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July 1, 2015
Title: GHHI Jackson Outcome BrokerHometown: Jackson, MS via Birmingham, ALEducation: Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning (Jackson State University); Bachelor of Arts in Communication (University of Tampa)Dog or Cat Person: Both (she has two dogs and one cat)
Catherine Lee was an instrumental in GHHI Jackson’s launch well before she officially joined the team. As special projects officer for Jackson, MS Mayor Harvey Johnson, she coordinated the initial meetings and ultimate compact signing with the national GHHI office and recruited local partners. She even attended GHHI’s 2012 Executive Leadership Institute in Chicago.
After Mayor Johnson left office, Catherine joined Midtown Partners where she managed housing and neighborhood development programming, working closely with the newly formed GHHI Jackson as a unit production partner. Being an early supporter paid off, as Catherine was recruited for GHHI Jackson’s outcome broker position in October 2014. As outcome broker, she works with local government, nonprofit organizations and community leaders to formulate and implement the GHHI model.
“I felt like I would make a bigger impact with GHHI,” Catherine said. “I love working directly with clients, but I found a lot of barriers that I couldn’t change. A family came to my office one day looking for a place to rent because their home was infested with bed bugs and they couldn’t afford pest services. They felt leaving was there only option, even if it meant walking away from all of their belongings and ruining their credit. I wanted to do more for them, and as part of GHHI, I can make a difference.”
1. What have you learned in your role at GHHI?
I feel like I learn something new every day. I’ve gotten to learn so much more about the actual inspection and repair process of housing, and have especially learned a lot about energy efficiency. I didn’t know much about all of that before I started, like what the standards are, the best building materials to use, etc. I’ve also discovered a lot of resources and ideas that I myself want to use. I went to a utility showcase and learned about efficiency programs, and thought ‘man I need to call my energy company and get them to do a free audit!’ I didn’t know that was an option for me.
2. What has been your biggest accomplishment so far at GHHI?
GHHI Jackson is providing technical assistance and workforce training resources to support Mayor Yarber’s plans for the Jackson Gateway Project, which is a combination of neighborhood revitalization resources that includes comprehensive housing repair. We hosted a comprehensive assessment training session in April, and 21 housing inspectors and contractors (from both the public and private sector) signed up. That’s a huge victory for capacity building efforts here.
3. What are some of your “other duties as assigned”?
I want to be a problem solver for our partnering organizations, so I find myself telling them “please let me know how I can help, whatever the issue is” on a regular basis. Recently one of those tasks was collecting green cleaning supplies on behalf of the City of Jackson from the Mississippi State Department of Health, which in practice was loading heavy boxes of glass vinegar bottles into a van in a warehouse.
I also think GHHI Jackson is able to catalyze innovative collaborative work with our partners, even things that go in that “other” category, because we have a successful model. In a recent unit production meeting, Voice of Calvary Ministries discussed their work with a veterans counseling program, and Jackson Housing Authority was able to relay information about the VASH vouchers they have. I’m proud that we were able to connect these organizations to improve delivery of services that are reducing veterans’ homelessness in Jackson.
4. Do you play a musical instrument?
I have no musical skills what so ever. I like to go see and hear live music, especially Phish. We plan our vacations around concerts. This summer, we’re traveling to Chicago to see the Grateful Dead.
5. What is your favorite travel spot?
Florida panhandle area. There’s a scenic highway, 30-A, there are a ton of nice beaches around there. Seaside was the town featured in “The Truman Show” and is one of my favorite places to go. I used to go there as a kid because my grandparents lived nearby.
6. What do you do when you’re not at work?
I am a member of the 2014-2015 class of the Leadership Greater Jackson program, so a lot of my extra time recently has been spent working on my class project with a nonprofit called Springboard to Opportunities. Springboard’s mission is to connect families living in affordable housing with resources that help them advance in school, work and life. My group is working with middle school and high school students in two multifamily properties in to complete a service learning project—the youth have identified community needs at both apartment complexes and raised funds to meet those needs by organizing a 5K run/walk. We raised enough funds for every household in the complex to get bags of household items, plan summer enrichment programs for the kids and give a donation to Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital.
7. Finish this sentence: People would be surprised if they knew that I…
like comic books. When I started to watch “The Walking Dead,” I looked into graphic novels and went down the rabbit hole of comics. “Saga” and “The Manhattan Projects” are two of my current favorites.
