The 5 Jobs of the Institute for Family Health
Over the holidays, I reflected on the jobs our incredible staff have here at the Institute. Either directly or indirectly, we all have five jobs — but don’t always take time to appreciate the importance of each and how closely they are connected.
The first job is caring for our patients. It is what most of us would say if we were asked about the Institute’s main purpose. Over 650,000 times last year (over 2,000 times a day!), we met face-to-face with our patients and almost always were able to meet their medical, dental and mental health needs. Add in the numerous MyChart encounters, telephone encounters and drop-ins for help with non-medical issues, and we are likely well over two million interactions with patients every year. I am proud of our attention to kindness and the skill in caring we demonstrate throughout the year.
Our second job is teaching over 1,000 trainees that come through our doors every year. This enormous variety of trainees range from school-age kids we mentor to practitioners with years of experience who come to us for further training. “A teacher affects eternity;” Henry Adams said, “he can never tell where his influence stops.” At the Institute, we teach not only the content of what we do but how to provide services with passion, with caring, with equity, and with responsibility — by constantly increasing our own knowledge and skills through continuous study and practice.
The third job is running the support systems of the Institute and our many facilities. Over 2,000 different people were employed by us in the year 2018. Hundreds of these folks are the unsung heroes of our work. They do everything that many of us take for granted — pay the bills, keep our website current, manage our employee benefits, clean our bathrooms — and a thousand other tasks daily that support all of our work.
The fourth job is to address the critical health needs of the communities we serve. Whether in Ellenville, the Bronx, or Harlem, we have been able to effectively reach out beyond our health center walls. We involve ourselves with the social determinants of poor health that are rampant in low-income communities and communities of color, including homelessness, inadequate food, community violence and, above all, poverty. We view the health of the community-at-large as part of our responsibility as health care providers.
Our fifth job can be described in many ways. My grandfather called it “our responsibility to leave the world a better place than how we found it.” We fulfill this responsibility when we show people kindness, either at work or outside of work. We fulfill it when we use our skills to care for people’s health care needs. We fulfill it when we pass on our knowledge, skills, and compassion to the next generation of health care workers. We fulfill it through our research programs, as we strive to learn more about health and health care, and change the way people are treated in the future. And we fulfill it when we take what we have learned from our work and use it to change local, state and national policy so that our communities can thrive.
I am deeply proud of this work that we all do together here at the Institute. I know that we must continually refine our skills, improve our work, and achieve more. But as we start a new year, I want to take the time to appreciate the critically important role that everyone plays in caring for our patients, training future health care providers, improving our functioning as an organization, improving the health of our communities, and helping to leave the world a better place than we found it.