The opening general session at the 2022 CHI & Expo in Chicago featured notable speakers, including Congressman Danny Davis, from the 7th Congressional District of Illinois, and Jane Pauley, host of the CBS Sunday Morning show. Davis started out the session by noting his deep roots in Chicago, “a city of health centers.” He walked the audience through a brief history of health centers and the challenges that loom ahead in the future — 340B, the funding cliff and workforce. Davis, who ran a health center before being elected to Congress, challenged attendees to “establish strategic connections with the goal of building integrated and coordinated systems of care to build community health. We can’t do this alone. We’ve got to grow our advocacy and find new ways to engage others.”
Congressman Davis also amplified the need to address mental health issues, maternal mortality, and LGBTQ+ care. This includes utilizing tool such as social media to become a stronger presence to help document the costly impact of ongoing health disparities.
Veteran journalist Jane Pauley took the stage, along with Marc Hackett, the CEO of the Community Heath Center that bears her name in the Warren Township of Indiana: the Jane Pauley Community Health Center. The center was established in 2009 and now serves more than 100,000 patient visits through 12 sites spanning four counties. Pauley movingly described how her legacy will live through the health center, and how receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at age 50 has shaped her focus about the critical need for access to behavioral health services.
“Sometimes, it’s the hard parts that make the most in your life,” Pauley said. “There’s an obvious health need, so I applaud your ideas to innovate, and the network of your strengths. I want to stop using the word ‘stigma’ while we fight [views on mental health]. I want to fight it stronger. Fight mental health issues with hope and creativity but stop using the word.”
The session ended with the presentation of multiple achievement awards for health center leaders that have made a significant impact in their communities. In receiving the John Gilbert Award, Sonya Bruton, CEO and president of CCI Health Services in Washington D.C., had a particularly strong message for those in attendance.
“I am because you are,” Bruton said. “All we need to do now is harvest and excavate this knowledge and power to take this movement and advance this model so that soon we become the answer to all the medical needs of the community. Let’s take our hearts and minds and begin to evolve and advance this movement.”
Bruton was one of six awardees honored for their dedication and service to underserved communities during the opening session. The full list of award recipients include:
- Sonya Bruton, Psy.D., CEO and president of CCI Health Services (John Gilbert Award)
- Hiroshi Nakano, board member, International Community Health Services (Ethel Bond Memorial Consumer Award)
- Jocelyn Pedrosa, MD, chief medical officer, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services (Samuel U. Rodgers, MD Achievement Award)
- Gil Munoz, chief executive officer, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center (Louis S. Garcia Community/Migrant Health Services Award)
- Jonathan Watson, executive director, Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers (Norton Wilson State/Regional Leadership Award)
- The Honorable Greg Harris, majority leader, Illinois House of Representatives (Aaron L. Brown Memorial Public Service Award)