The NACHC 2017 Agricultural Worker Health Conference is underway in Savannah, GA. Migrant heath centers currently serve nearly 1 million of the estimated 4 million agricultural workers in the country, and they are on course to boost up that number to 2 million patients served by year 2020. Today the focus of the conference was on the health center leaders who have dedicated their lives to serving a vulnerable and disenfranchised population. Mark Koday, DDS, Chief Dental Officer at Yakima Valley Farmworkers Clinic (YVFWC) based in Toppenish, WA, and Stephen Schilling, Chief Executive Officer of Clinica Sierra Vista in Bakersfield, CA, were presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards in Migrant Health.
Both awardees are veterans of the frontlines of community health. Dr. Koday joined Yakima Valley as part of the National Health Service Corps. Under his leadership YVFWC has ushered in 10 dental clinics across Washington and Oregon, not to mention two residency programs for general and pediatric dentistry and four mobile dental units. Yet, Dr. Koday’s approach is to look at the whole health of the patient. “Dentists tend to see teeth a lot,” he said. “Sometimes we have to take a different look and see the patient and where they are coming from. Things make a lot of sense when you do that.”
Steve Schilling has spent nearly 45 years at the helm of Clinica Sierra Vista, one of the largest community health center networks in California — and the fourth largest community health system in the nation. With a staff of more than 1200, it provides an expansive array of vitally needed health and social services. Its programs reaches more than 200,000 patients at 75 sites, covering a three county-wide region. Clinica’s phenomenal growth from a one-time small, storefront health clinic is testament to the leadership and vision of Schilling. “To find and nurture a professional home amidst a family of caring friends in a challenging job — it doesn’t get any better than that,” Schilling once said. “I remain committed to the goals of community based health care; and ultimately, to the outcome of universal access and human justice.”
Other health center leaders honored with the 2017 Migrant Health Awards are: Claudia Gonzalez, Board Member, Community Health Of South Florida, Inc; and Alicia Gonzales, Director of Consulting and Professional Development Services for the National Center for Farmworker Health.
The Maine Migrant Health Program, which was established 26 years ago in 1991, was also honored with the 2017 Outstanding Migrant Health Center Award. The highly successful program utilizes mobile medical units to reach out to agricultural workers in fields, canneries and nurseries in the entire state.