As I write this, today brings a new reality and uncertainty to much of America. We have a new president-elect with very different ideas than those we currently operate under. Our uncertainty stems from the fact that we do not know what will happen or what to expect under this new administration but we know it will be different from what we currently know.
All that being said, it is important that everyone understands - fully understands - that it is business as usual here at Westside Family Health Center. As people of different genders, faiths, ethnic groups, sexual orientation and race, we will continue to recognize, respect and validate each other. We are a family with all the traits of family - we agree, we disagree, and, at times, we may even get angry with each other - but at the end of the day, we come together to provide friendly, quality service to our community and do so with respect and dignity for ourselves, our peers and our patients.
Just like us and our families, our patients and community must also face a new reality and uncertainty. We know that many will be wondering what happens to them and their families when Obamacare goes away. We know that many, including children, will now have the added stress of wondering when they or their family members may face the specter of deportation. We know there is a strong future possibility that women facing difficult pregnancies may have an added burden of fewer options in deciding what to do.
We also know that our Westside Family Health Center team will provide our community with hope for a healthy future. We will provide support during difficult times through compassionate listening and understanding of their fears. We will continue our friendly, quality service and offer everyone the respect and dignity they deserve.
Most important - like any family - we will be there for each other. If you need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen, we will be there. If you need counseling, we will help you find it. Know that as long as we stand together, work together and support each other - none of us is alone.
Five Things I Learned After I Had My Heart Attack
In January 2015, I was admitted to the hospital for acute respiratory failure and congestive heart failure. At some point in the initial hours, I also suffered a mild heart attack. Ten days later, I underwent double bypass surgery. All this happened suddenly and with no pain - just the inability to breathe. Now, I am dealing with the aftermath and getting my health back on track. Here are five things I learned after having my heart attack.
1. Real heart attacks aren’t like Hollywood heart attacks.
Many people think a heart attack causes bone-crushing pain like you see in the movies. While a heart attack can be painful, it can also cause a host of other symptoms that might be harder to detect. This is especially true for women. In my case, I experienced shortness of breath. When I say shortness of breath, I don’t mean I was breathing heavily. I could not get a breath. It felt more like an asthma attack than heart attack. I had been experiencing shortness of breath for years and didn’t realize it. Which brings me to my next point...
2. You have to put your health first.
All of this stemmed from the fact that I was not putting myself first. I was too busy worrying about my family, friends and colleagues. Were they taking care? Were they exercising? Were they eating right? I should have been asking myself those questions as well. I should have been looking after my own health. Women struggle with putting ourselves first. We feel selfish if we do. Nothing could be farther from the truth. By not putting myself first, I put my life at risk.
3. Putting your own health first is also good for your family and friends.
While I thought I was doing good by putting my family and my job first, I didn’t do my them any good by letting my health suffer. They want me healthy – and here with them. Now, I go to the doctor regularly. Instead of one regular doctor, I now have a team of doctors, nurses and specialists that help me stay healthy. My plan is to stay alive for many more years.
4. You need to visit your primary care doctor at least once a year.
For those of you who have been putting off going to the doctor, value yourself and make the appointment today. You should have your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar checked at least once a year. Now, I have to monitor these every day. Going to the doctor for a yearly check-up is much better than emergency bypass surgery or worse. If you aren’t going to your doctor because you are unhappy with his or her services, find another! Ask for recommendations from friends and family. If you aren’t going to the doctor because you can’t afford it, come to Westside Family Health Center (Appointment line: 310-450-2191), or another California community health center near you by visiting www.cpca.org and clicking “Find a Clinic.”
5. Be in partnership with your doctor and advocate for yourself.
Your doctor should be your partner. It is that simple. This person should not judge you and they shouldn’t dismiss your feelings. With that said, a partnership is a two way street. As a patient, you need to be an active partner as well. You know your body best, but you should always check in with your doctor. Ask questions. Your doctor would rather you ask a question than be sick or in pain. Take notes when you go to the doctor, or bring a friend or family member with you to help. Most of all, advocate for your health needs and pay attention – especially when dealing with more than one doctor. Are they giving you conflicting advice? In the age of technology and electronic medical records, keeping track of these issues is easier than ever. Take advantage of it, for your health’s sake!
This time of year is seen as a time to slow down a bit. Just ask your average bear. Humans, too, slow their pace to enjoy the cooler weather (and football) and to reflect on the upcoming days filled with family and friends.
At Westside a Family Health Center we seem to have our seasons confused. For us, this time of year is a season of new ideas and growth:
Forty-one years ago on Dec. 27, 1974 our first Board of Directors executed our Articles of Incorporation for what was to become Westside Family Health Center.
Five years ago in September we launched our 36' mobile medical unit, which currently provides care at five LAUSD schools and a community mental health center.
Two Octobers ago we enrolled thousands of our patients and community members in insurance plans as part of the Affordable Care Act.
And on November 3, 2015 we opened a new set of doors in West LA at 11101 Venice Boulevard to provide prenatal care, women's health and family practice to the immediate community. Westside Family Health Center-WLA is open five days a week, Monday through Friday. The four-exam room clinic provides direct patient services and will expand to 30 hours weekly in January. We expect to provide access to an additional 3,000 patients annually in 8,000 visits.
Our recognition as a Federally Qualified Health Center, our patient-centered medical home designation by the National Committee on Quality Assurance and the implementation of electronic health records including the patient portal, are more examples of our expansion and adaption to a health environment that is ever changing.
This, too, is a season of gratitude. As we enter our 42nd year of service to the community, we are grateful to you, our Westside Family Health Center family. Because of you, we have blossomed since our original doors opened in 1974. On behalf of our WFHC family, thank you.
President and Chief Executive Officer
As many of you now know, on January 9th I was admitted to the hospital for acute respiratory failure and congestive heart failure. Ten days later, I underwent double bypass surgery. All this happened suddenly and with no pain - just the inability to breathe. I wasn't sick – just broken. The outpouring of love and support I received when I let people know what was happening was overwhelming and made a significant impact on my life.
Unsurprisingly, this ordeal also gave me a new appreciation for WFHC and what we do. We help the most vulnerable populations - uninsured, low income or disenfranchised. Without us, people have nowhere to go. We help our patients have healthy babies. We help keep their children healthy through check-ups, immunizations and education. We help women plan their families to best suit their life timeframe. We help teens learn more about their bodies and make responsible decisions. We help men and women fight off chronic conditions, but if they happen – we help them manage those chronic conditions so they have many healthy years ahead of them to spend with family and friends.
WFHC has been providing high quality, patient-centered care since its founding 41 years ago as a feminist women's health center. Using the same philosophy of education, empowerment and partnership as our founders, WFHC has become the medical home to nearly 10,000 Angelenos.
And in this time of constant change and innovation, the health of our patients and the community remains our top priority. The Board of Directors has approved a plan that will see us in a larger space. This will not only allow us to expand our current programs of family practice, prenatal care, pediatrics, reproductive health and community outreach and education, but it will also allow us to offer new, needed programs in mental and behavioral health, dental care and vision care.
What I learned in early January is that every day is a new day filled with new hopes, dreams and expectations. More importantly, they are filled with love and support for those of us who dream bigger dreams for our community. Without the support of our donors, volunteers, team, community and patients throughout the year, we could not do the work we do. So, thank you from the bottom of my newly-fixed heart.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
This newsletter’s theme is gratitude and that got me thinking about my Westside Family Health Center family. While I thank you often, I know it is never often enough for all that you do to go above and beyond what I and the Board of Directors ask. Your success is our success and your work is what moves the big picture forward, one runny nose, life-saving immunization, electronic health record and kind word at a time.
Your contributions have meaning through the women, men and children that you serve. You make a difference in the lives of families in this community. Although sometimes the work is hard, we know there are no shortcuts to any place worth going and I am glad I am going with you.
To our funders, volunteers, community partners and Board of Directors, I value your time, energy, partnership, expertise and your support, both through your checkbooks and through your encouragement and guidance.
To our patients, thank you for choosing Westside Family Health Center and for putting your faith and trust in us. We are honored that you put your health in our hands.
All of you have chosen to be a part of Westside Family Health Center and therefore we are all connected - each a part of the whole. Thank you for living by your word of gratitude and appreciation. We have accomplished so much this year and we have many great things on the horizon. I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish next!
Someone asked me why this year, our 40th year, was so special. It’s special because of all of our patients, donors, volunteers and team members and what they represent – our past, present and future. It is special because we have done more than persevered over the years – we have fought to be here through hard times. We have grown our services to meet the comprehensive medical needs of the community in both good times and bad times. Adding prenatal in 1990, pediatrics in 1992, adolescent health in 1994, family practice in 1999, a mobile unit in 2011 and four LAUSD schools in 2013. We continue to educate and inform thereby empowering our patients to take control of their healthy futures. We are and always have been patient-centered and in 2013 were formally recognized as a Patient-Centered Health Home. Our quality indicators for patient outcomes are some of the highest in the state amongst community health centers tracked by the federal government.
We are proud to represent the vision and strategic thought of our founders every single day and thank them for having the courage and foresight to found the Women’s Health Care Project in 1974.
Whenever I am asked about all the changes taking place today, my response is really very simple – for the 15 years I have been at Westside Family Health Center change is a constant. We have learned to adjust, adapt and move forward. Our future plans encompass those same principles. Our plans are to open a community health and wellness center that includes: three times as many exam rooms from our current six; 6-10 dental operatories to provide much needed oral health; 10 counseling offices to meet the mental and behavioral health needs of our patients; and classroom space – among them a demonstration kitchen – to expand our incredible offering of education classes and will include fitness for both children and adults and cooking classes to help our patients meet their nutritional needs.
And that’s just the beginning because there is so much more we would like to do, including expanding our partnerships throughout the community. We have great partners who help meet the needs and dreams of all of us and our patients – that will continue through joint projects and co-locations.
That’s why 40 years are so special. There are much bigger health centers, but none more mighty than Westside Family Health Center.