Paul Gionfriddo, CEO of Mental Health America

This week, hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter speak with Paul Gionfriddo, CEO of Mental Health America, the nation’s oldest organization dedicated to advancing access to mental services for all Americans. He discusses the need to change the nation’s response to mental illness from a public safety to a public health approach.

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Dr. Lisa Simpson, President and CEO of Academy Health

This week, hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter speak with Dr. Lisa Simpson, President and CEO of Academy Health, a non-partisan, non-profit research entity dedicated to improving health and health systems, and informing policy through better use of data. They discuss the research focus at Academy Health as well as  their recent sponsorship of Health Datapalooza, an annual gathering of health industry researchers and activists seeking to “liberate” siloed health data to accelerate the pace of research.

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Meet Featured Nurse Mary Blankson, DNP, APRN, FNP-C

With a vibrant smile and calm demeanor, Mary Blankson stepped out of the elevator and into the rooftop conference room. I had been looking forward to our conversation all day. I had heard nothing but wonderful things about her and I wanted to know more.

She began by telling me she was once a pre-med student at Tufts University in Boston. During her junior year, however, she decided pre-med wasn’t for her. After meeting with an advisor and researching some other opportunities, she realized becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner was what really stood out to her.

Upon the completion of her undergrad at Tufts, Mary was accepted into Yale University’s Graduate Entry Pre-Specialty Nursing Program on the Family Nurse Practitioner Track. When the time came to apply for nursing jobs, a classmate shared she was going to be applying to Community Health Center, Inc. in Connecticut and suggested Mary do the same. Taking the advice of her friend, Mary applied and received a phone call for an interview here at CHC. She recalls being nervous during the interview but she was ultimately hired as a nurse for CHC’s New London site.

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Mary shared that when she was hired in 2005, Ingrid Feder, the Onsite Medical Director (OSMD) for her site, was very supportive and played a significant role in Mary’s success at CHC. Mary loved working in the clinical practice and felt the experience made her a well-rounded clinician.

Mary’s hard work and dedication paid off, and in 2012 she became the OSMD for CHC’s Groton and New London sites. Mary shared she loved being the OSMD because she said she truly enjoyed advocating for not only her patients but also her staff.

In 2014, while Mary was pursuing her Doctorate in Nursing Practice at Johns Hopkins University, she received a phone call from the chief nursing officer who told Mary she was going to be leaving CHC and thought Mary should apply for the position.  On July 1, 2014 Mary started as chief nursing officer. She made sure to attribute her success to all of those who helped her along the way.

During her career, Mary has served CHC in a number of ways: she was a Nurse Practitioner (NP) Residency leader and preceptor in New London, where she provides guidance to residents during their time at CHC; she was a Microsystems team leader; she served as the VP of Medical Staff, where she was responsible for providing assistance to the Chief Medical Officer; and she spent some time as a family NP in a school-based setting at the ISAAC school, where she was able to see a different side of the services provided by CHC.

When I asked Mary her favorite part of working at CHC, she said she loves working with her teams because of how important they are. She loves being a mentor and supporter to anyone who crosses her path. There is never a day without a challenge and she appreciates having the opportunity to think and learn from different situations. Mary ended by sharing that she has a passion for teaching and helping to make others better.

CHC is lucky to have such a kind and compassionate employee taking care of patients and guiding our nurses and medical assistants.

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Meet Featured Nurse Sarahi Almonte

Sarahí Almonte always knew she wanted to have a career that would positively change the lives of others, so she spent the first 15 years of her career as a community organizer. After being diagnosed with Stage 4 Endometriosis, Sarahi had a hysterectomy and had to spend a period of time recovering in the hospital. During her stay, she realized the nurses taking care of her had a great impact on her life. Not only were they taking care of her, but they were supporting and encouraging her throughout her healing process.

Sarahí realized she wanted to become a nurse. She was accepted to and graduated from the Accelerated Nursing Program at Quinnipiac University. Then, in October 2014, she began her first nursing job at CHC Meriden. After working at CHC Meriden for over a year, a nurse supervisor position opened up at CHC Bristol. Sarahi saw the job posting and applied, and shortly after she was offered the job.

