Many of us in Leadership Class of 2013 joked that the agenda for Health and Human Services Day should have come with a warning: “bring your tissue box ” and/or “wear waterproof mascara.” Fellow classmate Don Scantlan reflected: “What an emotional day…from watching babies in St. Mary's Hospital fighting for their lives to the Alzheimers Care Center and just about every one of life's challenges in between.” While certainly a moving experience for all, everyone agreed that it was also inspiring to learn more about some of the diverse services and resources in Palm Beach County.
To jumpstart our action-packed day, we met outside the Palm Healthcare Pavilion and Mollie Wilmot Center, and proceeded to walk to breakfast in the conference center of St. Mary’s Hospital. Eugenia Millender led “framing the day” and we were welcomed by Don Chester, Assistant Administrator for Community and Government Relations, who led a PowerPoint presentation about St. Mary’s alongside Julie Timm, Marketing Manager. Lisa Rocheleau, Assistant Administrator of Pediatrics for Palm Beach Children’s Hospital also joined the discussion and touched upon some of the more compelling reasons why St. Mary’s work is so rewarding. Our classmate Caroline Eaton captivated us with the history and future of the Paley Institute and her experiences with the esteemed Dr. Paley. Following this, we broke into smaller groups so that we could tour some of the facilities. At the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Lori Matich, Director of Women’s and Neonatal Services, talked about caring for the youngest members of our community. Additionally, we toured the Trauma Center and Stroke Center, where we were entranced by the complex technology and practices that go into helping some of the most at-risk people in our community. These are certainly not the places in which you ever want to find yourself or a loved one, but they nonetheless play an integral role in our community and we are extremely grateful have these services present. With her usual warm demeanor, Patricia Brown did a wonderful job of both introducing and thanking our speakers for this portion of the day.
Shortly thereafter, we departed for the Senator Philip D. Lewis Center, where class member Joanne Stanley proudly introduced the speakers, including Ezra Krieg, Program Director (Class of 2007). Many of us found it hard to believe that such a facility—so clearly needed—had only just opened its doors a few months prior. I think this made it apparent how much farther our community needs to go in terms of addressing the needs of one of our most vulnerable populations. The topics discussed included the educational campaign “Faces of Homelessness” and the “Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Palm Beach County.” Marilyn Munoz, Executive Director of Homeless Coalition of PBC and Leo Abdella, Director of Community Relations at Christ Fellowship Church, also presented their backgrounds and shared how their own personal brushes with homelessness have served them well in their work. Moreover, we had the chance for a Q&A session with speakers and partner organizations. I was thrilled to see one of my mentors, Diana Stanley, Chief Executive Officer of The Lord’s Place, at the table, along with other influential figures in the homelessness arena including Kim Parnett, Case Work Supervisor in the Division of Human Services Homeless Services Program, Jacqueline Lobban-Marsan, FQHC Executive Director, Director Health Access Division, and Yanick Gribkoff, Homeless Program Director, Palm Beach County Health Department. This section of the day was particularly moving for me because of my past work with The Lord’s Place and my familiarity with issues surrounding homelessness and mental illness.
Immediately following, we departed for the Quantum House, where we were warmly greeted by the staff, including their dynamic Executive Director, Roberta Jurney (Class of 2011). This is a place I had heard about for years so I was excited that it was part of our agenda. It did not disappoint! Ms. Jurney moved us with her description of the mission of Quantum House; many of those in my group also reflected on how inspiring it was to witness Ms. Jurney’s passion for her work, as was the case with the other individuals we met on this day. As Ms. Jurney so poignantly reminded some of us, her international visitors at Quantum are always surprised by the culture of volunteerism in America and I share her pride in our country’s volunteer spirit. Following her talk, we enjoyed a delicious lunch provided by Panera Bread, and classmates had an opportunity to mingle.
After touring the Quantum House, we departed for downtown West Palm Beach to visit the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County. Pam Gionfriddo, CEO, welcomed us before we began a lively Jeopardy game led by Rene?e Layman, Clinical Director, and Val Stanley, Program Director, Mental Health Association. This fun competition was certainly the most spirited event of the day – and our classmate John Howe in particular led his team with many laughs (“2-1-1” anyone?). As we passed around delicious treats for this bitter-sweet part of the day, we heard moving personal stories from a Parent-Child Center Crossroads Resident. Additionally, we heard from DeAnna Warren, Executive Director of Genesis Community Health, Inc., and even our classmate, Dena Sisk Foman, who bravely and eloquently spoke about her personal experiences with those battling with mental illness. I am sure all of the people in the room have been touched in some way by mental health issues and I know we were glad to learn that these organizations are working collectively to fight the unfortunate stigma surrounding mental illness.
After bidding farewell, we boarded the bus and made our way to Alzheimer’s Community Care, where Brenda Morgan introduced Mary Barnes, President and CEO. Immediately proceeding Ms. Barnes’s introduction, we formed into groups and went on tours of the facility. Ms. Barnes reviewed the history, facility and achievements, while Rob Sommer, Director of Marketing, showed us a moving video of the organization’s services and resources. I think this may have been the part of the tour where I learned the most. I was surprised to discover that Palm Beach County has the highest national incidence of Alzheimers, with this disease affecting over 55,000 people in our county. Both talked about the “community-based care” component of their mission statement as the most important part, a theme that resounded throughout out day. We rounded our day out with a tour of the Day Care Service Center with questions answered by Don Du Chateau, Vice President of Marketing, and Lisa Collins, Supervisor of Specialized Day Services. As we boarded the bus for our final destination, I felt we had indeed come full circle, now better able to appreciate how providers address complex challenges across the entire aging spectrum.
Finally, we departed for the Palm Healthcare Pavilion and Mollie Wilmot Center, where we engaged in a session entitled “Bringing it all together: Collaboration for better health outcomes.” Melanie Otero, Vice President of External Affairs at the Palm Healthcare Foundation, welcomed us and spoke in part about the importance and sources of funding for organizations. We then went on Pavilion Tours, including a captivating tour of the FAU Medical School Health Professions Simulation Center given by Lew Steinberg, Program Manager. I think my classmates would agree that this was the most fascinating tour, with its bizarrely life-like, computer-controlled “high fidelity” mannequins. We also had the chance to learn about the FAU College of Nursing Diabetes Education & Research Center with a presentation by Siobhan Mcrostie Gross, RN, Certified Diabetes Educator; immediately following, we toured the colorfully painted hallways of the children’s Medical Services, led by Nursing Supervisor Cheryl Wallin. Throughout this part of our day, I was intrigued to learn about some of these unique and leading-edge healthcare and human services programs that are offered in our community—many of which are only a ten-minute drive from my home. The day concluded with our wrap up and evaluations, with reflections on the day by Roberta Jurney. She reminded us of the significance of these countless and often selfless people in our community who serve in the capacity of “professional neighbors.” And last of all, we gathered together for Leadership Plus in the beautiful, bright lobby of the Palm Healthcare Pavilion, where we had the welcomed chance to mingle with alumni.
After a long, productive, and motivational day, we all returned home with a deeper knowledge of the myriad of health and human services in our community. In the words of classmate Christopher Noe, this day made us truly grateful to witness “the best of humanity.” We thank sponsors St. Mary's Medical Center, Quantum House, Palm Healthcare Foundation, United Healthcare, and the Class of 2011 for an unforgettable experience.