From the CEO's Desk
Kathy Wood-Dobbins, CEO
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Section: Spotlight Articles, December 2017

Kathy Wood-Dobbins, CEOThe close of 2017 is a good time to reflect on the ways Tennessee’s Community Health Centers and the Tennessee Primary Care Association have forged ahead toward the mission of improving access to health care for all Tennesseans. Today, Tennessee CHCs serve almost 400,000 Tennesseans, providing 1.3 million patient visits. Many Tennesseans rely on a Community Health Center as their health care home. Health centers are expanding and integrating their services by providing dental services to more than 40,000 patients and behavioral health services to 42,000 patients.
The Tennessee Primary Care Association also has grown, bringing value to health centers through its leadership, advocacy, and support. It is a point of pride for me that every Community Health Center in Tennessee renews its membership in TPCA year after year. I am also proud of the accomplishments of the talented TPCA staff in the areas of health policy and advocacy, clinical, oral health, training and education, technical assistance, technology support, and member services. Our 2017 Annual Report provides additional details about these accomplishments.
The new year will bring changes for TPCA and also for me personally as I will be retiring in June 2018. As that date draws nearer, I have reminisced about my experiences – including arriving for my first day of work on April 15, 1991. I joined a staff of three. We soon decided to lead the way in technology by purchasing our first fax machine and encouraging every health center to purchase one, too, so we could quickly communicate with one another. Today, TPCA has more than 20 staff positions. Now, 93 percent of health centers use electronic health records and TPCA has taken a lead in data analytics. I could not have imagined the changes I would witness in clinical care, expansion of services, and payment reform that have mostly resulted in better patient care and a more effective health care system. What a ride it has been!
While much has changed, the core of this work remains the same. Early on, I developed a deep respect for the staff, leaders, and clinicians who serve health center patients every day and that has not changed. Their daily example has been the fuel that has powered my work over these years. What a privilege it has been to serve and support health centers!  Many great friendships have been forged and I am grateful for colleagues who have made such a difference in my life and taught me so much. I will miss the drives on rural Tennessee roads to visit health centers. It moves me to see the faces of the people sitting in their waiting rooms, young children who deserve a chance at a healthy future, and adults whose faces are already weathered by their difficult lives. While I will move on to another chapter in my retirement, an abiding love for Community Health Centers has been engrained in me.
In the coming months, the TPCA board of directors will recruit TPCA’s next CEO, who will bring new approaches and ideas for this important work. I look forward to welcoming my successor and passing the torch. In the meantime, I hope to take several more drives to visit health centers in order to thank many of you in person.

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