CLEWISTON — Former Hendry County Commissioner Janet B. Taylor appeared before her ex-colleagues last week in her capacity as a member of the board of Florida Community Health Centers to introduce Dr. Wilhelmina Lewis-Lyons as the FCHC’s new CEO.
A private, nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) institution designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center, FCHC operates a network of clinics in Clewiston, Moore Haven, Okeechobee, Indiantown, Pahokee, Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce and Stuart; its corporate headquarters is in West Palm Beach. The clinics are accredited by The Joint Commission and comprise a comprehensive local health care system with over 400 employees, about 100 of whom are clinicians.
Ms. Taylor was accompanied to the Hendry County Board meeting in Clewiston on Tuesday, April 10, by Nardina Johnson, the Clewiston center’s manager. “We’re more than honored this afternoon to present to you one of our own. There’s a history, and I’m going to let her tell it. I want her to give you her story, how she came full circle with the Community Health Centers.”
With that, Dr. Lewis, who previously was the FCHC’s chief medical officer, stepped to the podium. “It’s such an honor to be back in Clewiston today,” she began. “As Miss Janet said, this is my home. I was born and raised in Clewiston, and when Florida Community Health Centers opened 40-some years ago, I was on the playground, in front of what they called the Dome. I was going there with my mom for health care and, many years later, now I return and am honored to be the CEO for FCHC, which has been in Clewiston for all of that time.”
The FCHC has grown rapidly during the intervening decades, she pointed out. “We now have 12 sites around Lake Okeechobee, but it’s very important that we continue to maintain a strong presence, and that we continue to increase our presence here because our mission is to provide cost-effective care, which means affordable care for all people regardless of their socioeconomic status,” Dr. Lewis told the Hendry commissioners.
“We want to thank the Board of County Commissioners for the support that they’ve given us over the years. In 2013, we came and asked your support as we were obtaining a grant for renovations that allowed us to expand pediatric services as well as increase dental services to community citizens who might not otherwise be able to afford care. And because of the support of this board, we were able to do so. And recently we hosted a chamber open house at that location to show some of those expanded services,” she said.
Dr. Lewis was recently named the FCHC’s president and CEO to replace Dr. Michael Gervasi, who retired effective March 31. She is a board-certified family practice physician with a background in geriatrics and is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
“We are here as committed community partners, and if there’s anything at all that I or our organization can do for yourselves or the citizens and your constituents, please do not hesitate to contact either Miss Janet, Miss Nardina or myself, and we’ll be glad to answer that call. We appreciate your help to us, and we are here committed to be of help to Clewiston and Hendry County,” Dr. Lewis finished.
“Thank you very much for bringing your talents back home,” County Board Chairman Mitchell Wills told Dr. Lewis. “We appreciate that.”
Commissioner Michael Swindle piped up to add: “Can I say that Miss Lewis is the same age as my sister, and I remember all through growing up, Miss Lewis has always been impressive and she’s even more so today, so thank you for being here.”
“Thank you so much, and tell Jennifer I said hi!” Dr. Lewis responded.