Deneen Richmond, who has worked in the health care industry since 1986, experienced “a first” last year: working in her native Prince George’s County as president of Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center.
Richmond, a registered nurse who will celebrate her one-year anniversary the week of Nov. 22, oversees more than 1,600 employees where 99% of the staff count as vaccinated and whom she calls “a doctor’s family.”
She continues to lead the institution founded in 1975 as a community hospital that partners in local endeavors. The medical center’s most recent work involves battling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic by co-hosting vaccination clinics at venues which include: Reid Temple AME Church in Glenn Dale; First United Methodist Church in Hyattsville; and various barbershops and beauty salons.
Another clinic slated to vaccinate those 12 years of age and older will be held Tuesday, Nov. 30 at Parkview Garden Apartments in Riverdale.
As of last week, Luminis Health System, based in Annapolis, administered 113,000 COVID-19 vaccines with about 68,000 in Prince George’s.
“What I’m most thankful for is what we are doing for the community,” Richmond said in an interview on Nov. 17 at her office. “The whole reason why we are here is because of the community and that’s what I want my legacy to be.”
The pandemic has affected the majority-Black jurisdiction which continues to lead Maryland with the most confirmed cases, exceeding 101,100.
As of Friday, Nov. 19, state health department data shows Prince George’s ranked 12th among the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore City with 54% of adults 18 and older fully vaccinated.
Richmond, who resides in Bowie with her husband and has two adult sons, offered some advice to reach those who remain unvaccinated and monitor other health ailments.
Reaching People, One Person at a Time
“The other way we get to people is through trusted voices,” she said. “I’ll use the Rev. Mark E. Whitlock, Jr., pastor of Reid Temple AME Church as an example. He shared that he had COVID-19. He was able to get through to some people who perhaps we wouldn’t be able to get through to. We can share our messages together. The same thing with the barbers and beauticians. They have these relationships with people who come and sit in their chair, sometimes for hours, every week or every two weeks. This is an ongoing relationship they have.”
“The ones we’ve partnered with were actually trained as community health workers. They talk to their clients about other health topics. Have you had your colonoscopy? Have you had your mammography? We have to recognize a big part of hesitancy [vaccination] was about access. That’s the reason we started going directly into the community.”
“A lot of people made a spur-of-the-moment decision to get vaccinated after we gave them more information. We are not going to argue with people. We are not going to judge them. We are going to provide them with science and facts in a respectful way. That helps to change minds and hearts. There are still a few hold outs. We’ll get to them. My saying is ‘no arm left behind.’ We will be there when they’re ready.”
“We also recognize that while we’ve had so much focus on the vaccine there are a lot of other health conditions that we need to address. We’re finding that people have delayed care. They haven’t been getting their annual screenings. We have a high prevalence of diabetes in this county [and] throughout the state.”
“We’re glad to be back out in the community to address diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Behavioral health has been a big issue. There are many people who have undiagnosed and untreated behavioral health conditions. Here in Prince George’s County, we don’t have enough behavioral health providers. We also know that many of the people who end up intertwined with our police and legal system have either undiagnosed or untreated mental health or substance abuse issues. We want to make sure those people get treatment. We are not solving the problem by locking them up. We need to get them treatment and it is going to help the community as a whole,” Richmond said.