WATERLOO — After 23 years in various roles at Peoples Community Health Clinic, Christine Kemp understands the rhythm of the place. She understands its challenges and has celebrated its victories.
Now, as chief executive officer, she’s charged with leading it.
Kemp took the reins as CEO this month after her predecessor, Jennifer Lightbody, retired in December.
“I’ve been here for a long time, and I’ve seen it go through many changes,” Kemp said.
Kemp began with the clinic as a revenue specialist and has served as deputy director of business operations and chief operations officer.
“Because of my many years of experience with the clinic, I feel confident about leading our team forward. Becoming CEO is a long-time dream realized for me.”
One of her first major challenges as CEO is funding, she said.
“Right now we have a climate that’s so unknown. We’ve hit a funding cliff. The last (state) resolution funded us through the end of February. After that we have to wait for the budget to happen. That’s a big problem. We could lose 70 percent of our grant, which is worth over $2 million.”
The clinic’s guiding principle is “making sure our patients aren’t falling through any cracks,” Kemp said. “Not just health, but in many areas including housing. Trying to keep up on that is challenging.”
Peoples Clinic is known for providing comprehensive care to all people in the Cedar Valley, no matter their financial situation. In addition to its Franklin Street location in Waterloo, there’s a satellite clinic in Clarksville. Both locations focus on building better relationships between patients and their health care teams. Primary care, dental services, behavioral health counseling and urgent care are just a few of the clinic’s offerings. Peoples also offers a Health Care for the Homeless program.
Kemp has plans to get the word out about all that’s offered at Peoples Clinic.
“I want to stop being the best kept secret in Waterloo,” she said. “That’s not a nice thing to be. We have 22-plus providers. We are a one-stop shop for anything people need. We’re trying to make sure people know that we’re here for them. That is our mission, to provide affordable access to care for all people — insured, uninsured, Medicare, Medicaid.”
Kemp’s long-term plans as Peoples CEO is to evaluate the services the clinic offers and expand them. She’d like to see vision services, physical therapy and a continued expansion of behavioral health services. Kemp said referral of behavioral health patients is difficult because other providers often are full.
“When patients need to be seen, they need to be seen,” she emphasized. “People can get very lost in the referral system.”
Additionally, Kemp intends to look for ways to connect more with the community.
“I don’t know what that looks like yet, but I really want to emphasize the ‘community’ in People’s Community Health Clinic,” she said.
Kemp is a Waterloo West High graduate and earned a degree in community health education from Iowa State University.