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2023 in Re(ar)view

We are grateful for a successful year within our team –as measured by events, capacity building, client success stories, affirming exchanges, etc–even as we navigated various, familiar challenges–including losses among the team and community, staffing and team changes, the grief and vicarious trauma of witnessing, and severe weather. Over nearly three decades of consistent, on-the-ground and in-the-classroom work, the MHI refined, and continues to refine, strategies for resilience as well as the most effective practices for improved outcomes. 


By the numbers:

  • Participation, hosting, presenting, and/or tabling at 193 events for a total of 398 hours. 

  • Direct interaction with 2000+ event attendees

  • 9319 attendees total

  • 280 volunteer hours

  • 692 pamphlets distributed

  • 116 blood pressure screenings

  • 485 masks and 128 hand sanitizers distributed

  • 1200+ health and medical items distributed


In addition, several of our team members earned certifications as Certified Community Health Workers. We are excited to implement these new skills with the support of The American Red Cross in 2024 and as part of our goal to become a certifying agency for community health workers with an environmental justice focus.


Continue reading for a monthly summary of MHI’s activities in 2023.


January 2023

To start off the New Year, the MHI continued its tradition of engaging our community, providing health resources, and educating community members in an effort to promote health and break down barriers. We helped with the MLK cleanup and updates on Whittaker Bayou. The Multicultural Health Institute's grant with Project Hope started with the first Health Supply drop-offs received by the Oneco Hope Global Methodist, New Life General Baptist, and Rubonia Community Center locations in addition to our annual MLK health fair participation. Our scholars represented well attending lectures and presenting their research projects at the annual Cobb NMA Research symposium at Moffitt Hospital in Tampa. Our NCF student posters were displayed there as well as at the faculty summit meeting at NCF.


Left to right: Jordae Jenkins, Anna Nguyen, Julian Melchor, W. Montague Cobb Board Member Dr. Winston Price, Dr. Lisa Merritt, Manuela Miller, Marquia Walker, and Stassi Kiousis at the Cobb Health Disparities Conference, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa.

February

February was a very active month with the MHI engaging with health partners locally and nationally.  We started the CDC’s Prevent T2 Program at both of our Bradenton and Sarasota locations. All five of our health supply distribution locations were set with their drop-off schedules and distributions. We discussed different aspects of the program, such as Dr. Weddle about Mind-Body Medicine, a registered dietician on nutritional food choices, and having a certified personal trainer for low-impact exercises for older/geriatric populations. The MHI also continued monthly, yearlong presence at several local and national events and meetings including the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Bioethics, Medical Education and quarterly meetings of  Boards of AAPMR, Black Trustees Alliance in Arts and Ringling Museum. We continued our community impact with our monthly healing circle focused on Heart Health by Dr. Coeurlida Ashby. MHI continued to be a face for change in the community, steering the conversation of several local health organizations towards health equity, and continuing to champion the principles of health equity.


Grateful intergenerational recipients of support during Oneco outreach & education efforts.

March

March was the month of coalition building, including the reinvigoration of our environmental justice work, with the MHI holding community coalition meetings with our local partners. Our free health supply distributions continued at all five locations. Both of the Prevent T2 programs acquired consistent participants and we changed the name of the program to “Lifestyle Change Program,” hosting the program biweekly to better fit people’s schedules. In addition, we continued to make connections with community organizations, such as HIPPY, to host 10-minute introductory sessions on the program driving further recruitment.

MHI continued its health focus in March by commemorating Women’s History Month with a Domestic Violence Awareness Healing Circle presented by Dawn Bryant.


Left: A client receives digital navigation assistance with MHI Care Coordinator Darlene Brown. 

April

Project Hope was very successful and much appreciated by the community. One of our navigators, Ms. Bonnie, who assists with the distributions at Oneco United Methodist Church indicated that she had about 20 people waiting for her when she arrived for each distribution. There is clearly still a high need for support in the community and we are grateful to have been able to assist with the facilitation of this project. Another navigator, Ms. Angie, facilitates these distributions at the Bethlehem Bible Church and she echo’s Bonnie’s comments about the success of the program and the continued needs in the community. Our Lifestyle Coaching classes have begun gaining traction with increased attendance. We also began partnering with local health professionals to incorporate special talks for the groups, which started including Dr. Mike Weddle sharing a presentation called Eating With Intention.


