Kennedy Community Health Takes Part in Day of Advocacy at State House

Kennedy Community Health was pleased to join the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and other community health centers from across the Commonwealth in a day of advocacy at the Massachusetts State House. On Tuesday, June 4th, members of Kennedy Community Health Leadership spoke with legislators about key challenges faced by community health centers.

Catherine Hoey, Community Relations Manager and Executive Assistant to CEO and President, Steve Kerrigan, spoke with Spectrum News about access to primary care providers.

Ruby Pezanetti, Chief Operations Officer, spoke to Kinga Borondy of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, regarding the importance of addressing health insurance reimbursement rates for sustainability of community health centers. Community health centers care for one in seven Bay Staters, and play a critical role in the health care delivery system in the state.

“It is absolutely critical to health care in Massachusetts and nationally,” said Ruby Pezanetti of the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center, with centers in Worcester, Framingham and Milford. “At the end of the day, vulnerable populations will be unable to access to primary care and critical care services without the funding.”

Annual 5k Walk & Run

Sunday, August 11th at Polar Park

Kennedy Community Health is pleased to partner with its friends at the WooSox to bring its annual 5K walk & run at Polar Park for the 4th year in a row on Sunday, August 11, 2024!

We hope you will join us by walking or running in support of quality healthcare for all. Sponsorship opportunities are available at many levels, and we are also happy to customize a package that meets your needs.

Learn how to partner with us to help people live healthier lives!

MAVEN Project brings specialty care to provider fingertips at Kennedy Community Health

CLINIC PARTNER SPOTLIGHT – Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center (Mass.)

MAVEN Project brings specialty care to provider fingertips at Kennedy Community Health

In 1972, seven women living in public housing founded the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center (Kennedy Community Health) to create better access to health care for their community. Since then, the clinic has grown to 10 Massachusetts locations serving more than 32,000 patients.

Roughly nine out of 10 of their patients are low income and one in three are uninsured, and Kennedy Community Health offers everything from primary and urgent care to maternity care, optometry and behavioral health services. Kennedy Community Health also boasts Central Massachusetts’ largest dental practice that accepts MassHealth.

And for the last three years, providers at Kennedy Community Health have benefitted from the support of MAVEN Project’s expert physician volunteers.

“It’s so hard to get our patients in to see a specialist,” shared Pablo I. Hernandez Itriago, M.D., chief medical officer at Kennedy Community Health. “We’re the community’s safety net and with MAVEN Project we can start treatment and be confident in doing so. And MAVEN Project’s mentorship offerings are especially beneficial for our newer providers. Having a mentor can help them adjust in what can be a challenging environment.”

With guidance from MAVEN Project, Dr. Hernandez Itriago was able to reassure a patient who had a cancer history and developed new symptoms that might have signaled a reoccurrence. After connecting with a MAVEN Project volunteer, Dr. Hernandez Itriago confirmed it was not cancer.

“It’s specialty care at our fingertips,” he added. “Providers are supported, patients feel taken care of. It’s a solution that works right away instead of waiting weeks or months to be seen.”

Anna McMahan, M.D., medical director at Kennedy Community Health, uses MAVEN Project frequently to make sense of abnormal lab results or radiology that lands in a grey zone.

“I reach out to MAVEN Project volunteers when I reach the limit of what I know,” Dr. McMahan added. “It’s really wonderful to have an expert clarify what to do next. And their consults are so customized for each case that I know exactly how to counsel the patient. It can take weeks or months for a patient to be seen by a local specialist, and this helps to fill the gap. It’s really a fantastic service.”


Original story:

Laying the groundwork: DEI executives need institutional support in become true change agents

In the three months following the May 2020 police murder of George Floyd, the number of diversity, equity, and inclusion-related job openings surged 55% in the U.S., according to employment website Glassdoor, as businesses scrambled to respond to a national reckoning on race.

Yet, as openings for DEI directors and chief diversity officers sprung up, Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in Worcester was not among them.

Read more…

Kennedy Community Health Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Sedruola “Sedie” Maruska

Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center

Sedruola “Sedie” Maruska joins Kennedy Community Health as the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, bringing with her a wealth of knowledge and experience in creating equitable and inclusive workspaces. Maruska’s time in both the business and nonprofit sector has equipped her with the organizational support skills integral to creating a cohesive and welcoming workspace. She has developed curriculum and workshops focused on addressing bias, racial sensitivity, equity & inclusion.

Kennedy Health puts spotlight on transgender health needs


Worcester Magazine

Until recently, it wasn’t unusual for transgender patients to wait weeks or even months for an appointment at Worcester’s Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center.