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Although nursing is different from any other job she has had, Sarahí loves knowing she is making a difference in the lives of her patients. She expects patients to be honest with her so she can help in every way possible. The most important thing she can do is pay attention to all of the details related to a patient. Sarahí looks past her patient’s aliments and diseases and gets to know the real person. She loves being able to see changes for the better in her patients and she wants them all to know she will continuously be there to help them.

Sarahí loves working at CHC because she feels supported and knows she has the opportunity to grow within the organization. Each day holds a different experience and she is always learning something new. Sarahí finds comfort in knowing that she is surrounded by people who are consistently teaching her new things and strengthening her every step of the way.  She is thankful to all of the nurses who have supported her during this transition.

Transitioning to a new career is challenging and one that she has met with open arms. As she embarks on this journey with an open heart and mind, she understands that they key to success in any aspect of your life begins with a simple question, “Are you doing what you Love?” If the answer is no, then you take time to reflect. If the answer is yes, it will show in everything you do.

Fun fact about Sarahí: In her free time she enjoys writing, playing guitar, riding her bike, and playing with her two dogs.

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Meet Featured Nurse Jen Martin

A little over a year ago Jen Martin was standing on a sidewalk cheering on her sister who was running the Middletown Half Marathon. Jen couldn’t help but notice the large, beautiful building behind her. After she saw the Community Health Center sign, she told herself she would have to look it up later. A few weeks passed and Jen continued on with her normal schedule as a nurse manager at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. One night she remembered the Community Health Center sign and decided to finally look it up.

When Jen read the mission and vision she was instantly drawn to CHC and everything it had to offer. She decided to see if they had any openings and to her surprise, they were hiring a nurse manager. Jen applied and a few days later she was called for an interview. Recalling the session, Jen said she interviewed CHC just as much as they interviewed her. She knew after each phase of the interview process that CHC would be the place for her, and it was.

In July of 2015 Jen began her role as the nurse manager at CHC in New Britain and Enfield. Managing two sites can be a little overwhelming at times but it is also a great learning experience. She believes it is important to be accessible and visible to all the nurses and medical assistants at both of locations. Jen wants her team to know that she is always ready to help with whatever they might need.  Jen loves her team, coworkers, and the environment CHC has created for its employees, and patients.

As if managing two sites didn’t keep her busy enough, Jen precepts nurses in Middletown one day a week during the spring. She is more than happy to coach young nurses because she loves helping them connect the dots from acute care to primary care and teaching them the importance of the nursing role in primary care. Another benefit of precepting nurses is that it means she is learning from them as well as teaching.

Jen feels one of the most significant parts of her job is creating a sense of team worth. She makes it her goal to demonstrate how each role is valuable and how it completes the patient process and experience. Jen enjoys moving patients through her care efficiently and effectively while delivering the highest possible quality of care. She enjoys helping her team build relationships with their patients and helping them create and maintain goals. Whether patients are managing chronic pain, asthma, or weight loss she loves that CHC follows up to make sure we are meeting patients’ needs and preferences.

Although this role is different from any other nursing job Jen has had, she loves it and enjoys coming to work each day. Jen is a clear team leader who will always be pushing her team to be the best they can be.

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Meet Featured Nurse Hilary Sullivan

When I picked up the phone to call RN Hilary Sullivan I didn’t know what to expect. The only thing I knew about her was that she’s new to CHC. I was excited to get to know more about her and the journey that led her here.

I learned that Hilary received her undergraduate degree from UConn with an individualized major focused around health, culture and society. She shared she always had an interest in healthcare but never knew exactly what she wanted to do in such a large and diverse field. Shadowing a number of nurses for different classes helped define her career path. After graduation Hilary was accepted into the Accelerated Nursing Program at Quinnipiac, and like every nursing student, she had to do a number of clinical rotations in order to obtain her degree.

One of Hilary’s rotations was here at CHC and she became increasingly interested in the organization and everything it had to offer. After graduating from Quinnipiac, Hilary applied for an open nursing position at CHC and she was offered the job. In January, Hilary began her career as a nurse at our New London and Clinton locations.

