NACHC Statement on the Passing of the Reverend Janice M. Robinson
The Community Health Center Movement mourns the passing of the Reverend Janice M. Robinson – a courageous leader and longtime member of the NACHC family. Janice devoted her life in service to others and was considered a mentor, role model, healer and friend to countless numbers of people from all walks of life across the country.
“Janice stood with us at the crossroads of history when the Health Center Program took its first unsteady steps as a pilot program,” said Tom Van Coverden, President and CEO, NACHC. “From her early career as a Registered Nurse and Therapist, she understood the meaning of quality health care, and felt strongly it should be accessible to all people, no matter who they were, where they lived or their economic circumstances. She clearly understood the importance of prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, and integrating behavioral and dental health with medical care. This is the vision she brought to the William F. Ryan Health Center in New York where she served during the 1970s as Executive Director, and stayed true to it when time and again she was called upon to testify before the United States Congress and to serve at the national level – first as President of the NACHC Board and then as NACHC’s Executive Director from 1979 to 1985.”
“Thanks to her steadfast leadership and stewardship at NACHC,” said Van Coverden, “health centers navigated through a very politically turbulent time, when hundreds of federal programs – including Community Health Centers – faced massive funding cuts and block grants which threatened their survival.”
Edward D. Martin, MD, former Director of HRSA’s Bureau of Community Health Services (now Bureau of Primary Health Care), remembers Janice as an effective advocate for health centers and NACHC. “She combined firm purpose with the importance of the Health Center Program and focused on improving the quality of care and more effective delivery of care.”
Health center representatives from around the country described Janice as a passionate leader who inspired everyone to stay strong and fortified, even when it seemed the fight was too big to win. “That was the hallmark of her leadership,” says Wilford Payne, CEO, Primary Care Health Services, Pittsburgh, PA. “She understood how to gently move people toward solutions, to unify them as one voice no matter how different or disagreeable they happened to be. And above all, she had faith that justice and equity among all people would prevail, even for the most powerless and voiceless among us.”
Likely, it was this faith in abundance that called Janice toward the spiritual life. She left NACHC in 1985 to attend Yale University Divinity School and ultimately became an Episcopal minister. She served many congregations as a pastor, including rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Silver Spring, MD. Yet, those who knew Janice understood that all of humanity was her congregation, and that her legacy of service will endure.
Our prayers are with her partner, Berit Lakey, and family.