“When we got calls from trans folks, it would be just me trying to figure out when I could see them,” said Dr. Anna McMahan, who had been the sole PCP treating transgender patients since she joined Kennedy in 2016. Patients’ only other option would have been traveling to the Boston or Springfield areas for gender-affirming healthcare such as hormone replacement therapy or behavioral and surgery referrals. 

After two years of work, Kennedy Community Health Center launched its new Transgender Health Team this past October.

“There was a real dearth of trans care in Central Massachusetts,” said McMahan, one of the main healthcare providers.

Worcesterite Jake Dziejma agreed — he currently travels to a trans health center in Western Massachusetts, over an hour away. “For a city that touts itself as being the second largest in New England, it can be really challenging to simply find competent care as a trans person,” he said, adding that a local option for healthcare would be welcomed by the trans community.

The team currently consists of McMahan and two other main primary care providers, as well as a registered nurse, a community health worker and a medical assistant. As patient numbers continue to rise, the team in turn will keep expanding to absorb the growing caseload. According to McMahan, the support of a dedicated staff has made a night and day difference.

Now, when a patient calls, they can reach the team through a phone line going directly to registered nurse Sarah Caplette and Community Health Worker Claire Powell. While it may seem minor, such a change breaks down yet another barrier to gender affirming healthcare. “Patients don’t have to continuously out themselves,” said Caplette, as they go through various phone transfers before actually reaching their PCP.

About two years ago, McMahan began lobbying for greater support for transgender affirming care, rather than handling each on a case by case basis. “We can see that when people don’t get gender affirming care, they have worse health outcomes overall,” said McMahan. 

The mission of Kennedy Community Health Center is to specifically help those who are marginalized and would not otherwise receive the care they need. With that in mind, McMahan argued that the clinic had a responsibility to do something. “I was able to go to the leadership team and say ‘look, this is a group of people who have worse health outcomes and we can help with that.’” 

Clinic leadership readily agreed, having long been committed to LGBTQ+ healthcare, and work began in earnest to build the new initiative into the budget. In fact, Kennedy Community Health Center has earned a top score as a LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Health Equity Index for the last five years. It is the only healthcare provider in Central Massachusetts to receive this designation. 

Fast-forward to the present day, and “it’s going gangbusters,” said McMahan happily. The rise in patient numbers, she said, doesn’t necessarily represent a demographic change so much as a cultural one.

“It’s not that there are more trans people now than there ever were, but a slightly improved comfort level in being able to say that out loud,” she said. “Still a long way to go but better than it has been historically.”

Worcester resident Maeve Perry is not surprised that Kennedy has seen a rise in patients – and agreed with McMahan’s analysis that more people are able to live visibly. Perry likened it to the stigma that used to surround left-handed students in schools, as teachers forced them to use their right hands. “Once the restriction was lifted, the number of left-handed people shot up in the short term” before stabilizing, she said. A similar phenomenon could be happening with gender identity, aided by the pandemic encouraging self reflection and social media helping spread educational information. “Numbers are bound to go up.” 

However, Dziejma emphasized that acceptance — while essential — is only half the battle. “Trans people need to know that healthcare centers are, one, not hostile and, two, that they actually have the medical knowledge to back that up,” said Dziejma, who had just changed PCPs because “while providers were good people, they didn’t have specific trans knowledge.” 

Perry believes that hormone replacement therapy is relatively under-researched, which contributes to a lack of knowledgeable specialists. One HRT clinic she reached out to had only one doctor who could write the necessary prescriptions for adults. 

Kennedy Health Center did not lack for knowledgeable staff, and brought them in from other parts of the organization, beginning with Caplette and Powell. While Caplette handles all medical aspects, as a CHW, Powell deals with non-medical issues that could directly affect a patient’s health. 

“Everybody who is a CHW is going to have a different definition of what that is,” said Powell, who explained that she works with the social aspects surrounding trans affirming healthcare, such as housing, food as well as “a lot of really specific bureaucratic aspects that affect trans folks,” such as name changes.

Perry agreed that name changes were difficult, requiring repeated travel, a $200 fee, and months of waiting. “And that’s before talking to banks, credit cards, social security and everything else.” She also says she is planning to ask WPI for a new diploma with her correct name. 

Despite the headache, Perry says she still has it easier than many. “I’m a white woman with a college degree, with a car and license, so even in the worst case, I’m good. BIPOC trans people, unfortunately, have it the worst in these kinds of situations.” Services like those offered at Kennedy could be a step forward in combating the race and class based access issues that arise in these situations, she said. 

This speaks to the larger mission of equity at Kennedy Community Health Center — of which the new transgender health team is a part of — that everyone is entitled to healthcare, regardless of socio-economic status, race, sexual orientation or gender identity. And the team at Kennedy Center will be coordinating with similar teams across Massachusetts, sharing knowledge and practices. 

“We want people to come get excellent care,” said McMahan, “regardless of how they identify.”

