May 8, 2024

Innovative Health Justice Learning Institute Launches at Lowell CHC With New Executive Director

Lowell Community Health Center is pleased to announce the appointment of Sheila Och as the inaugural Executive Director of our Health Justice Learning Institute©. Och is a co-founder of the Institute. She will also continue in her role as the health center’s Chief Equity Officer.

The Health Justice Learning Institute© launches alongside the planned Family Medicine Residency Program, aiming to expand healthcare workforce capacity and set a new standard in collaborative healthcare education.  Grounded in health justice, cultural proficiency, and community engagement, the Institute’s innovative model addresses immediate workforce shortages and health disparities, establishing a precedent for healthcare education and delivery.

Recently, the Institute achieved a significant milestone by securing a competitive Advocates for Community Health (ACH) grant. This critical $500,000 grant, which Lowell Community Health Center has already received, will fuel the planning and development phase of the Institute in the coming months. With this support, the Institute is embarking on a carefully structured planning period, building a robust educational framework focused on cultural proficiency and anti-racist principles in healthcare.

“What we’ve learned from the state of healthcare both regionally and nationally, along with recent studies on healthcare inequity, underscores the urgent need for action. We must increase and better prepare a culturally responsive healthcare workforce that meets the specific needs of our community. This Institute represents a bold opportunity to fundamentally alter that narrative,” said Susan West Levine, CEO of Lowell Community Health Center. “With over 25 years of experience in the public health field inclusive of workforce development, Sheila Och is the ideal person to lead this new initiative.”

Sheila Och commented, “By establishing a sustainable pipeline of healthcare workers who deeply understand the factors influencing our community’s health, the Institute is poised to address disparities effectively. Through our educational programs, we will equip health care workers with the necessary skills to improve patient outcomes. Our learning approach firmly acknowledges that racism and social determinants of health play critical roles in shaping health outcomes.  Moreover, we envision a pipeline structure that actively fosters economic mobility for our community via and into health careers. Our objective is unequivocal: to close the primary care gap by enhancing healthcare accessibility with a greater number of culturally responsive healthcare workers in a community-focused setting.” 

Healthcare stands at a tipping point. Nationwide, and here in Lowell, workforce shortages and lack of healthcare access have devastating consequences on the health of our communities. Decades of systemic and racial inequities exacerbate this situation. The US faces a projected shortage of 17,800 – 48,000 primary care physicians within the next 12 years.

Current and historic models often overlook the critical need for culturally responsive care. The Health Justice Learning Institute© anchored by the Family Medicine Residency Program will boldly change that. The Institute will feature a collaborative, cross-disciplinary setting – integrating Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, Medical Assistants, Medical Interpreters, Community Health Workers, and more into a scalable, flexible, and inclusive educational model.

Sheila Och’s extensive experience and achievements within our local community, the health center, and throughout Massachusetts have earned her widespread respect as a true leader in health equity. She is part of the Health Equity Compact, a group of 80 leaders of color from a broad spectrum of Massachusetts organizations, including hospitals, health centers, insurers, academia, and public health bodies, all working towards health equity in the state. Och is often called upon to share her insights during congressional hearings and was recently honored by The Institute for Health Equity Research, Evaluation & Policy (IHERP) in their “Women Leading the Charge” showcase for Women’s History Month. This prestigious distinction underscores her significant contributions to health equity in Massachusetts. Och is a Community Health Worker and trained Spanish speaking Medical Interpreter with an educational background that’s equally impressive, with degrees and certifications from UMass Lowell, Boston University, Suffolk University, and leadership programs with Harvard Business School and the Lawrence Partnership. Och is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Leadership Psychology (PsyD) from William James College. Her commitment to racial and health equity, language access, and community health have made lasting impacts.

March 12, 2024

Top Health Center Leaders and Federal Leadership Convene for ACH’s 3rd Annual Member Meeting

Senior leaders representing more than 30 of the nation’s largest federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) traveled to our nation’s capital to have a conversation about the future of the Community Health Center Program with high-ranking officials during ACH’s 3rd Annual Member Meeting. This year’s meeting, held on March 5-7, 2024, came at a pivotal time for health centers who face continued uncertainty around reliable and long-term funding for the Health Center Program which serves more than 31.5 million patients nationwide.