While every day is different, Hilary is responsible for talking to patients on the phone to deliver results, answer questions, and coordinate care. Hilary takes time out of each day to look at her patient panel to determine if a patient needs more care, or to see if CHC has a program that could benefit the patient. In addition to doing care coordination for patients, nurses at CHC get to have their own nurse visit schedule and support provider visits.

Hilary loves working at CHC because she learns something new every day. Her patients come from all over the world and they all have their own unique stories. Her day is never dull and she enjoys taking care of and getting to know her patients. Her favorite part of each day is the hands on interaction she has with her patients in the clinical setting.

Hilary also shared she loves how supportive CHC is of its employees and their future goals within the organization. She knows CHC was a great place to start her career and she can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.

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Dan Munro, Author of Casino Healthcare: The Health of the Nation: America’s Biggest Gamble

This week, hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter speak with health industry analyst and writer, Dan Munro, author of the newly-released “Casino Healthcare: The Health of the Nation: America’s Biggest Gamble”. They discuss the nation’s 3.4 trillion dollar a year health care system, what’s behind these costs, and what might be done to correct it.

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Meet Featured Nurse Bernalda (Bernie) Delgado

On a cold, rainy Tuesday I had the opportunity to meet with Nightingale Award recipient Bernie Delgado. The cold and rain didn’t seem to matter. When we made our way up to the roof top meeting space at CHC Middletown Headquarters, we both thought the views and freshly budding garden beds were still beautiful.

As we sat down, Bernie began by telling me that she came to CHC in 1999 as a Medical Assistant (MA) at our New Britain location. She spent six years in New Britain, and when she left she was the Senior MA. She then began to work at the School-Based Health Center in New Britain where she worked her way up to Senior MA yet again. During that time, Bernie was working full-time and going to school part-time to become a nurse.

After a lot of hard work and dedication, Bernie received her degree.  She took a position as a nurse at CHC for the WYA (Wherever You Are) Program. The WYA program is made up of a special team that consists of a nurse practitioner, registered nurse, substance abuse counselor, and outreach worker. The team operates small, efficient clinics within six homeless, domestic violence, and transitional shelters in New Britain, Wallingford, Meriden, and Middletown.

The goal of the program is to assess the health needs of every shelter resident, provide prompt treatment for acute problems, update the individual on necessary preventive care such as immunizations and screenings, and then connect the individual with one of our sites for any on-going primary care.

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Bernie’s schedule is much different from the majority of the nurses at CHC. She spends each day at multiple locations where she sometimes does the job of both the MA and the nurse. The busy schedule doesn’t bother her though; she enjoys learning and having the opportunity to try new things.

Although she is supposed to have Friday’s off, she finds that there is always work to be done. If she doesn’t have any work to catch up on, Bernie will often fill-in at another location if they are down a nurse.  She would rather know she is working and making a difference in a patient’s life.

Bernie shared the hardest part of her job is not being able to do anything more for a patient. When I asked her what her favorite part about working at CHC was, her response was instantaneous; she wakes up every morning energized and ready to go to work. She loves working with this population and making a difference in the quality of their lives.

When I asked her to tell me more about the Nightingale Award she recently received, she told me she was shocked to find out she was the recipient. However, after my conversation with her I would have been surprised to hear she didn’t get it. Her hard work, passion and dedication to CHC was clear through our entire conversation. She deserved this award, and CHC is so proud of her and her accomplishments!

Fun fact about Bernie: her ultimate goal is to retire here at CHC!

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Dr. Patrick Conway, Deputy Administrator for Innovation & Quality and Chief Medical Officer at CMS

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has launched sweeping new changes to the way it pays for health care in this country, stressing the value and quality of care delivery and outcomes. This week, hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter speak with Dr. Patrick Conway, Deputy Administrator and Chief Medical Officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Dr. Conway is spearheading the agency’s efforts to transform American health care from fee-for-service to value based care, and discusses the alternative care delivery and payment models aimed at achieving that goal.

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Eric Dishman, Director of the Precision Medicine Initiative at the National Institutes of Health

This week hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter speak with Eric Dishman, newly appointed Director of the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program at the National Institutes of Health which seeks to galvanize a million American volunteers to offer their electronic health information to be coalesced in a national data base that will advance research in the discovery of disease cures and prevention.

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