The care coordination and navigation program continued to be highly utilized by the community. So far this year we have received 122 referrals through Unite Us and often more quickly seen “in the field” providing immediate information and coordination to them. Some clients' needs can be met through one interaction while others involve hours of persistent work over the course of many months. We expect this trend to continue.


MHI celebrated the culmination of years of Environmental Justice advocacy with our highly successful 2 day Environmental Summit featuring Attorney Rob Billott of Dark Waters’ fame. We had a standing room only audience of over 100 at Fogartyville to view the movie and hear a panel discussion about the significant adverse impacts of “Forever Chemicals” Mr Bilott helped the world to learn about, and the importance of environmental stewardship for generations to come. The following day we had a panel of experts led by Kameron Hodges of Gulf Coast Community Foundation discussing issues and multigenerational and multicultural break out groups posing concerns and solutions. A summary including our timeline is compiled in our EJ report and an EJ climate cruise presentation is available for organizations on demand.


MHI continued our community impact with our monthly healing circle focused on Autism Awareness with a presentation by Dr. Stacy Greeter. 



Left to right: Christine Quigley, Onyx Hadwen, Dr. Lisa Merritt during the Environmental Summit at Fogartyville

Workgroups listen intently as they learned, exchanged and developed recommendations for individuals, businesses, government and philanthropic organizations summarized in the Convening Report



Rob Bilott, Dr. Merritt, and Steve Roskamp at the Environmental Community Convening hosted at the beautiful Powell Crosley Estates

May

This month marked the last set of health supply procurements from Project Hope to our 5 locations. To recall, the health supplies were distributed to three locations in Manatee County, Florida (Oneco United Methodist Church, Rubonia Community Center, and New Life General Baptist Church) and two locations in Sarasota County, Florida (Bethlehem Bible Church and Greater Hurst Chapel AME Church). Each location received one procurement each month and distributed the supplies twice per month (except Rubonia Community Center at one Saturday per month). The locations distributed all of the supplies each month, with little to no rollover, thus It is clear that the distributions supplied a wide range of personal  healthcare items that provided relief to many members of the community, such as diapers, adult pads, shaving items. One of our volunteers, Angela, gave the following testimonial: 

“..... a young woman came through the food bank and I asked her if she needed pampers or Feminine Products I gave her a box of Always pads, she just started crying so hard stating she haven’t had the money to buy any in a long time using what she could find, the moral of this story is you never know what people are really going through, Project Hope has really been a blessing to so many.”  Our new college students analyzed and helped prepare a report of findings and recommendations on the data from our year long Community Based research survey and Workshop findings 


Angela Miles and Onyx Hadwen distributing free health supplies provided by Project Hope at Bethlehem Bible Church

June

June was a month of celebration for the MHI as we celebrated Juneteenth participating in both Newtown and Bradenton’s celebration of Juneteenth and provided free health screenings and information to promote health equity.  This month was the first month of our Project Hope grant without any Health Supply procurements; however, due to having some supplies leftover at Bethlehem Bible Church, our Digital Navigator,Angela, had distributed the remainder of the supplies between June 8, June 22, and June 29. We met with our Lifestyle Change members five times this month with two meetings in our Sarasota location and three meetings in our Oneco location, and have multiple seminars scheduled for the remainder of their time in our program. 


Left to right: MHI Navigator Darlene Brown, MHI VISTA Grace Keirn, Dr. Renelle Lim, Dr. Coeurlida Ashby, Mr. Jetson, Dr. Lisa Merritt, Dr. Rose Goncalves, Vicki Guy, Nadia Sandhu 

July 

July focused on the kids and those who educate them as we participated in several back-to-school events. We partnered with Nadia from NOVA research and Nathan Horner with AHEC Tobacco Cessation to help about 80 families receive food and other helpful health information and resources. This month marked the beginning of our Lifestyle Change Program-Seminar Series at the Sarasota/Newtown location. We kicked off our seminar series with a demonstration by All Faiths Food Bank who showed our attendees how to cook a healthy, nutritious meal. They modified the recipe for P.F. Changs’s lettuce wraps by using shredded lettuce and ground chicken to make a bowl version of the wraps. It was absolutely delicious and we enjoyed discussing how everyone’s different cultures and upbringings affects their nutritional decision making.

