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Mention the name John Phillips to a fan of high school basketball in Philadelphia, and you’ll get a knowing smile.  John is a legend in the Inter-Academic, or Inter-Ac, League.  For 21 years, the Episcopal Academy alumnus held the scoring record in the league with 2,075 career points.  After high school, he went on to college and later became Assistant Principal of Philadelphia’s Crossroads Accelerated Academy.

In 2015 John passed out at work and after being rushed to the hospital he learned that he had type 2 diabetes. John was shocked.  He wasn’t overweight, and aside from a love of fruit juice his nutritional choices were reasonably healthy.  What he didn’t know was that Black adults are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as white adults.

Diabetes can be stealthy.  Many patients have no symptoms, or their symptoms may be so minor they assume they’re unimportant – until they become truly ill.  When John was seen in the emergency room his blood sugar level was 600mg/dl – more than six times the normal level – pushing him into a diabetic coma.

Before his health crisis, John had avoided seeing the doctor for the most part. He hadn’t had a physical or any lab tests since his high school days. Mistrust of the medical profession is common in the Black community and not without reason.  Studies show far too many instances of undertreatment of Black patients for pain and of disregard for the physical and emotional toll of racism, community violence, and poverty experienced by many Black people.  One consequence of this troubled relationship is that too often Black men, women, and even children experience poor health outcomes that could be avoided.

In 2017, Yvonda Romeo came to ChesPenn’s Upper Darby office as a temporary patient service representative.  She had served in other medical offices in similar roles but had never worked in a community health center.  She was surprised by the flexibility and responsiveness to patient needs.    She learned that we accommodated walk-in patients as much as possible and charged no fee for cancellations.  She liked what she saw and when an opportunity to apply to work for ChesPenn directly arose she took it.  She learned the ins and outs of patient services and impressed ChesPenn’s leadership with her dedication and skill.  In 2021 she was promoted to Office Manager.

Yvonda has piloted the Upper Darby staff through the sometimes choppy waters of the pandemic with kindness and patience.  She facilitates the working relationship between the ChesPenn staff and the Crozer Family Medicine preceptors and residents who provide care at the site.  Perhaps most importantly, she sets a warm tone that welcomes the very diverse patient community that counts on us for care.  And it is truly a community.  Many of our patients come from the neighborhoods surrounding our little office on State Road.

April is National Minority Health Month and this year’s theme is Better Health Through Better Understanding.  The Office of Minority Health is advocating for improving health literacy in minority patients, supporting patients whose first language is not English, and understanding the importance of providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS).

It’s important to know that improving health literacy isn’t about placing expectations on patients, but about improving our ability to communicate in ways that are easy for our patients to understand and will encourage them to engage with us.  Some important topics we’ll be talking about in the coming month include:

  • Improving health literacy.  Approximately 14 percent of the U.S. population has proficient health literacy. Improving health literacy is about providing written information, including forms for patients to complete, in simple, easy to understand language, and in multiple languages where needed.  It’s also about taking medical jargon out of conversations with patients, listening to their questions and concerns, and confirming their understanding.  Patients equipped with information they understand can make better decisions about their wellness.
  • The importance of quality interpretation services.  Nearly 20 percent of people in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home. Robust interpretation services, in person and/or via telephone and video interpretation, remove barriers to good communication between patients and providers.

  • Ensuring inclusion and cultural sensitivity among our staff.  Over 60 percent of racial and ethnic minority patients over the age of 18 believe it is at least somewhat important to visit a health care provider who shares or understands their culture. Training is key, but we are also very proud that we have attracted a highly diverse team of healthcare providers and support staff who reflect our patients’ diversity.

We will be continuing our conversation about diversity, health equity, and including through National Minority health Month and beyond into the coming year.  Stay tuned!


Candid, previously known as Guidestar, has for many years provided important information about nonprofit organizations to help foundations and individuals evaluate the organizations they are interested in supporting.  Candid has developed a series of transparency seals that reflect the amount of information provided by the organization.  We recently attained Gold Transparency status by sharing our financials as well as information about our organization’s leadership staff and Board of Directors.

Our commitment to our patients and supporters is to provide as much information as possible to assist in making informed decisions about choosing ChesPenn as a healthcare home or recipient of financial support.

Friday, June 9, 2023
1:30 – 3:30 pm
Center for Family Health at Eastside
125 E. 9th Street
Chester, PA 19013

Please join us as we dedicate the building that houses our
Center for Family Health
at Eastside  to the memory of ChesPenn’s
founding physician 
and advocate for children’s health Dr. Rekha Yagnik.

