Editor’s Note: For Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating women who have played significant roles in the health center movement. Also view our profiles of Jessie Trice, Dr. Marilyn Gaston and Carmela Castellano-Garcia.
Janie B. Geer, LPN, was a nurse turned activist who served on the National Association of Community Health Centers’ Board of Directors in multiple roles, including Secretary, over nearly four decades.
After moving from North Carolina and settling in Maryland, Geer dedicated herself to improving the lives of her neighbors in Northwest Baltimore. Her community activism knew no limits. She fought aggressively for the health needs of those without a voice. In 1971, around the same time a small number of other health centers were launching opening doors around the country, she advanced her vision of high-quality affordable health care for all as a founding board member of Park West Medical Center.
Over the next 40-plus years, Geer was committed to making sure that Park West Medical Center remained true to its original mission while being flexible enough to withstand the changing health care environment. She served as the president of the health center’s Board and was also bestowed with the status of Board Member Emeritus. All the while, Geer provided guidance and leadership to the Community Health Center Movement. She was instrumental in helping to develop NACHC training programming for health center board members.
Geer’s activism involved meeting with Members of Congress, as well as state legislators, year after year, fighting for the health care needs of the uninsured and people with low to moderate incomes and was sought after for advice and perspectives by her colleagues and high-level officials, including the late Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
“She fought for people who couldn’t afford health care,” her granddaughter, Sharon Bratcher-Thomas, told the Baltimore Sun. “She went to Annapolis and Washington, and lobbied for what she believed in.”
Geer passed away in 2016. Over her lifetime she was recognized by many entities for her achievements, including by the Maryland House of Delegates and the Congressional Black Caucus. Park West set up a nursing scholarship in her honor.