Partnering with Bon Secours in the East End

The Sisters of Bon Secours work to bring "good help to those in need," and the work of the physicians and staff at Bon Secours Richmond Health Systems in the East End of Richmond is a clear example of that work in action. In fact, there is good work happening all over the East End.

I've told several people that I've spent more time in the East End – essentially the northeast corner of Church Hill – this year alone than in all of my 40+ years in Richmond. That's a testimony to the economic, racial and geographic divides that still permeate Richmond. Those divides were illu minated earlier this year when I took a bus tour of the East End with the Peter Paul Development Center, a nonprofit serving the educational needs of young students in the area. Here's what I wrote about that experience elsewhere:

Our 20 minute bus ride probably never went more than two miles from the center itself, but along the way we passed through four of Richmond's public housing communities (seven, if you consider each section of Mosby separately). Which is to say we passed through the highest concentration of poverty in the Richmond region.

The four public housing communities -- Mosby, Whitcomb Court, Fairfield Court and Creighton Court sit in a semi-circle bounded by I-64, Nine Mile Road and Shockoe Bottom. Between them, they house more than 2,000 families with an average income level below $10,000 a year. The sizable minority of the residents in the East End live well below the poverty line (39%) and live in single-parent households (46%). Armstrong High School, which serves the four housing communities and other East End residents has been labeled a "drop out factory" by Johns Hopkins University -- more than 40% of students who start out as freshmen finish their senior year.

But it's been my work with Bon Secours Richmond Health System that has really put the East End – stretching into Henrico, Hanover and New Kent – into full perspective.

For the past month, Juiet Brown and I have been working with a small team from Richmond Community Hospital, a small hospital at the corner of 28th Street and Nine Mile Road, facilitating discussions with local physicians representing different communities connected to the greater East End.

As so often happens when I'm facilitating small groups, I tend to be the person in the room who learns the most. One evening, we sat at a table with nine doctors who collectively had more than 200 years experience serving the residents of Jackson Ward, Highland Park, Church Hill and other Northside and East End neighborhoods. These men and women grew up in the shadow of segregation, and have watched Richmond's social fabric unravel and reweave itself many times over. Their passion – for the communities and people they serve, for their profession, and for Richmond Community Hospital's place in the city – was palatable.

We'll be closing out our physician discussions in a few weeks, and deliver a more complete report to the hospital administration. But I already know that I'll walk away from this experience with a much deeper understanding of and appreciation for the people at Richmond Community Hospital. They're truly doing good work for Richmond