Our Digital Navigators, Ms. Bonnie, and Manuela Miller worked diligently to provide free, restored laptops and desktops to individuals in the community who struggle with accessing the internet so that they can send emails, manage patient portals, apply for jobs, and participate in community-wide events that may be held on Zoom or another video conferencing platform. 


August

August was a month of advocacy with the MHI in addition to our focus on back-to-school work.

MHI took part in several advocacy and public broadcast events.  In addition to interviews by WUSF for an article that to run in September in remembrance of Ian, https://www.wusf.org/health-news-florida/2023-09-26/sarasota-advocates-reflect-hurricane-ians-health-impact-one-year-later, MHI also presented at the University of Colorado Diplomat in Disaster Management Certification program and at the National Medical Association in New Orleans about the impact of climate disasters on environmental health of vulnerable populations. This includes our building databanks for advocacy and the impact that the MHI has had on its local communuity; Gulf Coast Medical Society colleague Dr. Rose Goncalves presented alongside Dr. Merritt in the NMA Community Medicine section. It was also a celebration for Dr. Merritt to co-moderate the day long PMR Resident presentations, a celebration of having helped found both the AAPMR & NMA Resident’s sections 3 decades previously. Dr. Merritt and MHI were also recognized at Greater Hurst Chapel AME Church’s Women’s Day event. Our care coordination and navigation program continued to be highly utilized by the community. As of August 31, with 179 new cases for this year.


Dr. Duplechan and Dr. Andrew Hendrix instructing during hands-on demonstrations at NMA Anatomy cadaver course

Dr Andrew Hendrix head NMA PMR section, Dr Lisa Merrit, Past and current NMA presidents Dr Shirley Marks and Dr Yolanda Lawson at the National Medical Association.

September 

September was a month focused on advocacy for the MHI with Environmental Equity and Data monitoring as well as expanding our environmental justice educational programs. We launched the Nature-Nurture Environmental Justice Veterans Program and our Sarasota Waterkeeper collaborative youth ambassadors programs. They began meeting at Booker High School and MHI also was represented at the BHS career day. Ms. Angie, our Digital Navigator and the Bethlehem Bible Church coordinator,  hosted an additional Diabetes Education course every Wednesday in the month of September for families involved in the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program with the Safe Children Coalition. These weekly events included presentations from Dr. El Shahaway and Ms. Helen Neal, as well as Zumba sessions from Moves with Daisy. This program also had 168 individuals who viewed the presentations via Facebook Live. Please be sure to see some photos of the program below. We continued monthly event programs such as the Healing Circle (Preventing Heart Failure featuring Morehouse School of Medicine’s Dr. Ofili),the  Oneco Food Pantry, and smoking cessation classes. 

In addition, we continued our Lifestyle Change Program-Seminar Series at the Sarasota/Newtown location, in which we were thankful to have Dr. Coeurlida Ashby provide a seminar on Preventing and Reversing Chronic Disease. Our care coordination and navigation program continued to be highly utilized by the community. As of September 21, 2023, we  had 188 cases in our Care Coordination program this year. 


MHI Team and Dr. El Shahaway at the MHI x Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program with the Safe Children Coalition Diabetes Program

October

October was a month focused on recovery and resilience with the MHI. Our Lifestyle Change Program-Seminar Series at the Oneco location featured a seminar from Dr. Coeurlida Ashby as she presented a lecture on embracing lifestyle medicine for chronic disease reversal and cancer prevention. Our participants loved the presentation and indicated that they learned so many new facts that they were unaware of before regarding breast cancer; therefore, we are extremely thankful for Dr. Ashby supporting MHI in consecutive months and taking her spare time to educate the community. Furthermore, we have fostered a relationship with Feeding Tampa Bay who will be providing a 4-session biweekly nutritional program focused on “tips to help individuals stretch their food dollar, eating on a budget, and purchasing food at the best price. Each lesson includes interactive activities and a recipe demo. Participants also get a printed recipe booklet of low-cost, easy to prepare recipes.” This program will begin in January 2024 and will be held at Lifestyle Change Program-Bradenton at Oneco Hope Global Methodist Church, so we are very excited to provide this opportunity to our community!

Our care coordination and navigation program continues to be highly utilized by the community. As of October 26, 2023, we had 206 cases in our Care Coordination program this year.


