Black women are known to have played significant roles in the history that shaped America and its values. Today, more women of color continue to dedicate their lives to the development of this great nation, and as we zoom into the health sector and the significant roles Community Health Centers play, we’d like to introduce you to a long-time leader in North Carolina’s Community Health Center movement, Margaret Covington.
Covington is the CEO of Stedman-Wade Health Services and has dedicated her life to serving communities through healthcare service provision. While not directly working with patients, her leadership roles have certainly contributed to what Stedman-Wade is today, and by extension the health sector in North Carolina.
“I was born in North Carolina and moved to Washington, DC in October 1966. I finished college, then I returned back to NC in 1978 which is when I started to work for a Community Health Center in Jones County,” says Covington. In 1981, she went to work for Stedman-Wade as an office manager. “I later became CEO in 1994 and the rest is history,” she related with a sense of pride.
Community Health Centers (CHCs)are perhaps not entirely recognized for their role in health care service provision and especially for those individuals who are medically uninsured. We asked Covington to highlight the significant impact Stedman-Wade has had in Fayetteville and North Carolina at large, considering that it is the largest safety net provider for medically uninsured and indigent populations in Cumberland County.
“Stedman-Wade provides access to care to patients that can’t afford to get care elsewhere. Our patients get comprehensive primary medical, dental and behavioral health services,” she explains. Stedman-Wade has been joint commission accredited since 2000. “All our sites are Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH),” she says. She further adds: “The care Stedman-Wade gives this community has been far reaching and the patients are so grateful. It is rewarding when patients know that you care about their health” she adds. But being considered a trusted provider has its challenges, notes Covington. “Maintaining provider staff has been a challenge, especially dentists. But, striving to keep our staff and patients safe has been our biggest challenge,” she admits.
As we know, the global COVID-19 pandemic has made its impact felt in all spheres of our lives and in March of 2020, CHCs had to adapt to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within their settings. Changing the look of patient-provider interactions by modifying physical spaces, moving some appointments to telehealth and training staff and patients to use tele-devices are some of the changes CHCs had to implement. And, as the head of Stedman-Wade, Covington had to cope with these changes even when not knowing what the next day will bring. She’s transferred the same energy to her staff and patients, assuring them that “the organization will be there for them”.