July 24, 2020

Remembering Board Member Patricia Parsons

Patricia Parsons getting checkup from HHC doctor

“From her initial interview, I knew Pat was going to be a wonderful addition to the board. Doris Gray, our longest serving board member [who passed in December], immediately took her under her wing, and those two became great friends. Not afraid to speak her mind, Pat had a unique and amazing story that provided invaluable perspective. We will miss her.”

– Board Chair Phillip Dothard

We are sad to report the loss of longtime Heartland Health Centers board member and patient Patricia Parsons earlier this year.  While we make plans to celebrate her life and leadership this fall, we wanted to share a profile of Pat from our 2017 annual report. 

“I was at the lowest end of my life when I first came to Heartland and now I feel like I’m at one of the highest points of my life. I’m involved, I’m enjoying life… what more could you ask?”

The sliding-scale fee got Patricia Parsons to come through the door at Heartland Health Centers. The quality of care saved her life, she says.

Parsons’ genteel way of speaking makes many people think she grew up in the South. But she’s a Chicago South-Sider, Bronzeville-born and -bred. Her parents named one of the soul-food restaurants they owned Patty’s after her. She attended Catholic school in the community then received her MBA in Operations Management at DePaul.

As she climbed the career ladder at International Harvester and other firms, Parsons opted to stay in Chicago to care for her parents. She acquired a condo on Sheridan Road and three cats, Faith, Mr. Hope, and Sir Love.

In 2002, she became Chief Financial Officer at a nonprofit supporting medical education. As summer 2009 rolled around, she knew trouble was brewing and anticipated she might be laid off. But the board blindsided her with their decision to cease operations.

She’d been seeing a heart specialist and psychiatrist in one teaching-hospital network and a general practitioner at another. Unable to access services such as COBRA due to her agency’s closure, Parsons sold the condo, cashed in her retirement savings, and downsized while she searched for a new way forward.

At the height of the recession and in her 60s, she could find only part-time positions despite her master’s degree in accounting and experience managing corporate and public funds. “At first I was OK, and then I just lost everything,” recalls Parsons.

She did without to economize, foregoing some medications. Then a friend told her about Heartland and its sliding-scale fees. At her first appointment, Terry Donovan, a Physician Assistant, took her medical history and referred her to Dr. Laurie Carrier (now Chief Medical Officer), who is board certified in both family medicine and psychiatry.

It took Parsons nine months to find her way to Heartland, and she says it was also about nine months after that first appointment that she started feeling better. “Dr. Carrier is a genius and the kindest person that you could ever meet…. She always smiles, she always cares. She’s truly concerned about you.”

Photo above: board member Pat Parsons posed for our annual report in 2017 with Sarah Johnson, MD. (Marc Harris photo)