A giant of the nonprofit community in Loudoun and the region is getting ready to step down from the organization she helped build.
Carol Jameson is the CEO of HealthWorks for Northern Virginia, an organization she helped assemble 10 years ago, providing a range of medical care at locations in Loudoun, Herndon and Reston with several more locations on the way in Sterling, Chantilly and Fairfax.
At the time it was created, she was running the Jeanie Schmidt Free Clinic in Herndon, and saw the need for the services to grow as they reached their capacity. In 2012, the clinic merged with the Loudoun Community Health Center, creating HealthWorks.
“We worked very collaboratively, sort of put aside our individual identities just to make a larger organization that really could more effectively meet the community needs—because, again, there was a lot of need,” she said. Having a single organization with multiple locations, she said, both helps serve more people—for many of whom transportation and time off work can be difficult to come by—and think more broadly about community partnerships.
And to this day, as Loudoun’s population grows, so does the need. She said while Loudoun’s population has exploded, the poverty rate has remained essentially the same—meaning more people every year that need help, even before COVID-19.
Some things are familiar, such as families in need who don’t know there’s help available, or who, for various reasons, are scared to reach out.
“I came out of the AIDS world in the late ‘80s, so that’s where I first started seeing barriers to health care utilization. And at that time it was stigma, it was poverty, it was marginalization, and it was, of course, enormous fear—just unfounded fear, but still, enormous fear,” Jameson said. “And there will always be those sorts of challenges. There’s still stigma, maybe for a different population. And there’s certainly the impact of language, culture, transportation, fear of health care if you haven’t had access to it, I could go on and on.”
In a time when the need continues to grow—but also at a time with renewed energy, funding and awareness around nonprofits, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic—she will hand the reins to HealthWorks’ current Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tonya Adkins.
Adkins, too, has a longtime passion for community health. She began her career as a Navy physician, an OB-GYN, where she met her husband, a career Marine. After leaving the Navy, she went into private practice, moving around, and ended up working part-time in obstetrics for the Fairfax County Health Department. The family would move again to Japan, then California—where she again worked in a health center—before coming back to Northern Virginia.
She was trying to get in touch with the health department when she accidentally dialed HealthWorks. She offered her services as an OB-GYN, and within days she was in the door. She said that was almost six years ago.
Today, she has a lot of ideas—for example, more pediatric clients and services.
“I think that often our patients, because of some of those social determinants of health, their children don’t get the care that they need, because the parents have other issues that they’re dealing with,” Adkins said. “You know, ‘do I take off work to bring my cute doctor, or do I go to work so I can feed my child?’ So there are dynamics that are at play, and if we could kind of remove some of those barriers so kids would have easy access to care, I think that would be great.”
She also envisions more services for the Afghan population, more services for immigrant populations and expanding into new communities, for example. There could even be clinics based in schools—another way to get help to children in need.
“That’s an endeavor that would require significant resources, so it’s not something to take lightly, but it is a model. There’s a whole school-based clinic association in Alexandria,” Jameson said.
Other human services nonprofit leaders said Jameson has had an big impact.
“As a founding member of the Loudoun Human Services Network more than 23 years ago, Carol’s leadership in our nonprofit community is unparalleled,” said Loudoun Human Services Network Chairwoman and Loudoun Cares Executive Director Valerie Pisierra. “Carol truly embodies the philosophy that we are all stronger together. Her strong belief in the power of partnerships has led to so many amazing initiatives that have positively impacted Loudoun County. Our community has been shaped in many ways by Carol’s thoughtful, compassionate, and strategic leadership.”
“Under her leadership thousands of our neighbors have accessed quality healthcare, dental care, behavioral health and pharmacy services,” said immediate past chair and Loudoun Hunger Relief President and CEO Jennifer Montgomery. “They have a healthcare home which means that they will have better health outcomes and prevention, effectively impacting so many lives. Her legacy is access to healthcare for Loudoun and Fairfax County.”
Asked about her proudest accomplishments at HealthWorks, Jameson, characteristically, deflected to praise her team and community partners.
“We had a period of financial difficulty and I’m often complimented that I brought us through that, but I have to say so I’m proud that we came through that, we came through that because of our team, and I just cannot stress that enough,” she said. And she stressed no idea happens without them making it work, such as expanding into new medical services like behavioral health, psychiatry or dental care.
She also hailed the community partnerships that, for example, co-locate HealthWorks and government services, or their services with a food pantry.
Now, Jameson said she hands off leadership to Adkins with full confidence, who she said has shown herself a “magnificent leader” during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the first months while HealthWorks stayed open but there was no vaccine.
“It was scary. Our team was really energized by being part of the response, the vibe was quite positive and I’m so, so proud of [that],” she said. “And so much of that was due to Dr. Adkins’s leadership, because they knew they had a leader who was up to date on the facts, who was staying current, who had their welfare [in mind] and was doing everything that needed to be done so that we could see our patients and see them safely…. To me those leadership skills will be applicable no matter what the setting.”
But she won’t be stepping out of nonprofit work—Jameson already has her eye on joining another nonprofit board, to keep serving the community as she has for decades.
Learn more about HealthWorks for Northern Virginia at hwnova.org.