Community Health Centers Celebrate Leaders in Agricultural Worker Heatlh

Community Health Centers celebrated leaders who have made significant contributions to migrant health during the 2016 Conference for Agricultural Worker Health in Portland, Oregon this week. The conference for Agricultural Worker Health is the only conference dedicated solely to the health and well-being of America’s migratory and seasonal agricultural workers. Community and Migrant Heath Centers currently serve approximately 900,000 migratory and seasonal agricultural workers and their families.

The Migrant Health Awards were presented to six health center leaders this year spanning the spectrum of migrant health.

Lifetime Achievement in Migrant Health Award

Ronald E. Castle, CEO, Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, California

Castle has been a part of the health center movement for nearly 40 years. His leadership in Migrant Health is reflected in his work and accomplishments as CEO at Community Health Centers of the Central Coast. The health center has grown from its early origins as a small, farmworker health clinic in 1978 into one of the largest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) networks in the country. It is now home to 27 medical centers on the California Central Coast with 700 employees. In Central Coast’s growth the health center has never lost sight of the agricultural workers it was founded to serve. In 2015, it provided nearly a half-million clinic visits for 100,000 patients of which 41 percent were farmworkers.

Lifetime Achievement in Migrant Health Award

Georgia Sandoval, Customer Service Director, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Washington

Georgia began her work as receptionist for the health center in 34 years ago. Almost immediately, she recognized the potential of her role in encouraging and helping farmworkers and their families seek out needed care at the center. Coming from a farmworker family herself, Sandoval understood the reluctance of many to access healthcare services. She has dedicated her work to assisting families get the care they need while assuring that front-desk staff are appropriately trained to present a welcoming primary care medical home to all who enter.

Outstanding Migrant Health Center Award

East Georgia HealthCare Center, Georgia

Since its beginnings in 1993, East Georgia Healthcare Center (EGHC) has been a key player within the state providing primary care and needed preventive health services to its large population of agricultural workers. It is estimated that within the last five years, EGHC has seen its migrant patient population grow by nearly 45 percent. In 2015, it served nearly 4,000 agricultural workers covering five counties—with some 6,500 provider visits. EGHC has earned a reputation for innovative delivery programs that reach out to workers in both the planting and harvest seasons. Moreover, it is highly applauded for its collaborations with partners, including growers, universities, and other local businesses and organizations to better assure health services are readily available to support the men and women who labor in the fields.

Outstanding Migrant Health Public Service Award

Julie Hulstein, Executive Director, Community Health Association of Mountain/Plain States, Colorado

At the helm of the Community Health Association of Mountain/Plains States (CHAMPS), Hulstein’s work over 20 years has ensured a strong collective voice for Migrant Health Centers in the region, fostering partnerships and growing resources for the migrant farmworker program. Recognized for expertise in rural and migrant health, Julie through advocacy and her many affiliations, has brought forward new-found public awareness of the complex social and health issues afflicting the nation’s agricultural workers. Her professional career reflects a lifelong dedication to advancing the broad interests and health of farmworkers at both national and state levels. Throughout the years, Julie’s insights and voice on the NACHC Agricultural Worker and Rural Health Committees have been invaluable giving focus to migrant health issues.  In addition, her initiatives have strengthened the collection of data about the farmworker population to better assist us going forward in improving our delivery systems and models serving the nation’s farmworkers and their families.

Outstanding Migrant Health Center Board Member Award

Edelmiro “Eddie” Garcia, Board Chair, Brownsville Community Health Center, Texas

Eddie has been integral to helping the center expand services to agricultural workers and enhance capacity to meet ever- evolving health needs and challenges. The son of migrant farmworkers, Eddie is no stranger to the struggles and hardship of people seeking a better life. Moreover, as a peace officer on the Brownsville Police Department he confronts daily the enormity of problems that arise when health needs are neglected and left to fester in communities. Working with the community and volunteering his time and energies, Garcia has taken on a mission in life is to bring about change that will break barriers to healthcare, education and opportunity, and close the chasm that exists so often between farmworkers and community residents.

Outstanding Migrant Health Center Board Member Award

Sister Margaret Smyth, Member of the Board of Directors, Hudson River HealthCare, New York 

Sister Margaret founded the North Fork Spanish Apostolate in 1996 to help meet the needs of large numbers of agricultural workers and immigrant families on Long Island’s East End.  Working alongside Hudson River HealthCare, as well as government agencies and other non-profits, thousands of vulnerable families have benefited from its array of educational, healthcare services and vital supports. As Board Member at Hudson River HealthCare, Sister Margaret is credited for helping steer Hudson River’s conversion of county clinics into Community Health Centers. The result has significantly increased access to basic health services for farmworkers in the area, but also for many of the county’s diverse and low-income ethnic populations. In 2015, the Apostolate, including Hudson River’s migrant voucher and outreach program, served over 2,000 migrant farmworkers and 4,000 community members.