Henry Thompson faced a wide range of challenges when he first took over as CEO of the Community Health Center of Richmond, a federally qualified health center on New York's Staten Island.
Several years before Thompson's arrival in 2009, the site of the clinic, which was then part of the former St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center, almost saw its own doors close when the hospital filed for bankruptcy
in 2005. A board member describes the health center at the time of Thompson's arrival as “seriously underfunded, operating at a loss and out of compliance with several state and federal standards.”
“It was important to make sure that we had the right direction,” Thompson says.
These days, the clinic is financially healthy—it has reduced expenses by 10%, had its fourth consecutive year of operating surpluses in fiscal 2012 and has received $16 million in federal, state and local grants—and is gearing up for an expansion. A second site is expected to open this year and plans for a third facility are also underway. “Those are some of the things that will create sustainability for the future,” Thompson says. “You're able to show your partners, whether it's at the federal level, state level or the community or citywide (level), that you are a sound company and here are some things you bring to the table.”
For his accomplishments, Thompson won a place in Modern Healthcare's 2013 class of Up and Comers
The center serves a community that has a half-million residents who are increasingly composed of new immigrants to New York City, with the number of patient visits more than doubling from 10,000 in 2006 to 25,000 in 2010. While there are two private hospitals on Staten Island, the bankruptcy of St. Vincent's led to the closure of the borough's only public acute-care hospital.
Thompson, who turns 40 in January, previously worked as a turnaround specialist for the Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center and spent a decade in various operational roles at the Jessie Trice Community Health Center in Miami. He started work this fall on an executive doctorate in administration-health services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
While consulting with the Syracuse (N.Y.) Community Health Center in 2009, Thompson first began to be mentored by Dr. Ruben Cowart, the center's president and CEO. “He's weathered the storm, he's adjusted to the environment and he's ... worked with all the appropriate entities to stabilize the institution,” Cowart says. “He is committed to the cause, mission and purpose of the organization.”
Thompson says that one of the programs he is most proud of focuses on better treatment and management of diabetes. The National Committee for Quality Assurance
recognized the community health center's team in 2011 for the program. Just recently, staff have started to conduct supermarket tours to teach patients how to read food labels to better understand and manage their overall health.
“I think the biggest challenge in primary care is educating the patient to make smarter choices once they leave us so that they can prevent certain chronic illnesses or at least stabilize if they have been diagnosed with certain illnesses,” Thompson says.