Read the full story from ACH

March 20, 2024

Sheila Och Honored by The Institute for Health Equity Research, Evaluation & Policy

Lowell Community Health Center is proud to announce that Sheila Och, Chief Engagement and Equity Officer, has been recognized by The Institute for Health Equity Research, Evaluation & Policy (IHE) as part of their “Women Leading the Charge” feature for Women’s History Month. This distinguished acknowledgment celebrates Sheila’s exceptional contributions to advancing health equity within the community health sector in Massachusetts.

In the “Women Leading the Charge” feature, Sheila shares her invaluable perspectives alongside other influential women leaders. Her dedication to enhancing community health through cultural proficiency, comprehensive engagement, and a steadfast commitment to addressing the social, emotional, and cultural factors impacting healthcare sets a benchmark for leadership in health equity.

In receiving the recognition, Och remarked about community health centers, “We aim to actively engage our communities and collaborate in health initiatives, outreach programs, and health education. This engagement helps foster a sense of ownership and empowerment, centers our communities’ voices and strengths in our work, and advances our mission to bridge the gap in health disparities.” 

Lowell Community Health Center is thrilled that Sheila’s work and the impact of our collective efforts are being recognized on such a prestigious platform. This accolade not only honors Sheila’s individual contributions but also highlights the critical role of community health centers in providing accessible, quality healthcare to underserved populations.

The Institute for Health Equity Research, Evaluation & Policy is an initiative of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.

February 7, 2024

Jennifer Meehan To Lead Lowell CHC’s Advancement and External Relations Efforts

Lowell, MA (February 7, 2024) – Lowell Community Health Center (Lowell CHC) is pleased to announce Jennifer Meehan as the organization’s new Chief Advancement and External Relations Officer. Jennifer brings not only established credentials as a fund development professional but also her passion as a community advocate, known for creating strategic, mission-driven initiatives.

Jennifer is adept in forging community connections and has a strong background in corporate communications and public relations. She previously worked in communications at organizations such as National Amusements, Mass. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and Weber Shandwick, and joined Lowell CHC on February 5th.

Read the story in the Boston Business Journal.

Susan West Levine, CEO of Lowell Community Health Center, shared, “2024 is a pivotal year for us as we plan significant programs like our Family Medicine Residency Program and Health Justice Learning InstituteÓ. Jennifer’s deep understanding and commitment to the Greater Lowell Community, along with her expertise, will be crucial as we create more healthcare jobs and expand primary care access for this community.”

Jennifer added, “As a long-time Lowell resident, I’ve seen the vital role Lowell CHC plays in this community. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of what will be transformational change for this community – changes that will create a new standard in collaborative healthcare education, one that is deeply intertwined with the principles of health justice, cultural proficiency, and community engagement.”

Jennifer’s previous work, experience, and dedication to the field of behavioral health have made lasting impacts, work she plans to continue at Lowell CHC. She previously served as Director of Development at Lowell General Hospital, where her relationship-based fundraising significantly enhanced the hospital’s corporate giving programs. Her master’s degree in nonprofit management and philanthropy complements her practical experience, providing a strong foundation in strategic planning and governance.

Jennifer’s dedication to the Lowell community is evident through her involvement in various boards promoting education for women and girls. Her work with the Academy of Notre Dame, Women Working Wonders, Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell, and the Marty Meehan Education Foundation highlights her commitment to local service.

February 1, 2024

Lowell CHC Announces Promotions in Key Leadership Roles

Lowell Community Health Center (LOWELL CHC) is pleased to announce the promotion of three key members of our medical staff, each bringing their unique expertise and dedication to their new roles.

Dr. Natalie Bowen steps into the role of Chief of Pediatrics. Since joining LOWELL CHC in March 2020 as a primary care pediatrician, Dr. Bowen has demonstrated a deep commitment to providing comprehensive care to children. A graduate of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and alumnus of Children’s Hospital Colorado’s pediatric residency program, she has extensive experience in various clinical settings, particularly in team-based care. Dr. Bowen’s passion for working with diverse communities and addressing health disparities aligns perfectly with LOWELL CHC’s mission. Beyond her professional pursuits, she enjoys gardening, reading, and outdoor activities with her family.

