Ready for the New Year

There is a great song by John Lennon that contains one of my favorite quotes. Lennon says “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Planning in the face of the ever-changing health care and political environment has always been an enormous challenge. The Institute’s mission, from its inception over 30 years ago, has been clear: to increase the number of patients we serve; to ever improve the quality of care we give; and to train the next generation of health care professionals. Most importantly, we are totally committed to our role as a place where all are welcome and all are served with compassion and excellence. We want to be a force for social justice and equity in the communities we serve.

So what do we do now that “life” has happened?

Some dark clouds loom on the horizon. Specialty access for our patients is worsening as large institutions all compete for the privately insured. At the federal level, Congress reduced funding for charity care to health centers by 50% and cut funding for teaching health centers by 1/3 – causing us to lose $5 million we had budgeted for in 2015. We survived these challenges and will face more ahead, including, possibly, repeal of portions of the Affordable Care Act, which will affect thousands of New Yorkers.

But we at the Institute have what it takes to forge ahead. First, we know in our hearts that our values fundamentally differentiate us from many other health care providers whose primary focus is on their bottom line. In an environment of increasing racial tension, our commitment to equity for all people is critical. And it’s not just about treating people – it’s about making our health centers a haven, a shelter, where people can come and get help for whatever health, mental health or social issues they are experiencing – all regardless of their ability to pay. No matter what, we will continue to pursue opportunities to serve more patients and train more health care professionals to further our mission.

Second, we must find ways of doing better financially as an organization, without sacrificing any of our values. This is an enormous challenge, but if anyone can do it, it is our innovative and talented staff, now over 1,300 strong.

Finally, we need to remind ourselves and everyone we meet that we are part of the solution to the nation’s health care crisis. Health centers are the most cost-effective model for health care, integrating services in one location for the people most in need of coordinated care. We will continue to pioneer this important work, as we have always done.

I am deeply grateful for the privilege of leading this great organization, and this incredible staff, whose faith in each other, love of their patients and dedication and hard work keep us going… serving… caring…and curing.

Adapted from Dr. Neil Calman’s New Year’s letter to the staff of the Institute for Family Health.