By Rodney Brown
Along with members from the families of Dr. Anthony L. Jordan (1892-1971) and Dr. Kenneth Woodward (1928-1996), the attendees enjoyed lunch as recipients of this year’s AJHC Awards, and were honored for their immeasurable work in the Rochester community.
The 8th Annual Patients First Awards covered three categories, including the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award, President’s Award and Partner Award.
W. Stewart Beecher M.D. received the 2015 AJHC Lifetime Achievement Award, which the organization created in order to honor a local advocate who has made significant contributions in the areas of public health, and/or community development.
The Rochester Area Community Foundation received the 2015 AJHC President’s Award. This award has been given each year to an individual who has served and advocated for members of the upstate region, in order to further the health, education, and well-being of area neighborhoods, Anthony Jordan officials said.
And, finally, Foodlink received the 2015 AJHC Partner Award, which recognizes the roles played by organizations that serve the same population as Jordan Health.
The health services which eventually became the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center began more than 100 years ago, in 1904. The center was located in a neighborhood where the most pressing needs existed. Dr. Jordan, the second African-American doctor in Rochester, is affectionately remembered by organization officials for his service to underserved and uninsured residents.
Dr. Woodward also played a large role in building Anthony Jordan Health Center’s, Northeast Health Center, Genesee Health Center, and Westside Health Center.
“Jordan Health is the gold standard in public health, in its strength and its ability to demonstrate love and care, concern and commitment,” Gaynelle Wethers, chair of Jordan Health Corporation’s board, stated. “It is the reason why we are gathered here today to celebrate. Dr. Jordan led the way, in this model of care, because he understood that his patients’ health had a correlation to the health of their surrounding community. The corporation’s board is entrusted to ensure the continuation of Dr. Jordan’s legacy of care, concern and commitment.”
However, Jordan Health’s commitment to provide home-based healthcare, which is affordable and accessible to all, has come with challenges, Dr. Janice Harbin, CEO of Jordan Health, said.
“Jordan Health has face challenges over the last year,” she stated. “Besides having our brand-new roof leak, which destroyed our foyer area, we have been challenged by a healthcare landscape that’s rapidly changing. The challenge has been to understand the true impact of these new, major initiatives, in terms of how they will change our ability to deliver healthcare to our patients, or remain true to our legacy and mission, which has sustained us over the last decade. It’s disheartening, and, unfortunately, not for the first time, the harsh reality of the relentless poverty that our patients face has hit home, as we cope with the three young lives lost outside our Woodward Health Center, and the deep sadness, and trauma, for our staff, and the community we serve. When the health of our community, and our patients, is at stake, you can bet on Jordan Health to show up.”
“On the days when it seems that every problem we fix, two more pops up, it is easy to begin to understand how much Jordan Health has accomplished over the last year, so now it’s time for me to do a little bragging,” said Dr. Harbin, jokingly, and then in an earnest manner. “Four years ago, the Anthony L. Jordan Health Corporation consisted of one, single comprehensive center, and a website. Today, we have ten clinical sites, and high quality, neighborhood-based healthcare centers located within reach, in three quadrants of the city. The growth of our patient population shows we are meeting a need for accessible primary care. After a dark time, when it seemed the various systems of community health systems was in jeopardy, we have achieved financial, and fiscal stability, and have maintained a positive balance sheet, even as we have other undertakings, and significant expansions.”
Organization officials tapped Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint to be the keynote speaker for the event. Poussaint, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, has become well-known for his insight into critical issues which affect children, individuals, and families. In his address, he asked, “How do you get people to change their lifestyles? How do you get people to care more about their health?”
And, in response to open-floor questions, Poussaint said, “I think that, fundamentally, both with mental health, and with physical health, how you care for yourself is, in part, related to how much you like and love yourself. How worthy do you feel? What kind of self-esteem do you have? It’s an actuality which also plays out in violent incidences, people attacking, and shooting each other. The question is not what they think of other people’s lives, but what do they think of their own lives? People who don’t feel worthy about their own lives, will frequently devalue the lives of other people. And, particularly other people who look like them.”
“People of various races, including Hispanics but prominently African Americans, have a strong history of being racially profiled in a terroristic way,” Dr. Poussaint stated. “Blacks were enslaved for 250 years. Can you imagine that? What it was like for the early slaves, who were hoping for freedom that wasn’t going to come for another 250 years? Then, after 250 years, there was 100 years of Jim Crow segregation. During that time, one of the things that were impressed on black slaves was that their lives were not worth anything, and that their lives didn’t count. Now, bare that in mind, because if you look at all the institutions in society, including education and law enforcement, certain things happen because of structural racism, in which the society doesn’t believe that a black life is worth as much as a white life. It gets acted out. And, because of that indoctrination, a lot of black people feel that.
“One of the other things about terrorism is that, it brainwashes the victims, and makes them feel inferior,” he added. “How deep does that go? You think it has been over 250 years, and it’s still being passed down? What does that make you think about yourself? What does it do to you, over the long-term? How many slaves were brought here, and brutalized, terrorized, and even killed? The way we think of it, as defining it today, is, how many slaves do you think suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder? It has been passed down through generations, that kind of stress and oppression, that went on and on, and I think it still affects us today. Post-traumatic slavery syndrome has to do with all the legacies of slavery, and discrimination, that blacks are still feeling in this society, that are so structured in the system, and they are very hard to undue.”