One of the real rural Arizona success stories has to be the Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc in Cochise County. I had the opportunity to meet with the CEO of this organization, Jennifer “Ginger” Ryan in her office in Douglas, Arizona. She is a bottle of energy and her enthusiasm for the area of border health care issues is infectious.
The Chiricahua Community Health Centers have grown over recent years to include several locations plus mobile health clinics, including the “Molar Patroller”. Ginger recalled how their mobile clinics travel across southern Arizona including to migrant workers and in case, filled 19 cavities in one lady in one day. In 2009, American Idol took notice of this organization and through “Idol Gives Back”, they made a donation to the center and then American Idol judge Simon Cowell visited the clinic in Douglas.
After visiting with Ginger in her office, she then took my colleagues Jill, Maia and myself to their new pediatric center of excellence, which was built from an old school. After touring this impressive facility, it is hard to believe that the site recently contained a dilapidated school building. With a team of six pediatricians and other allied health professionals, children in Douglas and the surrounding area are blessed to be receiving top-notch health care.
Upon leaving Douglas, it was interesting how Ginger had shattered my ideas about border health issues. Yes, her organization experienced many unique challenges being located in a border community. But, it was uplifting to see how her organization is not simply surviving, but rather thriving under these conditions.