Health Center Innovator Recognized

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Asian Health Services nurse practitioner Cheng-I Jacqueline Chen (MSN, RN, FNP) is hooked on community health centers. “There is no greater reward than when you are helping someone.” Having spent her childhood in West Africa, she witnessed the lack of preventative health care and disparity between those with money and those without.  At Asian Health Services she identifies with immigrant families navigating the system.  ”Being that family member that translated things really gave me an exposure to what doctors and nurses do. And I became drawn to nursing.”

While Chen cannot imagine working in any other setting, she recognizes the challenges that come with the job. To keep her and others like her in the workforce, she developed a solution – a nurse practitioner fellowship program– and has earned national recognition as a result. Chen has been named one of 13 Geiger Gibson Emerging Leaders and received her award at the National Community Health Center Association Policy & Issues Forum  in Washington, DC on March 17th.

On hearing about the award, Chen says, “I was really shocked and still am.” Each year, the Geiger Gibson Program in Community Health Policy honors young Emerging Leaders nominated by health centers and primary care associations nationally. “The Emerging Leader Award is designed to highlight and share the accomplishments of exceptional young members of the community health center movement,” said Sara Rosenbaum, JD, the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy and founder of the Program at the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Chen aimed to overcome an obstacle that she and others she spoke with faced. Not long after graduating from nursing school, Chen began at Asian Health Services on recommendation of a fellow graduate. “It is a hard transition from school to work, especially in a community health center where there are so many factors, beyond medical ones, affecting patients. It can be overwhelming.”

To tackle the challenge, Chen drew from research she had conducted in graduate school on national nurse practitioner residency programs. Asian Health Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. George Lee provided this opportunity and encouraged her. “They were already thinking about strengthening the workforce pipeline and improving NP training.” To build the program, Chen participated in a multi-week webinar series from the Weitzman Institute on designing nurse practitioner residencies and interviewed health centers that had already started programs, like LifeLong Medical Care.

“I’m lucky to be at Asian Health Services. They are willing to invest in the program and to support me in figuring it out. It takes a huge team. We have 6 MDs that serve as preceptors for teaching our NP Fellows.” These teaching providers are dedicated to the NP Fellow during designated rotations.  “When you are starting off, you have a ton of questions. It’s really hard to interrupt and MD when they’re seeing patients.”

Chen attributes her success to the supportive culture at Asian Health Services. “I have never seen so many providers that have stayed as long as they have here. It says something when an agency is showing that it wants to retain its staff.”

With tools and strategies to employ, new NPs can focus on the community that comes through the doors for care. What drives her in her work, according to Chen, is the loving expressiveness of her patients. “It’s rare to get that level of happiness in a job every day.”