By Vanessa Orr, South Florida Hospital News, for ACHE of South Florida
When Francis Afram-Gyening became the new CEO of Camillus Health Concern in 2017, he had a lot of big goals in mind. And not only has he succeeded in growing the Miami agency, which delivers healthcare to people experiencing homelessness, but he has been able to ensure financial stability while expanding services—even during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Under the guidance of the board, we have been able to accomplish significant milestones,” he said. “When I came on board, we had 26,000 patient visits a year, and that is now up to almost 35,000,” he said “In 2017, we served approximately 4,400 people, which has increased to 6,036.”
Despite the fact that during the pandemic, many community health centers closed sites and laid off staff, Camillus Health remained open and not only kept all of its employees, but hired more.
“We did not lay anyone off, or furlough anyone; in fact, we added 11 more staff,” said Afram-Gyening.
He noted that Camillus Health is also financially strong. “Out of our $10 million budget, we were able to set aside $2.4 million in rainy day funds to keep ourselves financially viable,” he said, adding that the organization has also continued to raise funding from local and national foundations, as well as the federal government.
Camillus Health also added an additional site in Miami, partnering with a Salvation Army shelter.
“That way, the residents can receive care right there, which reduces transportation barriers and allows us to serve more people,” said Afram-Gyening.
Realizing the need for dental services, Camillus Health also expanded its dental suite by hiring three part-time dentists and one full-time hygienist. In 2020, the organization was accredited as a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).
Afram-Gyening credits his success to thinking boldly; a talent that he feels was developed by the things he learned and the advice he received as a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
“What I learned in ACHE helped me to come up with bigger, bolder, hairy, audacious goals; with everything I do I think, ‘How can I scale that up?’” he said. “As a result of lessons learned through ACHE, I was able to work with colleagues in Cleveland to build a 30,000 sq. ft. facility in the most impoverished area of Cleveland, and I used that motivation to seek $14 million in funding to provide medical, dental, behavioral, health, and pharmacy services to area residents.”
Afram-Gyening joined ACHE in 2001 and took a very active role, serving as vice-president and membership chair before becoming president of the South Florida chapter in 2007. In 2004, he was honored by the American College of Healthcare Executives with its Early Career Healthcare Executive Award.
“I joined ACHE because of the opportunities it gives to members; it opens doors,” he explained. “And you get to learn from seasoned mentors who have been through what you’re going through, and who can prevent you from experiencing some of the pitfalls that you might hit in your career.
“To be able to pair with a seasoned mentor to get guidance and to help you hone your talents helps you be confident in whatever position you take,” he added.
He said that while the mentoring aspect was most important to him, there are also the added advantages of the educational programs, and being able to attend the annual conference.
“At the conference, you can learn about the innovative things happening in the healthcare industry, and that helps whether you work in a hospital or for a community health center, or ambulatory clinic,” he said.
For individuals beginning a healthcare career, he suggests joining ACHE early. “Even while you’re in school, you should join the College,” he said, adding that there are student discounts, as well as scholarships available to attend the conference. “It will expose you to networking opportunities with leaders in the community, and you can learn from their experiences.”
He also encourages current members to pursue the fellowship path. “The fellowship designation establishes your competence, and showcases your ability to think broadly when you take on a project,” he said. “It demonstrates your knowledge to your colleagues.”