May 7, 2024

Lowell CHC Announces 2024 DAISY Award Recipients

Lowell Community Health Center is proud to announce the recipients of this year’s DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses: Sary Sem and Tiffany Yonhorn. This prestigious recognition is a testament to the extraordinary care and compassion they demonstrate daily. Presented during National Nurses Week, the DAISY Award honors those who go above and beyond in delivering exceptional nursing care. Sary and Tiffany have distinguished themselves by their commitment to patient well-being and their ability to inspire their colleagues. The award highlights their invaluable contributions to the Lowell Community Health Center and underscores our commitment to excellence in nursing.

This year’s ceremony marked the third annual presentation of the DAISY Award at Lowell Community Health Center, which was the first community health center in the nation to begin presenting the Daisy Award annually. The award is part of the DAISY Foundation’s programs nationwide to recognize the extraordinary care nurses provide every day. The awards were presented during a luncheon last week for the health center’s nurses as part of the National Nurses Week celebrations held from May 6 to May 12. This year’s theme, “Nurses Make the Difference,” honors the incredible nurses who embody the spirit of compassion and care in every healthcare setting.

(L to R) Mary Wolfenden, Nurse Director of Family Medicine and the Metta Health Center, Dr. Kumble Rajesh, Chief Medical Officer, Susan West Levine, CEO, Tiffany Yonhorn and Sary Sem – 2024 DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses awardees, Elizabeth Hale, Chief Operating Officer, Melanie Goyette, Nurse Director of Adult Medicine the Patient Walk-In Center and Specialty Care.

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

April 24, 2024

Dr. Ria Roberts Awarded Community Clinician of the Year

Lowell Community Health Center proudly announces that Dr. Ria Roberts has been honored as the Essex North District of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s 2024 Community Clinician of the Year.

An Andover resident, Yale-trained internist and Harvard-trained geriatrician, Dr. Roberts is the inaugural Medical Director for the Program for Healthy Aging at Lowell Community Health Center. Her expertise in geriatric medicine is exemplified by her comprehensive care model based on the “5 Ms” of Geriatric Medicine: Mind, Mobility, Multi-Complexity, Medications, and Matters Most. This award acknowledges her dedication to patient-centered care and her significant contributions to the field of geriatrics.

“Dr. Ria Roberts’ approach to addressing complex health issues in older adults, such as cognitive health and mobility, as well as her efforts to optimize medication management, truly sets her apart,” said Dr. Kumble Rajesh, Chief Medical Officer at Lowell Community Health Center. “This accolade is a fitting reflection of her exceptional work and the tangible impact she has made on our patients’ lives.”

Dr. Roberts holds a staff appointment at Lowell General Hospital and is a clinical instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. She also co-leads the Harvard Medical School’s Black Women in Medicine Committee. At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. Roberts contributes her expertise as a part-time academic hospitalist and leads initiatives for diversity, inclusion, and advocacy in Graduate Medical Education and the Department of Medicine.

Originally from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Roberts earned her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences after completing her undergraduate studies at Brandeis University.

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 31, 2024

Lowell CHC’s Cindy Slaga, NP Recognized As 2024 Community Health Center Clinician of the Year  

Lowell Community Health Center (Lowell CHC) is proud to announce Cynthia (Cindy) Slaga, NP, as the 2024 Community Health Center Clinician of the Year, awarded by the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. Joining Dr. Stephanie Billings of Holyoke Health Center, Cindy is one of only two statewide recipients. She will receive this honor at the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers’ Annual Awards Gala on June 7th. 

Read the story in The Sun.

Cindy leads Lowell CHC’s school-based health center program, which includes centers at Lowell High School and Stoklosa Middle School. 

Susan West Levine, CEO of Lowell CHC, speaks highly of Cindy: “Cindy’s dedication is evident the moment she speaks about her students and you see the smile and passion on her face. Her leadership has transformed our School-Based Health Centers into environments that are safe havens for students where they can receive comprehensive care and support.” 

Kumble Rajesh, Chief Medical Officer, comments on Cindy’s holistic approach: “Cindy ensures all students, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds, receive complete health services. Her work addresses their physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being.” 

Elizabeth Hale, Chief Operating Officer, remarks on Cindy’s role: “Cindy is more than a clinician; she’s a trusted caregiver and advocate. Her innovative practices and commitment to health equity exemplify what this award signifies.” 

Cindy Slaga reflects on the award: “Thank you! I am truly honored. I appreciate all the support that has been given to the growth of the school-based health program. I am excited to share this recognition with our entire school-based health center team and the youth of Lowell. This award inspires me to continue the very important work of a community health center in meeting the unique healthcare needs of the community.” 

Since 2016, Cindy has been pivotal in Lowell CHC’s School-Based Health Center program, focusing on adolescent health. Her efforts during the pandemic and her continuous work in promoting health equity and innovative youth health services underscore her worthiness of this recognition. 

Cindy’s initiatives, like offering diverse contraceptive services and LGBTQIA+ support, and integrating behavioral health services into the School-Based Health Center program, demonstrate her commitment to addressing the varied needs of students. Additionally, her work providing healthcare and vaccines to refugees and new arrivals during summer breaks highlights her dedication to health equity. Most recently, she’s launched a Youth Advisory Council to further engage and ensure a student-centric program. 

Lowell CHC’s School-Based Health Centers facilitate academic achievement by ensuring medical and behavioral health services are accessible in the school environment. Recognizing that addressing students’ physical and mental health needs increases their readiness for learning, the centers aim to reduce class time missed and enhance lifelong success. 

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.