From the CEO
2020: a demanding year and one of the most inspirational in our history
How to sum up a year like 2020 in a simple annual report? I know my words won’t do justice to our last year, the most challenging and in many ways most inspirational we’ve ever experienced at La Clinica.
In 2020, we knew every step of the way that our community was depending on us to serve like never before. I’m incredibly proud of how our staff innovated, rallied, and delivered. And I’m humbled by the kind words and community support that poured in to help us help others. We are grateful, so grateful.
We had our challenges, too, of course. The pandemic’s arrival forced us to shift services rapidly and come up with new ways to serve community members. The Almeda fire that devastated the communities of Phoenix and Talent delivered a significant blow to our staff and nearly 1,200 of our patients who lost their homes. The ever-present inequities for people of color in our community became even clearer, spurring us to action. Our team members juggled demanding work requests, kids’ online classes, changing family dynamics, and in some cases devastating and life-changing loss. And although we have been buoyed by the generous support of our community, our organization, like many, faced financial tests like in no other year in our history.
As I think about 2020, I’ve been asking myself what I really want you to know. I think it’s this: We love this work and feel truly fortunate to do it. We’re humbled by what’s possible when we work in this community, and we’re excited about the future. We’ve had our share of ups and downs in 2020 to be sure, but we’re resilient, we’re dedicated to our community, and we’re honored to be here.
This annual report highlights four approaches that I believe helped see us through the worst of the pandemic. Throughout everything, we’ve been stable, connected, growing, and innovative in ways that have been in direct response to the deep needs of those we serve.
Please enjoy our annual report for 2020.
Brenda Johnson, CEO, May 16, 2021
Background photo: Maria del Pilar of Medford reacts after receiving her COVID-19 vaccine at La Clinica's drive-up clinic this year.
For patients who needed consistency during the pandemic, La Clinica offered thousands of visits by phone, video
While COVID-19 disruptions rippled around the world, 2020 brought Rhonda Capello her own challenges: She was homeless, sick with antibiotic-resistant infections that plagued her with pain, and she briefly relapsed after 17 years of being clean from methamphetamine.
One challenge she didn’t face through it all was how to maintain visits with her primary care doctor, who connected with her regularly on the screen of her phone. Phone and video appointments provided a lifeline in 2020 for Rhonda and thousands of others who needed consistent care despite the coronavirus pandemic.
La Clinica launched phone and video appointments to provide stable, ongoing care for medical, dental, and behavioral health patients when the pandemic limited in-person services. From March-December 2020, La Clinica provided about 20,000 virtual medical appointments to 8,500 patients, 947 virtual dental appointments to 898 patients, and 4,173 virtual behavioral health appointments to 964 patients. It is a service the organization will continue to offer even after the pandemic is over.
"Virtual visits have saved my life,” Rhonda said.
As someone who doesn’t drive or even have a car, she relies on them to stay in contact with her primary care provider, Dr. Nat Fondell at Birch Grove Health Center.
“Dr. Fondell is the best doctor I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of them because I have a lot of health problems,” she said.
A champion powerlifter by the time she was a teenager, Rhonda injured her back in a weightlifting competition when she was 14, launching her on a lifetime of surgeries on her back, ankles, and feet. Diabetes left ulcers on her feet that wouldn’t heal and ultimately led to infection that penetrated the bone.
Video visits over the past year helped manage her diabetes and pain medication, support her in getting her substance use recovery back on track, and coordinate specialty care, including referrals to a surgeon when she decided having her feet amputated offered the best way to vanquish the pain and infection and move forward.
Her amputations were done in March and while she was in the hospital and a rehabilitation center where she could get physical and occupational therapy, Dr. Fondell checked in on her by video wherever she was so they could keep up routine care.
Now she’s staying in a motel in Medford, waiting for her body to heal so she can be fitted with prosthetic legs. She’s looking forward to walking again. She wants to walk on the beach when she goes to the coast to visit her grandson instead of sitting in a car in too much pain to leave the parking lot. She wants to walk in the snow in the mountains. She’s dreaming of a week-long hiking and camping trip to see wildflowers. She wants to get a job and a place of her own.
“My life’s been crazy the past few years,” Rhonda said. “But it’s been building me up, making me stronger for something better. And La Clinica has been nothing but wonderful to me.”
Photos with this story: Rhonda Capello, below and in background photo in the motel room where she's living, faced significant and persistent health challenges in 2020. Her physician helped provide the stability she needed through virtual visits that kept them talking and working through issues throughout the year. Photos courtesy of Jim Craven
Partnerships between La Clinica and local vineyards has helped keep workers safe during the pandemic
For 16 years, vineyard supervisor Carlos Arredondo has tended vines for Quail Run Vineyards, shaping the plants, clearing away debris to keep them healthy, and harvesting grapes. When the coronavirus pandemic hit Southern Oregon, he was grateful that he and his crews could get equally attentive care through a partnership between La Clinica and Quail Run.
