At the beginning of the year, Gardner completed the development of the 2016-2018 Organizational Strategic Plan. While this plan is vital for our future, it’s also important to remember how we got started and all the transitions that we went through. In fact, looking back at the history of our organization is something that I found most helpful in my role as CEO.
I believe that it’s only in understanding our origins that we can make sense of the present and can best define our future.
Our history is rich and begins almost 50 years ago with a fascinating story. In 1968, a determined group of Latino activist and community members in Alviso, motivated by the urgent need for health care among farm workers, sought help from the Stanford Medical School and the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity to start the Alviso Family Health Center, later known as the Family Health Foundation of Alviso.
Around the same time, and not too far from this first clinic, Latino activist and community members in the Gardner neighborhood of San Jose, also with the help of the Stanford Medical School, partnered with Sacred Heart Church and began to organize the Gardner Health Center to address the medical needs of the cannery and service workers in the area.
The creation of the health centers was extremely challenging and their purpose went well beyond just health, but encompassed the dreams and aspirations of a “people” for all people. It was an indomitable spirit that demonstrated, through advocacy, the possibility of improving the quality of life, not only for themselves but for the local community to create a better future for their children. It was not only about addressing their health care needs, but seeking to improve the human condition by trying to ensure that clients had clothes to wear, a place to stay, food to eat, rides to appointments, etc.
Throughout the years, these two health centers grew in their own ways, but in 1997, Gardner Health Center & the Family Health Foundation joined together to become Gardner Family Health Network and Gardner Family Care Corporation under the auspices of Gardner Health Services, one of the largest providers of quality health care in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.
I can imagine how those first days were for the first Alviso and Gardner clinics, with minimum resources and a mostly volunteer staff. And I wonder what it was like the first time they realized that the need was greater than what they could offer. I myself have been in that position many times since I joined Gardner in 1986, nearly 20 years after that first clinic was established.
While challenging, each one of those moments of the past have shaped Gardner into the network of clinics it is today. Almost fifty years after our humble beginnings, we now provide medical, dental, vision, counseling, health care to the homeless, health education and substance abuse services to more than 55,000 Santa Clara County residents annually in 9 different locations. An amazing growth that I’m sure would make those founding members proud.
It has never been easy but Gardner’s success is attributable to our Board of Directors and more importantly to our dedicated staff, many who are long term employees that have remained with the organization through the most challenging of moments and to our community partners who have supported Gardner through the most difficult of times.
As for the future, we have set some very ambitious goals for the next two years. Increasing access, changing our practice and adding services is central to our plan, as well as ensuring that maintaining efficient operations will give us the financial strength to continue for the next 50 years. But, it will not be easy! The health care landscape is changing dramatically. The competition for physicians, therapists, nurse practitioners, dentist and support staff has never been so challenging! Transitioning to a “value” care system, where we try to continue to improve the human condition by addressing the social determinates of health is daunting.
Nevertheless, I’m confident that through the dedication of our staff and the continued support and compassion from our community and community partners, we can deliver on our duty to serve those who need the most.
When I take a step back and look at our organization in terms of its past, present and future, I realize how different they look. But I also realize that one thing has remained and always will remain the same: An indomitable spirit with the commitment to help improve the human condition and quality of life for the next generations so that their dreams may be fulfilled.