Left: Angela Miles and Darlene Brown at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church Fall Festival and Outreach event

November 

While we at MHI always love to give back, November brought a whole new meaning to the season of giving for us. We continued wrap around of events and advocacy for the Sarasota/Manatee community. We fostered a relationship with the American Red Cross who is working with us to develop a disaster preparation module and disaster “packs,” for our organization to share with individuals within our program and throughout the community. Furthermore, we are working in conjunction with the Sarasota Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to educate the North Sarasota community on the advantages of having a CERT and the importance of Newtown representation within these teams. Dr Merritt continued her service as Member at Large on the National Board of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, celebrating the succession of a strong group of young physicians being recognized for their work, hosting over 100 AA physiatrists and residents at the community meeting with ongoing monthly mentoring and informational sessions. PMR is now one of the most competitive specialties and we are happy to have helped increase the pipeline of future BIPOC physiatrists. She also facilitated and lectured on environmental health and vulnerable populations.

Our care coordination and navigation program continued to be highly utilized by the community. As of November 30, 2023, we  had 240 cases in our Care Coordination program this year.






Left to right: Dr. Alpha Anders, president of AAPMR Resident section, Dr. Carla Walton, Board Member and head of DE&I, Dr. Nneka Ifejika Board Member, Dr. Lisa Merritt, Board member, Dr. Marlis Gonzalez-Fernandez, helping create historic most diverse board membership AAPMR history.

MHI Core Team Left to Right - Angie Miles, Crystal Johnson, Darlene Brown, Dr Merritt, Helen Neal MHI VISTA (seated), Bonnie Hardy, Vicki Royer, Marquia Walker 

December

We are proud to have finished the year strong! As of December 10, 2023, we have had 250 cases in our Care Coordination program this year. Due to the ending of Project hope funding and no further support in sight, we uncoupled from the Unite Us platform, hopeful that better resourced organizations might assume a greater share of this needed work as we turn our focus to CHW certification. The Lifestyle Improvement classes are well embedded with a strong virtual presence and many prior attendees also benefiting from the digital navigation program and stopping by our offices at other times for general advice and guidance.  We have another segment of health education for HIPPY parents in training to begin in January 2024. We are grateful to be able to provide “Gift Baskets of Hope and Health” to participants in our classes and care navigation programs. In addition, we celebrated and supported the Gulf Coast Medical Society (GCMS) at their First Annual Holiday Brunch held at the Marie Selby Gardens


Dr. Lisa Merritt, GCMS Secretary, presenting at GCMS First Annual Holiday Brunch

Left: Dr. Yusif Addae (Gulf Coast Medical Society President), Dr. Washington Hill, Dr. John Abu, Dr. Niva Lubin-Johnson (President NMA),  Dr. Lisa Merritt, and Dr. Randall Morgan at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital 

Left: Dr. Randall Morgan, Dr. Rosae Goncalves, Florida State University Medical Student Julian Melchor, and Dr. Lisa Merritt at the Newtown Community Screenings and Health Fair.

Left: Dr. Randall Morgan, Dr. Rose Goncalves, Dr. Lisa Merritt, Dr. Yusif Addae (President), Dr. Katrina Davis, Dr. Washington Hill, Dr. Coeurlida Ashby, Dr. Chrisbel Dafaemkpor, and Dr. John Abu representing the Gulf Coast Medical Society at the First Annual Holiday Brunch held at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

 

As another very productive and busy year comes to a close, we send a huge thanks to our Multicultural Action Team (MAT) collaborators, hosts, and supporters at these events, especially including:

  • Amaryllis Park Neighborhood Association

  • ASALH

  • Bethlehem Bible Church

  • Boxser Diversity Initiative

  • CAN Community Health

  • Centerplace Health

  • Empath Health

  • Greater Hurst Chapel AME Church

  • Greatness Beyond Measure

  • Gulf Coast Medical Society

  • The LINKS Inc.

  • Light of the World Church

  • MCR Health Services

  • New Bethel MBC Church

  • Newtown CHAT

  • Newtown Farmer’s Market

  • Newtown Nation

  • Oneco Hope Global Methodist Church

  • Project Hope

  • The John & Mabel Ringling Museum

  • Sarasota Bay Estuary Program

  • Manatee Department of Health

  • Sarasota Department of Health

  • Sarasota Film Festival

  • Sarasota Memorial Hospital

  • Sarasota Waterkeepers

  • Sarasota NAACP

  • Selby Gardens

  • WSLR + Fogartyville

  • Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota

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