Deborah Wright-Powell: Teaching Future Generations About Good Health

deborah-wright-powell-66-2Deborah Wright-Powell has been an active, dedicated member of Erie’s Board of Directors for more than ten years, and brings her experience as both a teacher and an Erie patient to ensure that Erie provides the highest quality, compassionate care and health education to our patients.

Mrs. Wright-Powell was first introduced to Erie in 2003, when she worked as a teacher at what is now Laura S. Ward Elementary School. That year, she was tasked with sending letters to parents informing them that their children could not attend school if their immunizations were out-of-date – and she quickly realized that nearly three quarters of the children would be unable to attend their first days of school. As a teacher and a relentless champion for educating the next generation, she took it upon herself to find a nurse practitioner for the semester to immunize the children right there in the classroom.

But she didn’t stop there. She continued to work with her colleagues at the school to locate an accredited organization that would be able to provide these services permanently. It was because of Mrs. Wright-Powell’s belief that no child should be barred from an education because of their lack of access to health care that Erie partnered with the school. Erie providers are now able to do routine physical exams and administer immunizations to the students at Westside School-Based Health Center at Laura S. Ward Elementary School, making it easier for families to keep up with their child’s health.

Mrs. Wright-Powell continued to serve as the key liaison between the school and Erie, writing up reports on the progress of the integration of the health center for Erie’s Board of Directors.  The Board was blown away by Mrs. Wright-Powell’s fierce commitment to the vulnerable communities Erie’s health centers serve. When she was offered a position on the Board, she accepted. “I decided that this community needed my voice,” she said. “This community, and the community that Erie’s health centers are located in, need a minority at the table to present a different perspective.”

Mrs. Wright-Powell now serves as a member of the Board Development Committee, providing guidance on establishing board strategies to maintain appropriate board composition an
d improve board functioning and performance. She is the leading spokesperson for education on the Board, encouraging current members to participate in further board training opportunities. “It’s important that we have a set of diverse, educated people on our Board to accurately represent those in the community,” she said. “Those voices should be heard.”

During periods of growth at Erie, Mrs. Wright-Powell worked closely with Erie’s executive management team to ensure that new health centers were located in areas where the need for quality health care is greatest.  She has also traveled with Erie’s staff to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) conference, where she advocated for the important work of community health centers and spoke with members of Congress on behalf of Erie.  She says when they took a side trip to see the Washington Monument, tears came to her eyes. “My ancestors were there when Martin Luther King, Jr. made his ‘I have a dream’ speech. My grandfather and my uncle were both huge activists. And me, being right there, it was like I was carrying their legacy.”

Mrs. Wright-Powell and her entire family have also been patients of Erie for several years. She says that she wi
ll always remain grateful to Erie’s doctors for diagnosing and moving quickly to treat her husband’s cancer, ultimately saving his life. “I will always support Erie,” she said. “It is because of Erie that I still have my family.”

It is because of her keen desire to see future generations healthy, educated, and engaged in improving the resources available in our community that we are so grateful for all Mrs. Wright-Powell has accomplished for the Board, for Erie, and mostly, for our patients. Like Deborah, you can help give back to our community by participating in #GivingTuesday. Give to Erie today.