In the face of the pandemic, La Clinica provided protective gear, COVID-19 testing, and vaccine for agricultural workers, whose needs for quality health care are at the root of La Clinica’s mission.
La Clinica knew that connection with partners would help keep the community safe. Outreach efforts last year brought in 29 new partners, and 17 of those were vineyards or wineries. Through April 2021, these collaborative efforts led to vaccinations for 225 workers in the wine industry.
“In 2020, we made inroads with new partners, especially agricultural employers,” La Clinica Community Partnership Director Ed Smith-Burns said. “We had the ability to grow that relationship and expand services to vineyards, food processing, and reforestation.”
With Quail Run Vineyards and other partners, La Clinica distributed masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer to keep workers safe through the 2020 harvest. When vaccine became available in early 2021, La Clinica coordinated vaccination clinics so crews could come together to get their shots.
“That was helpful,” Carlos said.
He and his co-workers were worried about COVID-19, especially as new people hire on to crews during the growing season and when the busy harvest season finds people working close together even though the rows of grapes are nine feet apart.
Quail Run’s owner and vineyard manager Michael Moore echoes the gratitude for La Clinica that rises from his employees, many of whom have been with the company for years.
“When you’re working with large crews, if one person gets sick, everyone is afraid,” Michael said.
That left him worried that if illness struck during harvest, people wouldn’t want to come to work.
“Getting vaccinated was an enormous emotional relief to us all,” he said. “It makes people so much more comfortable to know they are safe and they can protect their extended families and community, which they want to do.”
Photos with this story: Carlos Arredondo leads crews at a Quail Run vineyard near Jacksonville and is grateful for La Clinica's help protecting him and his team. Photos courtesy of Steve Johnson
Fifth-grader Gabe Freshour lost his home in the Almeda fire. He, his family, and many others are receiving critical services through La Clinica's new school-based centers
Gabe Freshour, a confident fifth-grader, has a lot of memories and a lot of friends at Orchard Hill Elementary School. He’s gone to school here since kindergarten.
The school is also where he, his little brother Sebastian Weldon, who is in kindergarten now, and mom Shannon Weldon found support after they lost their home in the close-knit Medford Estates neighborhood to the wind-whipped flames of the Almeda fire.
It’s one of four schools in the Phoenix-Talent School District where La Clinica opened a new school-based health center in the past year. Other schools are Talent Elementary, Talent Middle School, and Armadillo Technical Institute. At Orchard Hill, mental health therapist Carol Adams, a social worker who previously worked at the school for years with Family Solutions, offers counseling for students and families.
La Clinica and the Phoenix-Talent School District were working on plans to open school-based health centers to provide mental health services and the care of a nurse even before the coronavirus pandemic and wildfires tore through the Rogue Valley. Those twin challenges heightened the need and deepened La Clinica’s commitment to care for the hundreds of families who were displaced.
La Clinica also strengthened ties between primary care teams and school-based therapists to ensure any child who gets care at La Clinica can connect with mental health services.
“I was feeling nervous after the fire and I was nervous to talk about it,” Gabe said. “Now that I come to Mrs. Adams, I feel comfortable talking to her about anything. It feels really good to talk about anything that’s going bad in my life.”
With her help, he’s made lists of options for when he’s feeling stressed and ways to head off his anxiety or frustration with others.
Mom Shannon attends a weekly counseling session with Sebastian, who had excelled in a Head Start pre-kindergarten program but melted down when faced with remote learning. He does breathing exercises and is getting into meditation to stay calm and focused.
“They had issues with anger. Now they are able to regulate their moods better,” Shannon said of her sons. “They have tools to change how they feel and how they react to those feelings.”
"I was feeling nervous after the fire and I was nervous to talk about it. Now that I come to Mrs. Adams, I feel comfortable talking to her about anything. It feels really good to talk about anything that’s going bad in my life." —Gabe Freshour
Photos with this story: Background, Gabe Freshour, left, with his brother Sebastian Weldon and mom Shannon Weldon. The trio lost their Medford Estates home in the Almeda fire. Photos courtesy of Jim Craven
Faced with COVID-19, La Clinica first launched a respiratory triage clinic in a weekend and then followed up with a pandemic-ready acute care clinic
As fever, aches, and coughing rippled through Frank Walker’s household in March, he wanted to believe it was just the flu. When his wife tested positive for COVID-19, she steered him to La Clinica’s new Acute Care Clinic for a test of his own.
La Clinica provided screening, testing, and treatment to more than 3,000 patients with symptoms of COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic. Within a week of Oregon’s governor declaring a state of emergency related to the spread of coronavirus in March 2020, employees set up a respiratory triage clinic at the Wellness Center on Biddle Road in Medford, blocking off space and using a separate entrance to keep patients with a cough, fever, and related symptoms safely away from others.