December 16, 2014
The calendar year of 2014 has two remarkable bookends. In January the nation commemorated the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, the set of initiatives announced in President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 State of the Union address, which he said were designed to, “not only relieve the symptoms of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.” In late November of this year, the country lost one of its most dedicated and visionary leaders in that ongoing war, Dr. Aaron Shirley, who died of natural causes at the age of 81.
Dr. Shirley is probably most well known for being the first African American medical resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMC) in 1965. But without Dr. Shirley’s active participation in the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), in 1970 the state of Mississippi would not have accepted the initial grant from the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) that funded Jackson’s first comprehensive community health center. The development of that center, created in direct defiance of Mississippi’s governor and state medical society, paved the way for Dr. Shirley and his contemporaries to lead many other healthcare innovations throughout the decades to come. As stated by author John Dittmer, “Men of great personal courage, they embraced the opportunity to be both professional health care givers and civil rights agitators.”
Poverty is often characterized as an invisible and marginalized problem, but throughout the course of his life Dr. Shirley pushed issues grounded in health disparity into the forefront of the medical community. He was an advocate for health equity, a service provider in some of the state’s poorest areas, and he also pioneered programs and built facilities that improved health outcomes for countless numbers of low-income African American patients. His commitment to improving the healthcare system resulted in three innovative solutions that became national models.
Jackson Hinds Comprehensive Health Center (JHCHC): In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Shirley worked with Dr. James Anderson and other MCHR doctors in homes and churches to serve black patients who were not permitted access to hospitals. Through their work with the MCHR, Shirley and Anderson earned a grant from the OEO to found the JHCHC in 1970. By 1979 the center was considered to be a national model for community health centers because of its integration of a wide array of health and wellness services, including mental health care, housing for seniors, youth counseling programs and a comprehensive health clinic. This facility is now the largest provider of primary health care services to uninsured and underserved residents in central Mississippi.
Jackson Medical Mall: In the early 1990s Dr. Shirley lived in a neighborhood of Jackson with dwindling economic opportunities and a shopping mall that was rapidly becoming vacant. In 1993, he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, and he used his financial award to develop his vision for turning the mall into, as he described, a “state-of-the-art ambulatory health care facility providing quality healthcare for the urban poor.” In partnership with Jackson State University, Tougaloo College and UMC, the mall first opened in 1995, and the 900,000 square foot facility continues to be a dynamic mixed use facility providing quality medical treatment and health and wellness education. The project was one of the first successful adaptive reuse initiatives for underused shopping malls, and continues to be an international model for such projects. Dr. Shirley served as chair of the board of directors for the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation for the remainder of his life. The Foundation’s net income grew from almost $745,000 in 1996 to more than $8 million in 2002, and the facility continues to be fully leased.
HealthConnect: In 2010, Dr. Shirley created HealthConnect, a program designed to engage community health workers in home-based health education and counseling in order to improve health outcomes and efficiency for healthcare systems by reducing rates at which rural community residents rely on emergency room visits for primary care. The program expanded to include “health house” facilities in Humphreys, Leflore and Yazoo counties; these are neighborhood based community health facilities that enable management of chronic health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. According to local reporter Jerry Mitchell, “A test of the program worked with more than 1,000 patients and helped reduce hospital readmissions at Central Mississippi Medical Center from 26 percent in 2010 to less than 10 so far in .”
Many organizations that participate in the GHHI Jackson Learning Network were shaped or influenced by Dr. Aaron Shirley and the generations of leaders he trained. As 2014 comes to a close, these organizations wish to recognize Dr. Shirley’s leadership and contributions to healthcare and civil rights advocacy work in the state of Mississippi. Without his vision and tireless efforts, our work would not be possible.
Dittmer, John. The Good Doctors: The Medical Committee for Human Rights and the Struggle for Social Justice in Health Care. (2009) Bloomsbury Press, New York.
Gates, Jimmie E. “Medical pioneer Dr. Aaron Shirley has died.” (November 27, 2014)
Hansen, Suzy. “What Can Mississippi Learn From Iran?” (July 27, 2012)
Jackson Medical Mall Foundation.
Matthews, Dylan. “Everything you need to know about the war on poverty.” (January 8, 2014)
Mitchell, Jerry. “Mississippi will sorely miss Aaron Shirley.”