Q&A With OPCA Annual Award Winner Katie Thornton

Q&A With OPCA Annual Award Winner Katie Thornton


Share your name, position, and CHC: Katie Thornton, Regional Manager for the North and Northeast Health Center, Multnomah County Health Department

What does this award mean to you? This award tells me two important things; first, we are on the right track. When you step into this work, you never know how it will be received, this award is an indicator that the approach we are taking makes sense to others and the value is clear. Second, it is a reminder for me to pause, reflect and remember that progress is not only possible, it is actually happening now. It is so easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of injustice we are unlearning, it is important to remember that each step we take is in fact progress, no matter how small.

Katie Thornton, Regional Manager for the North and Northeast Health Center, Multnomah County Health Department, and the REACH Team are the 2019-20 OPCA Annual Award Winners for Health Equity.

Why do you think your work earned an Annual Award of Excellence? Or, nominee can share why they nominated you. Taken from nomination document, written by Adrienne Daniels, who nominated Katie and the REACH Partnership Team: One example of her dedication to health equity is her participation in the Developing Equity Leadership through Training and Action (DELTA) through the Oregon Health Authority. Katie is focusing on indicators of implicit bias within the health system and its effect on health outcomes for our most vulnerable communities. Her commitment and drive to promote equity in healthcare is the purest definition of what a CHC should strive to do. Raising the voices of Black community members and putting their health outcomes at the center of the health center’s true north, her instrumental facilitation of partnering Northeast Health Center (a part of the Community Health Center) and the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Program (a part of the Public Health Division) and her implementation of a Restorative Justice league at the health center.

What are important things people should know about your work? I think it is important for folks to understand this piece of work is a small portion of a much larger vision for our organization. This approach in reviewing and reflecting on our own data is not limited to a single smoking cessation metric, it is something that can and is being applied to all of our metrics. We most recently applied this same approach for affecting change in how and who we test for COVID.

How does the work you do impact your community? Our intent is to minimize the impact that systemic racism has had in health outcomes within our community by facilitating conversations with staff around our own implicit bias and involving our community in providing the direction for future interventions.

How has your work changed since COVID-19? How do you think it will change going forward? I think the biggest change has been the pace at which we work and the flexibility our
sometimes rigid systems has learned to adapt to. COVID has not disrupted this work, it has made it clearer.

Anyone you want to thank for your award? The entire REACH and Northern Region Leadership team have proven to be the people they have always shown me they are; strong, competent, innovative, passionate and brilliant. They both inspire me and keep me grounded.

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