Dr. Ria Roberts has been appointed as the Medical Director for LOWELL CHC’s Program for Healthy Aging. A Yale-trained internist and Harvard-educated geriatrician, Dr. Roberts brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in geriatric care. Her approach is founded on the Geriatric “5 Ms” Framework: Mind, Mobility, Multi-Complexity, Medications, and Matters most. Dr. Roberts, who also serves as a part-time Clinical Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, has been a driving force behind the development of the Program for Healthy Aging, Lowell CHC’s first geriatric-focused clinic to address the complex needs of our older adults.  Her dedication to diversity in medicine, astute leadership and comprehensive care philosophy make her an invaluable asset to the Lowell community.

Dr. Flora Sadri takes on the role of Medical Director, Substance Use Services, showcasing her extensive background in both clinical practice and public health. A graduate of Boston University and the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Sadri has held notable positions in family medicine and addiction treatment. Her work has focused on developing outpatient alcohol withdrawal management programs and utilizing innovative methods for treating substance use disorders. Dr. Sadri’s involvement in medical societies like the Massachusetts Medical Society and the American Society of Addiction Medicine highlights her commitment to advancing addiction care. Dr. Sadri is board-certified in addiction medicine.

LOWELL CHC is excited to support Drs. Bowen, Roberts, and Sadri in their new roles and looks forward to their continued contributions to our community.

January 30, 2024

Dr. Cara Marshall Named Inaugural Director of Family Medical Residency Program

LOWELL, MA — [1/30/24] — Lowell Community Health Center (Lowell CHC) is pleased to announce Cara Marshall, M.D., as the Inaugural Director of its planned Family Medical Residency Program. Dr. Marshall’s extensive academic and professional journey, particularly in social medicine and community health, positions her ideally for the directorship.

Read the article in The Sun for news coverage of this announcement.

The Family Medicine Residency Program will be a key component of Lowell Community Health Center’s planned Health Justice Learning InstituteÓ and is set to become only the second accredited Teaching Health Center in Massachusetts operated by a Federally Qualified Health Center.

“Dr. Marshall’s addition to our team is a significant milestone for Lowell CHC. Her background in family medicine, commitment to equity and community health, and her dedication to fostering educational rigor are exactly what we need,” stated Dr. Kumble Rajesh, Chief Medical Officer of Lowell CHC. “Our program will emphasize a healthcare education that is grounded in community needs, practitioner leadership, and antiracism, and Dr. Marshall will be instrumental in embedding these values into our new residency initiative.”

A graduate of the University of Florida College of Medicine through an accelerated B.S./M.D. program, Dr. Marshall completed her residency at Montefiore Medical Center’s Residency Program in Social Medicine. She has been recognized with several accolades, notably the Family Medicine Educator of the Year by the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Marshall brings experience in curriculum development and resident supervision from her previous roles. She has contributed to several initiatives on diversity and health equity.

Dr. Marshall noted, “joining Lowell CHC is an extraordinary chance to impact the future of family medicine and the delivery of healthcare within the community. We will be training doctors in Lowell, for Lowell.”

The residency will occupy a state-of-the-art 16,000-square-foot facility on the 5th floor of Lowell CHC, opening its doors to six residents annually starting in 2026. By year 3, the Family Medicine Residency program will provide more than 5,000 residents of Greater Lowell with 18 new Primary Care Providers.

Program residents will hone their skills, fully aware of the impacts of the social determinants of health such as racism and privilege, alongside other members of the care team. Our distinctive programs and innovative modelÓ will empower our next generation of physicians to be collaborative and committed to equity in their practice. The Residency will help prepare a diverse workforce to meet the growing need for cultural proficiency in healthcare settings – meaningfully & sustainably. Earlier this year, Lowell CHC received a $500,000 planning grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for this residency program, developed in collaboration with Tufts Medicine. Collaborating with Tufts Medicine will enable Lowell CHC to meet rigorous accreditation standards which require resources beyond the health center, including inpatient hospital rotations for rounding, access to a medical library, and on-call rooms for residents to sleep during rotations. The medical residents will rotate between Lowell CHC and Tufts Medicine-affiliated hospitals, including Lowell General Hospital.

September 26, 2023

Dr. Alison Curcio Appointed as Chief of Patient Walk-In Center at Lowell Community Health Center

Lowell Community Health Center is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Alison Curcio as the new Chief of the Patient Walk-In Center. Dr. Curcio brings with her 18 years of frontline emergency medicine experience and specialized training in Simulation Medicine aimed at enhancing patient safety and care quality. She has also previously contributed to the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, developing protocols for optimized medication use in Emergency Departments.

