Photos & Story by Marianne Salza
Senator Lydia Edwards hosted the annual Women’s Health Forum on October 19 at Winthrop High School. Sponsored by Commonwealth Clinical Services, Inc., and East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC), the Forum raised awareness about physical and mental health by providing opportunities for visitors to speak with over 40 local businesses and organizations that specialize in health and wellness.
“Taking care of your mental and emotional health is like how you should be taking care of your physical health,” said Senator Lydia Edwards. “It’s about all of us being healthier together, and making sure resources are free, accessible, and understood.”
Speaker, Sandra Hurley, President of Commonwealth Clinical Services, Inc., is the co-founder of Winthrop’s only visiting nurse association, which provides full-service healthcare. Commonwealth Clinical offers physical and occupational therapy, skilled nurses, certified home health aides, speech and language therapy, and social workers.
“We also offer 24-hour home private care to assist you through rehabilitation,” noted Hurley. “We can assist you through confusing and complicated insurance problems.”
Hurley introduced her daughter, Jeanne Holgersen, Clinical Nursing Director of Commonwealth Clinical. The nurse practitioner specializes in private care in adult gerontology at the office of Doctor P.C. Shah, M.D., in Winthrop. The mother of five children serves as the Vice Chair of the Winthrop Board of Health Advisory Board, which identifies and solves community health problems in collaboration with other town organizations.
“The past couple of years have been challenging. We have learned a lot from the Covid-19 pandemic, including identifying loneliness, isolation, and physical limitations of sickness,” Holgersen revealed. “This is our community, and we are responsible for one another. The greatness of a community is measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
Holgersen explained the Board of Health’s commitment to keeping Winthrop a healthy and environmentally safe place to live in and enjoy. The Board of Health supports residents who need personal assistance, and provides referrals to resources. They develop policies and procedures to protect the people of Winthrop, and educate residents about healthy behaviors.
Speaker, Doctor Jackie Fantes, is the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at EBNHC, one of the largest community health centers in the nation, serving over 120,000 patients a year. She has served in the United States Navy as a general medical officer and emergency department physician on the coast and abroad.
“Women’s health is of particular interest in my career as a family physician,” explained Doctor Fantes. “I’ve had the privilege of caring for women locally and around the globe. There is one common thing: we give of ourselves before taking care of ourselves. It’s important that we take care of ourselves, too.”
Doctor Fantes introduced her friend and colleague, Doctor Karin Leschly, EBNHC Vice President and Chief Quality Officer, who is committed to reducing food insecurity, and promoting access to nutritious foods. As a family medical physician, Doctor Leschly feels like she cares for the entire family.
“To truly care for a patient, we need to address issues around their mental health and physical health,” advised Doctor Leschly, a mother of five daughters.
She discussed the importance of nutrition to our overall well-being, and dispelled common myths about nutrition. According to Doctor Leschly, there are no foods that will make you lose weight, and fats such as avocados, nuts, and olive oils are part of a healthy diet. She suggests shopping seasonally, and considering frozen or canned vegetables to save money.
Speaker, LeighAnn Eruzione, serves youth and families impacted by substance use and mental health needs as the Director of the Community Diversion and Intervention Program at CASA (Community Against Substance Use). The mother of three boys explained CASA initiatives such as career readiness, social justice, and gender identification programs that provide youth a place to explore.
“Our goal is to identify risky behaviors, bolster the positives, and create impactful, educational opportunities to help young people carve their own successful paths,” described Eruzione. “Our youth are the future foundation of our communities, and these important developmental milestones need special attention to foster healthy progress.”
Keynote Speaker J.C. Monahan, is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, NBC newscaster, and recipient of the 2022 Hope Award. The mother of two daughters shared her struggles with depression and anxiety, and the pressure on women to be family caregivers that are also focused on their careers.
“Mental health is good health,” declared Monahan, who reminded listeners to take time for themselves, set boundaries, drink water, and sleep restfully. “Depression is a disease. I have to keep on top of it; but now I have the tools to succeed. I’m not alone. My life is realistically balanced. Remember, you can’t be there for others if you’re not there for yourself.”