As teams recognized an ongoing need, this approach evolved into a plan to transform a building at 616 Market St. that La Clinica had used as storage into a pandemic-ready acute care clinic.
“Both with the respiratory triage clinic setup and then the Acute Care Clinic plan, I saw quick and creative thinking to put best practices for public health and clinical care to work in the face of challenges La Clinica had never seen before,” said Chief Operations Officer Tara Kirk. “I’m proud of the way our team rallied to support our community.”
To keep patients safe from infectious diseases, the new clinic features a walk-up service window outside for patients to check in, a waiting room with a roll-up door to open the room to the outdoors, upgraded ventilation throughout, and a room for staff to put on and take off protective gear. It opened early this year.
That’s when Frank showed up for testing.
The test confirmed he had COVID-19. As he also has diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease, putting him at high risk for dangerous complications, the acute care team quickly referred him for an infusion of virus-fighting proteins given intravenously to make his symptoms less severe. Within a day his fever and headache had lifted, but he still spent most of the next two weeks in bed with crushing exhaustion and body aches.
“I totally underestimated it,” he said of COVID-19. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemies.”
Beyond testing and a referral for antibody treatment that helped him recover and avoid complications, Frank continues to work with his regular care team at La Clinica’s West Medford Health Center. He’s looking into bariatric surgery that would help him lose weight and control the underlying conditions that put him at increased risk if COVID-19 continues to circulate like the flu.
“I’m very grateful,” Frank said. “La Clinica’s been really good to me.”
Photos with this story: Frank Walker, below, and La Clinica's new Acute Care Clinic, background image, complete with an indoor-outdoor waiting room for patients with respiratory symptoms. Take a video tour of the new clinic below.
To return to this report after viewing the video above, click the "x" in the upper right corner of the video screen.
A commitment to community service
What calls someone to dive in to help? Here are perspectives on service from a few of our employees
"I feel privileged and grateful to be able to follow my calling. I believe that when you have that chance to pursue your calling, it becomes a passion, not a job. It doesn't feel like work. I truly love what I do at La Clinica."
—Adult Nurse Practitioner Carolina Mona Keene, left, on her work during COVID-19
“During this pandemic, it’s in every nurse’s heart to help and serve. That’s why I got into nursing, to help those in our community in need, especially those who are ill. I like being the person who could help, not be a bystander.”
— Registered Nurse Heather Pfeil, above, with Registered Nurse Sara Yalon
"We are all humans and have a purpose, and it is to serve, and it's beautiful because we are all doing what we are all doing because we want to help others."
— Behavioral Health Clinician Dori Best, above
“It’s an honor to be helping people. I want to feel like I’m contributing back to the community in a time of need. We’re going to get through this together.”
— Dental Assistant Alex Alvarado, above, who has pitched in with infection control cleaning, interpreting, pharmacy delivery, and other general tasks during the pandemic
“I feel like we really hold our patients in a special place where they can feel loved and taken care of and like we’re going to do everything in our power to find out what’s going on and get them the right resources.”
— School-based Registered Nurse Tamara Chambers, above
A legacy of service, leadership, and devotion
During the nearly two decades that donor and former board member Jerry Taylor and his wife, Jeanne Taylor, supported La Clinica, they championed services for the working-class community by funding efforts to build new health centers and expand services—dental care was a favorite. They also gave $10,000 a year to purchase Christmas gifts for the organization’s most vulnerable patients and families.
In addition to his generous gifts, Jerry helped shape La Clinica’s fundraising program, relishing in every one of its successes. He served for six years on La Clinica’s board, including as president and treasurer. During his board service, La Clinica opened East Medford Dental Clinic, the Mobile Health Center, Birch Grove Health Center, and the Wellness Center. During this time, the organization also opened school-based health sites at Crater High School, Central Point Elementary, and Mae Richardson Elementary, and expanded mental health and substance use disorder services and wellness care.
“On rare occasions, development professionals are fortunate enough to have community partners who not only deeply support the mission of their organizations, but who also open themselves up personally to offer sound advice, needed feedback, and on occasion, a good kick in the pants,” said Maria Underwood, La Clinica’s chief development officer. “Jerry did all these things with humor, appreciation, and love.”
“Our team conveys deep condolences to Jeanne and the rest of Jerry’s family and friends,” said CEO Brenda Johnson. “We are with you in missing this great man and are so grateful that he blessed us with his time and friendship.”
Pictured at left: Top, Jerry Taylor at a 2018 ceremony honoring top donors with his wife, Jeanne, left, and CEO Brenda Johnson; lower left in his Board of Directors portrait; lower right at a restaurant with Chief Development Officer Maria Underwood.