Dear Team:           

            The Table of Contents for today’s Friday Memo includes positive news from abroad (not easily found),  the coronavirus, a/k/a COVID-19, and  a patient shout out to several of our most beloved colleagues. Buckle up.

            In the early days of Community Healthcare Network, before we were a federally qualified health center, we were a group of organizations committed passionately to family planning, reproductive health, and women’s rights. We are still that, even as we have expanded health services to provide a full range of integrated care.

            With that tradition, let’s celebrate legislation passed this week by the Scottish Parliament to provide free pads and tampons to all women in Scotland. As reported by The New York Times, “The provision of free products is aimed at combating the culture of silence stigma surrounding menstruation.”

            Several years back New York City took a similar, if more limited step, of providing sanitary products in schools, shelters, and jails.

            The leader of Scotland’s Women’s Equality Party, Mandu Reid, said, “Period poverty is an issue that affects women and girls across the United Kingdom with more than a quarter having missed work or school because they couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to menstrual products .”

            I know many of us are avoiding the news for our own mental health. This news from Scotland is worth sharing. Good things are still happening, good things that we can emulate in our own advocacy work.


            Another area of news that cannot be ignored is the continuing spread of the coronavirus. Nearly all experts expect it to arrive in New York City. Think of it as a massive storm over the Atlantic that is slowly heading our way. The good news is that public health authorities in New York State and City are competent, and have resources and a head start in planning. The same is true here at CHN.

            Know this: As of this morning, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the City. For the moment, the traditional flu still poses a broader risk – the City Health Commissioner (and me) begs anyone not already vaccinated to get your flu shot. It is not too late.

            The same rules apply to reducing the risk of coronavirus as the traditional flu: cover your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve when sneezing or coughing, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap, and stay home if feverish.

            All of us at CHN will be facing questions from patients – and friends and family – on the coronavirus. Medical Affairs will be providing our Health Literacy Department with a brief primer of key talking points about the virus. We will be distributing that – not later than early next week.  Whether working in a health center, the Contact Center, in Health Homes or anywhere else, this will be a tool we can all use to provide correct and clear information to the people we serve.

            Information on the coronavirus will be a moving target, and as information emerges, we will frequently update the talking points.


            Patient feedback, positive or negative, is good. It is a way we learn how to do better.  We received this week a lovely note from the parent of a patient who was transitioning at our Crown Heights Health Center from pediatric to adult medicine.

            No surprise that the patient’s long time physician, Director of Pediatrics Dr. Taisha Benjamin, was described as “amazing.” The parent then noted the care that Crown Heights used in moving the patient to our distinguished Nurse Practitioner Ann Stevens for adult medicine: “Heartfelt thanks to [Dr. Benjamin] for choosing ‘Dr. Annie’  — as aging out with a beloved doctor is difficult enough but one that you and child love is more so.”

            The story continues. Here is how the patient’s parent described Center Director Kalisha Small: “She is the uber professional leader, who leads by example, she speaks professionally but compassionately to patients and staff. She follows through with every request.”

            Extending the compliments, the patient’s mother also called out great service she received from the Referral Department and the Contact Center.

            It is delightful to read notes like this, and I know that the commitment all of CHN delivers day after day deserves this level of appreciation. Patients do not always say thank you, therefore, I do: Thank You!

            Keep warm this weekend. Behave tomorrow, on Leap Day!  

            Best,  Bob