Alliance for Health Equity for creating the Nonprofit Justice and Equity Institute and giving us a platform to explore with our peers how we can continue to develop an intentional culture of equity, inclusion.
Men are notorious for neglecting their health. Every person who has a father, brother, son, male friend or significant other has at some point had to nudge, cajole, or outright pester their loved one to see a doctor. Men are too often conditioned from a young age to “tough it out” through injuries and illnesses. Depression, anxiety, trauma? Not going to talk about it. Preventive care and screenings? No, thank you. And yet, we know that men are more susceptible to a broad range of illnesses, most of which are preventable or easily treatable with early detection and care. Men are more likely to develop diabetes, hypertension, and colorectal cancer. And men’s life expectancy is about 5 years less than women’s.
Men’s Health Month is the perfect time to have the talk. Encourage the men and boys you love to take care of themselves. Guys, start taking your wellbeing as seriously as you care for everyone else your lives. Get outside and get active. Eat more color. Practice mindfulness or any other stress management tool. Take your meds. Have regular checkups. If you’re depressed or anxious, get treatment. And, yes, get your colorectal and prostate cancer screenings done. Take care of you so that you can be there for the ones you love!
As we celebrate Pride Month, we are thinking about how we can be allies to friends, family, colleagues and patients in the LGBTQ+ community.
Here are 10 important steps to take:
“Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth.” Shirley Chisolm
On April 20 ChesPenn’s Board of Directors announce the appointment of Susan Harris McGovern, ChesPenn’s CEO, to the position of President and CEO. A native of Chester, PA, Sue is a dedicated public servant who joined ChesPenn Health Services in 1983 as an Expanded Function Dental Assistant. Susan became Office Manager at our Center for Family Health at Eastside in 1998 while earning her BA and MS degrees from Eastern Pennsylvania University and raising three daughters.
In 2009 Susan was appointed Director of Operations, extending her management to all of ChesPenn’s clinical sites. She was instrumental in managing the operations associated with the opening and closing locations in Chester, Upper Darby, and Coatesville, expanding ChesPenn’ s community health services in both Delaware and Chester counites. Her demonstrated leadership led to her appointment as ChesPenn’ s first Chief Operating Officer in 2020.
Inspired by her mother, whose career began as a Social Worker in psychiatric services at Sacred Heart Hospital and who later retired as a Case Manager from Delaware County’s Office of the Aging, Sue credits her mother for instilling her passion to better the healthcare facilities and services offered in communities that face socio-economic challenges. Sue’s contributions to her community outside of work include her membership in the National Congress of Black Women Delco Chapter in Chester, PA where she held the title of Treasurer from 2008 – 2017 and volunteer work at events that uplift the lives of women of color. Sue’s life’s work at ChesPenn and community involvement has uniquely prepared her to step in her newest role of President and CEO of ChesPenn.
Sue shared her thoughts on her career at ChesPenn and vision for our future. “Whenever I’ve been asked about why I never left ChesPenn or currently what are my vision or goals for ChesPenn, I’m grateful to credit having worked for many years alongside Dr. Rekha Yagnik, and Dr. Letitia O’Kicki. These phenomenal women were instrumental in sparking my interest overcoming the imbalances of services regardless of socio-economic status. We’ve grown from a trailer to multiple locations . We serve 15,000 patients across Delaware & Chester Counties. This is a testament to their legacy of service, compassion, listening and leadership that I look forward to continuing. We know the community, we are the community, and many of us have raised our children and grandchildren here. I honor my mother Catherine Harris for modeling what it means to be a mother, a woman of Faith, and active in the community you live in.”