Frederica M. Williams
CEO and President, Whittier Street Health Center
Championing for a vulnerable neighborhood
Whittier Street Health Center is a federally funded and Joint Commission-accredited urban community health and wellness center dedicated to ensuring the physical well-being of the underserved residents of Boston. Established in 1933 as a well-baby clinic, today Whittier offers everything from an urgent care/walk-in clinic, cancer screenings, a pharmacy, and dental and eye care to substance abuse and violence prevention programs.
As a native from Sierra Leone, I am deeply passionate about improving the overall health for our residents and ensuring that everyone has access to quality healthcare. We understand that there is a connection between socioeconomic issues—poverty, violence, unemployment, and affordable housing—and good health.
The challenges we face are many.
Eighty-three percent of Whittier’s patients live in public housing. More than half live below the poverty line. Our patients speak more than 20 languages, and almost half are best served in a language other than English.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, in 2008 cancer was the first or second leading cause of death for minorities in the U.S., with African Americans having the highest mortality rate for all cancers combined. Heart disease was the leading killer across most minorities in the U.S., accounting for 25 percent of all deaths.
Whittier is strategically addressing health disparities in its neighborhoods:
- In January 2012, Whittier opened the doors to its permanent, 79,000—square-foot, state-of-the-art facility to expand its comprehensive care. Our new home has room to care for 80,000 patients and provide 220,000 visits annually.
- In December 2012, Whittier partnered with Boston’s renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Center to open the first-of-its-kind Cancer Equity Center to bring cancer screenings and treatment into the community and address cancer disparities.
- The majority of our patients present with diabetes, hypertension, cancer, depression, obesity, or a combination of chronic illnesses. Through our Boston Health Equity Project, we have extensively expanded our chronic disease management services, producing excellent outcomes.
- Through the support of AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation, Whittier established a Connections to Cardiovascular Care program in 2012 to assist participants in developing self-management goals related to improving their cardiovascular health. Since its inception, patients have lost more than 600 pounds combined.
At Whittier, we are deeply committed to championing that all people in Boston’s most vulnerable neighborhoods receive quality, timely healthcare no matter their race, political stance, or economic position.
London School of Accountancy and Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Financial Administrators, United Kingdom;
Graduate certificate in administration and management, Harvard University Extension School, Cambridge, Massachusetts;
Master in Business Administration, Anna Maria College, Paxton, Massachusetts
Working in my mother’s family-owned business. All of us were trained as entrepreneurs and leaders at an early age.
WHAT I’M READING:
Switch: How to change when change is hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath