We often lament the constraints that life places on us, and frequently succumb to a feeling of helplessness in fulfilling our ambitions. In the end, failure can become a self-fulfilling prophesy because we never truly believed that one person could make a difference. However, we have in our community more than one person who puts a lie to that notion and none more convincingly than Uvalde native Rachel Gonzales-Hanson, the head of Community Health Development Inc.
Rachel had a dream 36 years ago that a community health center could deliver care to those who might otherwise go without. As with so many success stories, CHDI started small in 1983 with a budget of $400,000 and three employees. Three and a half decades later, the agency functions with a $10 million budget that supports 120 employees, serving more than 11,000 patients annually at Our Health/Nuestro Centro de Salud and the Center for Community Wellness in Uvalde; Rolling Hills Health in Leakey; and Canyon Health Center in Camp Wood.
And while Gonzales-Hanson rightly gives credit to her staff, board members, family and friends for CDHI’s success, it was her drive – her vision and commitment to search high and low for the resources to ensure that people got health care in their own community – that propelled CHDI to the level of service it now delivers.
This tireless woman, who announced her retirement last week, will be the first to tell you that CHDI’s growth was by no means a straight line or even guaranteed. The fact of the matter is that in the CEO role she accepted 33 years ago, Gonzales-Hanson learned to never accept no for an answer. She pleaded, she cajoled, she courted and she no doubt stalked politicians, federal agencies, philanthropists – any and all from whom she might ring funding for her beloved agency. In the end, it was just plain hard to say no to Rachel and if you did, you had better find a small hole to crawl into.
Needless to say, a search has been launched for her replacement. UHC Solutions, which specializes in filling leadership and provider positions for federally qualified health centers, is leading the charge. We wish them and the CHDI board all the luck in the world. They will need it to find a leader whose passion to serve our community registers on the scale that Rachel leaves behind.