For more information contact Tamara Fox:

Each year the National Association of Community Health Centers organizes legislative visits in Washington, DC for its members.  Representatives from community health centers are encouraged to meet with their Senators, Representatives, and/or their staff in order to foster strong relationships and make sure legislators understand the issues surrounding delivery of community health.

These visits give us a chance to thank our legislators for the consistent support Congress has shown for continued funding of community health centers.  We are also able to advocate for programs that are important to us and our patients, such as the 340b prescription drug program that provides low cost medication to uninsured patients as well as funding to community health centers participating in the program.

This year ChesPenn CEO Susan Harris McGovern and Director of Grants, Data, and Project Management Karen Breitmayer visited with Emma Zafran in Representative Chrissy Houlahan’s office and with Representative Mary Gay Scanlon and her staff.

Sheila Church, Director of Patient and Community Services

Wednesday, March 15 is World Social Worker Day. As we look forward to recognizing our Social Services staff, we’re reflecting on all they do to support our patients and our health centers.

Sheila Church, ChesPenn’s Director of Patient and Community Services (pictured right), shared this definition of a social worker: “a person who is in a position to help an individual or family address concerns.” Those concerns can cover a broad range of issues from food or housing insecurity to domestic violence or crime victimization or a need for health insurance or home-based healthcare equipment.
ChesPenn’s Social Services Coordinators work hand in hand with our healthcare providers to connect patients to community resources that address all of these needs. When providers, medical assistants, or front desk staff uncover patient needs through their conversations, they alert a Social Services Coordinator, who can speak to the patient at the time of the visit or make an appointment to meet at a later time. This integration of social services into the healthcare setting is a powerful tool for improving patient wellbeing.
In addition to providing these critical information and referral services, ChesPenn’s Social Services staff go out into the community to fairs and other events to educate and raise awareness about the services we offer. This extension of our community presence beyond the walls of our health center can have a wider impact on the community.
Sheila shared her thoughts about what makes a great social worker: “I believe social services people are born. They have an innate desire to help others. You can train for skills but you can’t teach that. We often hire people who come from the community who want to help and are trusted by their neighbors.”

Samiyra Ojo grew up in Maryland with her mother and older brother. Early in grade school she discovered an interest in science and math. In 6th grade she entered a science fair. She chose a project that showed the staining effects of different substances on eggshells to simulate their effect on teeth and won first place.  According to Dr. Ojo, “I’d never won anything in my life.  I decided then that I was going to be a dentist.  That ignited my interest.”

Dr. Ojo attended Towson University as an undergraduate, majoring in in molecular biology.  She chose Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry, one of the 3 top Historically Black Medical Colleges, and then completed her residency at Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry.

Speaking about the experience of learning dentistry, Dr. Ojo observed, “Dentistry is a hands-on job so you never know exactly what you’re getting into until you’re doing the work.  I knew I would be able to help people and better their oral health but I didn’t really know how dynamic the profession is.  You’re an artist, therapist, medical provider, engineer.  It’s rewarding.”

Dr. Ojo chose to work in community health in part because of her experience working on an Indian reservation in upstate New York.  She learned that she enjoyed being able to share resources with the community she served.  She also found that the pace of work in community health centers makes it possible for new practitioners to hone their skills without the pressure to produce at a level often demanded in for profit practices.  The National Health Service Corps’ Loan Repayment Program is an added benefit that appealed to her.

Working with teens is a favorite aspect of her work.  “I enjoy most interacting with the younger population – teens and preteens, improving their oral health, cleanings or education, encouraging them to want to improve their oral health.  You can catch them before they get too set in their ways and help them get their hygiene under control.”

Another aspect of care that’s close to Dr. Ojo’s heart is working with patients to restore their dental function and appearance.  “My denture patients are so grateful.  They’ve been in pain and haven’t been able to eat.  Too often they don’t eat well and they lose weight.  They’re usually so emotional when they finally get their teeth.  It’s really rewarding.”

When she’s not caring for patients, Dr. Ojo enjoys trying out new restaurants, visiting museums, and spending time with her husband and new baby.  She visits her family in Maryland whenever she can, and she likes to travel.  She’s hoping to visit Europe soon.

