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Future Leader of Community Health

January 10, 2018

Director of Community Health and Wellness and Associate Dean of Community Health John Kirby, Jr., MPH, EPCJohn Kirby, Jr. gets it. As director of community wellness at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University, he consistently gives his all. John steps up and has ultimately become the leader that patients, community leaders, and colleagues look to because of his ability to understand the broader picture of his efforts and the benefits to which they lead. As associate dean of community programs at Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, and founder and director, at Sheller 11th Street, I take great comfort in this as I look to retirement. I have total faith in John’s abilities to carry on our mission of providing an integrative, trauma-informed model of care that creates a seamless engagement for patients, most of whom represent a vulnerable population and are residents of public housing and caregivers in the full range of physical, psychological, social, preventive and therapeutic factors known to be effective and necessary for the achievement of optimal health throughout the lifespan. The center is a nationally-recognized model of nurse-managed, community-based care for the education of health professions students and for faculty practice.

John has grown in his roles and responsibilities at Sheller 11th Street. He initially joined our team in 2012 as fitness and wellness trainer and used his exercise science training and certification as an American College of Sports Medicine physiologist while working with patients and staff to create care plans that worked toward the patients’ goals. He was promoted and assumed his current role in 2015. In his time with us John took advantage of tuition remission at Drexel and earned a master’s degree in public health and also participated in Drexel’s Employee Home Purchase Assistance Program to purchase a lovely home. John also became engaged and married his beautiful bride, Lorin, last fall.

John’s experiences prior to joining Drexel serve him well at Sheller 11th Street. He previously worked as a care manager at a community health center in the city, collaborating with other health professionals in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Chronic Care Initiative to identify ways to reduce costs and improve access and quality of care in the Commonwealth’s Patient-Centered Medical Homes.  

His experience in and around mental health make him a go-to. John is often called on by political representatives to coordinate events as well as speak to attendees.  Most recently, he served as the face of calm when tragedy struck in the form of a shooting in the neighborhood. John not only spoke at the vigil but also called upon his colleagues to provide support for those grieving.  

John developed a leadership style of open communication. He works diligently to develop trust and one could say he earned that trust. He has been extended several invitations from the community and now serves on several community boards and committees that led to valuable connections. Identifying community partners, strategizing with them on how best to promote our services and theirs, had led to win-win opportunities for promotion of the health center and our community partners. John’s efforts lead to improved access for our patients and the community we serve.

John is real and people sense his genuine passion for leading change. As a young, black man, John serves as an excellent role model and mentor to community youth. He takes his job seriously and does not do what he does simply because it’s his job. He believes strongly in creating a culture of health and wellnesslives and breathes it. Why he even continues involvement with his fraternity serving as chairman of the health and wellness committee of the Philadelphia Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. Last year his committee led the chapter in its facilitation of the 2nd Annual Dr. Leonard W. Johnson Memorial Men’s Health and Wellness Fair providing men with health screenings, health information and group discussion about prostate and mental health.

<Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Center's John Kirby on the cover of Change magazineI see a lot of myself in John—his persistence, his perceptiveness and his being acutely aware of how and why the community must be involved in shaping their care.  John is so competent that I introduced him to my sabbatical work supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at the Technical Assistance and Research Center in Oxford, England. We are looking at how social participation helps shape health in countries like Brazil, Kenya, New Zealand, Scotland and Slovenia. John will accompany me to Scotland when we meet with representatives from those countries.  

On behalf of our colleagues at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services, Drexel University and its College of Nursing and Health Professions, I am proud and pleased to support John Kirby, Jr. as a Future Leader of Community Health. John’s efforts continue to enhance ours and he will, no doubt, be among those who have the capability to change the shape of health care moving forward.

Written by Patricia Gerrity, PhD, RN, FAAN
Associate Dean, Community Programs, Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions
Director, The Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel