Jocelyn Perez is a Massachusetts General Hospital Bicentennial Scholar who is now a project manager for Population Health at Mass General Brigham. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and enrolled in a Masters of Public Health degree program at Columbia University. It was fitting, then that Jocelyn, a shining example of all that the Mass General Center for Community Health Improvement hopes to achieve through its commitment to youth, would kick off the recent Celebration of Community Health and CCHI’s 25th Anniversary.

Nearly four hundred people turned out for the virtual event featuring Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Kaiser Permanente’s Chief Health Officer Bechara Choucair, MD, and Mass General President Peter L. Slavin, MD. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley provided a special video message.

The event was held against the backdrop of a global pandemic where our local communities of Chelsea, Revere and some neighborhoods in Boston have become statewide COVID hotspots.

“During a year like no other, we’ve seen the connection between the social determinants of health and the health of the people in various communities,” said Peter L. Slavin, MD. “This lesson reminded us that we need to continue to evolve from being a health care institution, where health care really affects only 20% of the health of a population, to becoming more of a health institution that tries to not only provide great health care but also influences the social determinants of health that have such a dramatic impact on every community.”

Attorney General Healey also spoke about the racial reckoning that is happening throughout the country and noted that those hit hardest by the coronavirus were disadvantaged long before the pandemic began. Affirming the work of CCHI, she said, “I believe firmly that wellbeing and health do not begin when one enters a doctor’s office or health care facility. There is so much that is baked into that, and that is something that the work of CCHI has made clear for so long.”

With an urgent call to not only mitigate, but to eradicate health disparities, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said, “While this is a celebration for how far we have come through the partnerships that CCHI has cultivated over the past 25 years, it’s also an opportunity, and I believe we have a responsibility, to dig deep and to recommit ourselves to the work of the next 25 years and beyond.”

Dr. Slavin took the occasion to announce Vice President for Community Health Joan Quinlan’s departure at the end of the year, following her 25 years of “extraordinary leadership” that helped CCHI reach this quarter century milestone.

Quinlan then shared the two most important lessons that she learned during her tenure—listening to the community and building trust. “It takes time to build trust. You must show up consistently, listen respectfully, partner and deliver on what you promise. Trust is the foundation of the work we do and it is earned, not granted,” she said.

Leslie Aldrich, CCHI executive director, concluded the program with a heartfelt thank you to community partners and staff who have contributed over the years. She encouraged further participation from community and hospital partners alike and said, “No one institution, sector or individual can address social determinants alone. Our goal, as it has always been, will be to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities to achieve health equity for all.”