Looking to the future, Dr. Ojo would like to have pediatric dentists and other dental specialists rotate through our dental offices so that we can better serve patients who need specialty care.  She would like to grow into a leadership role or teach one day.  Dr. Ojo exemplifies the vision expressed on Meharry Medical College’s website: “We believe that health equity is key to alleviating suffering. Whether our graduates are physicians, dentists, scientists, professors or public health professionals, the Meharry experience equips them to affect the world as a force for change led by our motto: “Worship of God Through Service to Mankind.”


Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. In its early stages, colorectal cancer rarely manifests symptoms, but regular screening, beginning at age 45, is the key to its prevention. In fact, increased screening combined with healthy lifestyle changes has lead to a decrease in the incidence of colorectal cancer in rec
While colonoscopy is generally considered the gold standard for screening, several options are available. The CDC offers advice about the best choice for you here:
The Bums and the Bees – An Awkward Conversation about a Life-Saving Screening

“If access to health care is considered a human right, who is considered human enough to have the right?”
                                                                                           Paul Farmer 
Black History Month is designated to honoring the legacies of Native, African Americans and other people of color who actively had significant roles in examining how disparities and injustices uniquely affect our communities and who gave a strong voice to the voiceless that eventually was heard all the way to our nation’s capital, demanding change towards transformative justice for all. Change includes an increasing awareness of the intersections between historical and contemporary movements for social justice and our mission to be a source of care for communities affected by various illnesses that include mental health conditions.
On March 25, 1966, in Chicago at a press conference before his speech at the second convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “We are concerned about the constant use of federal funds to support this most notorious expression of segregation. Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”
Dr. King’s radical compassion resonates in Ross Gay’s new collection of essays entitled Inciting Joy, where he writes “To be without health care, and so often to be without health, is violence, it is abnormal (even if it is the norm) . . .” As we know, health inequity is just one manifestation of the structural violence of racialized injustice that Dr. King found morally objectionable and challenged our society to address through a revolution of values and a radical restructuring of the American political economy.
Every day, as professionals in the field of healthcare, we bear witness to the unsettling consequences of racial injustice among the patients and communities we serve. In honor of ChesPenn’ s 50th anniversary, I am honored to acknowledge Dr. Yagnik, as a pioneering woman of color who embodied Dr. King’s call for equality to be extended to all citizens. Dr. Yagnik was a stellar example of Gandhi’s message “Be the change you wish to see in the world” when she was asked to be the first pediatrician at the nurse-run Children’s Clinic of Chester and Vicinity in 1973.
Dr. Yagnik partnered with nurse Judy Gaberu, followed by nurses Sally Helm and Sandy Gallagher during her years of service as a medical professional. Dr. Yagnik could have practiced medicine at any prestigious hospital or opened a medical office in an affluent suburb, but instead, she chose a trailer offering medical services for disadvantaged children in Chester, PA. As a changemaker, it meant she didn’t waste time in her storied career of improving healthcare for children and growing our facilities as we know today as ChesPenn.
The decade of the 1970s is known as the beginning of the post-civil rights movement era where many people of color were making great strides in politics, business, and academia. Dr. Yagnik removed employment and treatment barriers for many people of color in our community therefore changing an ongoing discrimination within the healthcare system. Racism disproportionately shapes the environment and lived experiences of underserved communities, negatively influencing both their risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma, and access to behavioral health services. The 21st century legacy of King’s courage, sacrifice, and work is that we have a social responsibility to “raise the conscience of the nation” to end this shocking and inhuman injustice.
So, as we appropriately acknowledge Black History Month, we must also be intellectually honest about staying conscientious about serving underserved communities. Let us commit to Dr. Yagnik’s legacy of challenging racial injustice by working toward solutions to providing quality healthcare to the communities we serve.
Solidarity in raising consciousness,
Susan …
Susan Harris McGovern
President and CEO


Center for Family Health at Eastside
125 E. 9th Street
Chester PA, 19013
Medical Phone: 610-872-6131
Dental Phone: 610-874-6231

Center for Family Health at Coatesville
744 East Lincoln Highway
Suite 110
Coatesville, PA 19320
Medical Phone: 610-380-4660
Dental Phone: 610-383-3888

Center for Family Health at Upper Darby
5 South State Road
Upper Darby, PA 19082
Phone: 610-352-6585


1510 Chester Pike,
Suite 200
Eddystone, PA 19022

Phone: 610-485-3800
Fax: 610-485-4221
FTCA Seal 5.3.22

Copyright by ChesPenn 2022. All rights reserved.