Passing the Baton
In 2005, three staff joined Arlington Free Clinic, all within a couple months of each other – and this past year, 17 years later, they all retired within months of one another, too. During their time at AFC, Jody Steiner Kelly, Coralie Miller, and Sheila Ryan – our Directors of Clinical Administration, HR & Finance, and Clinical Services, respectively – led our organization in achieving transformative programmatic and operational growth. They championed AFC’s early adoption of a modest electronic health record (EHR) allowing us to safely store and monitor important trends in patient data, and when we outgrew it, led our transition to a new, state-of-the-art EHR called Epic a decade later. They drove our evolution from a small-but-mighty staff of 17 to a diverse, professional, and highly effective team of 45 – from a budget of $1.5M to one that’s more than double that this year. Impactful programs like social services case management, our patient-centered medical home model, and our dental program were established and became the keystones of our care under their visionary leadership.
As we were turning the corner with the pandemic and beginning to catch glimpses of hope for a return to normalcy, one after another, these AFC institutions shared their plans to retire (they’d already delayed plans that had been forming until we got through the worst of COVID). The prospect of losing a collective 51 years of expertise, institutional knowledge, and relationships was daunting to say the least. Luckily, there’s a tradition of “failed retirements” at Arlington Free Clinic – almost everyone who tries to retire extends their end date, contracts back for a period to ease the transition, or both. I’m grateful for the flexibility and true partnership with which these three similarly approached their departures.
Although it was hard to imagine several months back, thanks to the strong foundation built under their leadership, the important work of AFC surges ahead as we “pass the baton” to new colleagues who will take our work forward. The fun, compassion, and dedication that Coralie, Jody, and Sheila brought to their work has left a lasting mark on the organization and continues to inspire us all.