Dr. Curcio received her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, completed her medical education at Emory University School of Medicine, and subsequently pursued a residency in Emergency Medicine through the Harvard program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Susan West Levine, CEO of Lowell Community Health Center, praised the appointment, stating, “We are exceptionally fortunate to have Dr. Curcio join our team. With her years of frontline emergency medicine experience and specialized training in Simulation Medicine, she brings significant expertise to our health center. Dr. Curcio will be instrumental in developing a service model that better guides patients to the most appropriate care settings, thereby reducing unnecessary emergency room visits. Her leadership will be key to expanding our Walk-In Center’s services to better meet the healthcare needs of our community.”

Dr. Alison Curcio expressed her enthusiasm, saying, “I am excited to work with such an incredible team at the Patient Walk-In Center, and at the health center, and to be able to continue and expand upon the tremendous services provided by the walk-in center.”

Dr. Kumble Rajesh, Chief Medical Officer of Lowell Community Health Center, highlighted the significance of her expertise, noting, “Dr. Curcio’s vast experience in emergency medicine will be invaluable in optimizing and expanding our services at the Patient Walk-In Center and to the patients we serve.”

About the Patient Walk-In Center

The Patient Walk-In Center offers a range of Immediate Care walk-in services for Lowell Community Health Center patients. Services include, but are not limited to, sick visits, joint injuries, stitches, assistance with sprains and back pain, treatment of skin infections such as poison ivy, non-severe allergy management, ear lavage, and on-the-spot testing for conditions like COVID-19, pregnancy, urinary infections, vaginal infections, sore throats, and flu.

Click Here – To learn about the Patient Walk-In Center and its hours.

January 19, 2023

Lowell Community Health Center Announces Appointment of New Chief Operating Officer 

(Lowell, MA) – Lowell Community Health Center (Lowell CHC) has announced that Elizabeth Hale DNP, RN, CENP, will assume the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO), effective immediately.  

Dr. Elizabeth Hale DNP, RN, CENP

Dr. Hale currently serves as Lowell CHC’s Chief Clinical Officer overseeing all clinical operations including nursing, clinical pharmacy, infection prevention, quality, integrated care management, behavioral health, occupational health, school-based health centers, and laboratory services. In this new and expanded role, Dr. Hale will continue to provide oversight for these services, and in addition will work to assure that our health center operations are aligned and integrated across our organization, with a focus on patient access, equity, experience, and quality of care.   

“I am delighted that Beth has accepted this challenge,” said Susan West Levine, CEO of Lowell CHC. “Beth’s knowledge of health care operations and commitment to excellent patient care make her a tremendous leader for the COO role.”  

Levine continued, “Beth will launch a broad, solutions-oriented operations team comprised of leaders across the organization that will focus on continuous performance improvement, identify timely solutions to operational challenges, ensure compliance with regulatory agencies, and provide a forum to respond to urgent matters as they arise.”    

Dr. Hale joined Lowell CHC in September 2015 as Chief of Clinical Services. During her tenure, she earned her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from the University of New Hampshire and served as Incident Commander, successfully leading us, and our community, through the COVID pandemic response and, now, recovery.  

Dr. Hale earned both her MSN in Nursing and her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from the University of New Hampshire. Prior to working at Lowell CHC, she served as Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at Lawrence General Hospital and, prior to that, as Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at the Elliot Hospital in Manchester, NH.  

June 29, 2021

US Senator Elizabeth Warren Visits Lowell CHC

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren visited Lowell Community Health Center on June 29 to celebrate the work of the health center in our community, thank our staff for their frontline work on the COVID-19 pandemic, and to applaud the patient- and community-focused use of the $5.3 million in HRS) funding for COVID response and recovery, as well as the $800,000 for capital improvements to our first floor. Senator Warren echoed Lowell CHC CEO Susan West Levine’s passionate advocacy for long-term, stable funding for CHCs as a key component of public health. We are deeply grateful for Senator Warren’s support.

July 2, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccination Equity Report

As part of demonstrating Lowell Community Health Center’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and combatting racism, we are continuing to produce a COVID-19 Vaccination Equity Report. This report provides details from our vaccine distribution here at the Health Center.