March is Women’s History Month, a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society while at the same time supporting gender equality. This year the theme is “Women Providing Healing and Hope” a tribute to caregivers and frontline workers during the pandemic as well as recognizing the thousands of ways women have provided healing and hope throughout history.
History of Healthcare Network
At Healthcare Network, women past and present have been instrumental in growing the mission of our organization throughout our 45-years. Healthcare Network was founded as Collier Health Services in 1977 by community leaders in Immokalee to make quality medical care accessible to all. Initially, patients were served in two small trailers until moving to a new comprehensive health center in 1993, which was named after dedicated community advocate Marion E. Fether.
Marion E. Fether, Dedicated Community Advocate
Fether moved to Immokalee from Miami in 1948, and quickly immersed herself in helping the community. She was a home-school liaison for the Immokalee Middle School, a member of the First United Methodist Church, treasurer of the Immokalee Migrant Committee and coordinator for the clothing and Christmas toy distribution for needy families in Immokalee. To help improve healthcare, the late community activist served as chair of the board of Collier Health Services.
Isabel Collier Read, Champion of Immokalee Community
Also pivotal to our early growth was Isabel Collier Read. A member of the family that developed Collier County, Read, who had a home in Immokalee, was a longtime champion of the community. She supported many nonprofit organizations in Immokalee including PACE Center for Girls and Planned Parenthood.
In the early 1990s, Read donated land and money to build a 29,000-square-foot clinic to serve the medical needs of Immokalee’s migrant workers and other low-income residents. Coincidently, the land also included the future site of Healthcare Network’s Marion E. Fether center. In 2008, Florida State University College of Medicine (FSUCOM) opened the center, named after Read, in collaboration with Healthcare Network. The Isabel Collier Read center contains Healthcare Network’s pediatric and women’s care practices and is a teaching site for FSUCOM students doing rotations in rural medicine.
These two women in history helped define and shape Healthcare Network into what it is today. With practices throughout Collier County, Healthcare Network provides family care, women’s care, children’s care, senior care, dental care, behavioral health, pharmacy, specialty care, outreach and telehealth to 50,000 patients annually.
In 2020, the health center delivered 3.5 newborns per day, treated 4,623 women in obstetrics and gynecology, and served 1,710 pregnant women. At Healthcare Network, 82% of staff members are women. Currently, six of the eight-member leadership team are women, an important number since female consumers make 80% of buying and usage decisions.
A study, “Women’s Leadership in Private Health Care,” by the International Finance Corporation noted, “having more persons in leadership attuned to the clients’ needs, experiences and perspectives can translate into increased innovation and business opportunity.” As we know, improving the health of the community does not solely occur within the walls of a doctor’s office. Rather, to build a healthy and resilient community, the voice of those we serve must be represented and reflected in the decisions we make as we work to break down the many barriers to care that continue to exist in our community.
Healthcare Network’s leaders are also significant because women are often absent in healthcare leadership, making up roughly 30% of senior healthcare leadership positions and only 13% of health care executives.
Current female leaders at Healthcare Network include Dr. Corin DeChirico, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer; Tami Raznoff, interim deputy CEO and vice president of fiscal services and chief financial officer; Julie Blauman, vice president of human resources; Julie Pedretti, vice president of external affairs, and Dr. Martine Woolley, vice president of pharmacy. Dr. Emily Ptaszek, president and chief executive officer will be transitioning to a Federally Qualified Health Center in Colorado later this year.
In addition to the leadership team, Healthcare Network has 12 female and eight male department directors. With their guidance and expertise, Healthcare Network has created integrated, “whole-person” primary health care, addressing medical, behavioral and oral health concerns.
For 45 years, Healthcare network has distinguished itself by providing primary health care to men, women and children of all ages, helping the disenfranchised, underinsured and uninsured of our communities, as well as those with insurance and resources who recognize the quality and comprehensiveness of care available.
About the Author
Gabrielle O’Boyle is the marketing and public relations director for Healthcare Network, a nonprofit organization committed to ensuring quality healthcare is accessible to everyone in our community. Celebrating 45 years of care, Healthcare Network has locations throughout Collier County. For more information, please call 239-658-3000 or visit HealthcareSWFL.org.