Q&A Kennedy Community Health Launches Trans Health Practice

Steve Kerrigan, President & CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center, receives his flu vaccination.

Steve Kerrigan established himself as a senior aide to Senator Edward Kennedy before taking on the roles of CEO of both the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee and the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee. Kerrigan then served as chief of staff for President Barack Obama’s 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee.

What attracted you to EMK, and how long have you served as CEO?

The mission attracted me. I did not have a career in public health or healthcare at all when I was recruited for the job, but I did have experience working for Edward Kennedy, the senator, who was driven for his entire career to provide healthcare access to everybody regardless of ability to pay. I’ve been in the job since July 2, 2019.

Tell me about EMK’s latest trans health care offerings.

We’re incredibly excited to have recently launched a trans healthcare practice based in our Worcester health center. We have 100 or so patients now, and we’ve only been open a couple of months. We’re the only health center west of Boston doing this specific work. We’re really proud to be on the cutting edge because it is so critical for people to have access to competent care directed at their needs and the issues they’re going through as trans patients.

We have some clinicians who have been doing this work for a very long time with a lot of our patients, but it is great to now offer a formalized unit focused on trans health. Giving people an understanding that they can be themselves in front of their doctors and have conversations about what they truly need from a care perspective is really pivotal. I am a very proud out gay man. I know how important it is to have a provider who understands the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m just thrilled we can do that for our trans patients and our trans friends.

Steve Kerrigan Shop Talk

How are you approaching a capital campaign during this precarious time?

We almost don’t have an option when it comes to the Milford expansion. There is such a need across all the communities we serve, but particularly in Milford. We currently provide primary care in a 5,000-square-foot site in Milford. The need in the community is such we desperately require more access to primary care. We want to increase access to dental care, optometry care, and behavioral health care. That was enhanced and amplified during COVID, which is why we kept moving forward with plans to expand.

We can’t wait for there to be better economic times to do this work because it’s moments like this when the service we provide is much more in demand. We provide access to care regardless of ability to pay; that is a critical part of who we are. By making our case to the community about the value, we’re going to be able to meet our goals and hopefully get this building occupied and running by the end of the year.

EMK was started 50 years ago by seven women from Great Brook Valley. How are you preserving their legacy while addressing the community’s needs?

It’s funny; the needs of those seven brave founding mothers, as I call them, are still the needs today. They were tired of sending their children and family to the emergency room to receive primary care. It’s at the root of who we are as an organization. Our job is to provide access to care for folks.

We’re obviously much different than the one room they occupied with one nurse practitioner back in 1972. Now, we have 11 different sites, including six school-based health centers. We employ more than 420 people and see almost 30,000 patients a year. Their original goal is very much at the center of our current mission, which is to help people live healthier lives and to give them access to high quality care, regardless of their ability to pay. My hope is, wherever they are, they are looking down on us, and they are proud of their legacy. But for their bravery and ingenuity to set up this center and to get the right partners together to make it a reality, we would not have served more than a quarter million people over the course of our 50-year history.

Is there a network of support among nonprofit leaders in Central Mass.?

Yes. All of the leaders across all of the nonprofits work really well together. That dynamic was, of course, exemplified in response to the pandemic. Worcester Together assembled on 24 hours notice when the pandemic hit and provided critical care for folks. Even before that, people were incredibly welcoming. When I got the job, they scheduled visits and conversations so I could learn about what how they impact the community.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ correspondent Sarah Connell Sanders.

‘It’s breathtaking’: Kennedy Health Center in Worcester hits half-century mark

From humble beginnings, the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Henry Schwan

Telegram & Gazette
Former CEO of Kennedy Community Health Center Zoila Torres Feldman is greeted and hugged by Gloria Garcia, dental coordinator at the dental practice, on her visit back to celebrate the center's 50 years on Jan. 27.



WORCESTER — Patti Parker couldn’t believe her eyes.  

She recently toured the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center at 19 Tacoma St., where she witnessed doctors, nurses and staff treating patients with a wide variety of health needs.  

“I’m in awe of what’s been done here,” Parker said.  

It’s a far cry from Parker’s childhood. Fifty years ago, she was one of the center’s first patients.  

In those days the center was called the Great Brook Valley Health Center – the name was changed to the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in 2010. 

Fifty years ago, the center was located in tight quarters across the street inside the Great Brook Valley public housing development. Parker lived in GBV with her mother and remembered access to health care for GBV residents as “barely existent.” 

From those humble beginnings, the center grew to serve more than 28,000 patients annually, employ more than 300 people and has an operating budget in fiscal 2023 in excess of $47 million. 

Patti Parker, nurse practitioner and an early patient of the health center, chats with former CEO of Kennedy Community Health Center Zoila Torres Feldman.