Evergreen Talent Acquisition Specialist Kimberly Clarke Is a Total Dorothy Zbornak Fan

As Evergreen Health continues to grow, Talent Acquisition Specialist Kimberly Clarke has her hands full finding perfect-fit employees for the 20 to 25 positions Evergreen has open at any given time. It’s a big job, but one that her business administration education and strong human resources background well prepared her for. In this latest Team Evergreen interview, we chat with Kimberly about Evergreen’s good vibes, the nonprofit she founded in the wake of personal hardship and the one throwback television series she never goes a Sunday without.

How does working at Evergreen compare to your previous professional experiences?

What I enjoy most is that there’s heart behind the work here. It’s fulfilling work. As a member of the human resources team, it’s my job to sell the organization to people we are trying to recruit and the people who already work here. And that’s a lot easier to do when it’s a good organization that you believe in, an organization that you can be proud of. And I can say that I am proud of the work that we do here.

What sold you on Evergreen when you were interviewing for your position?

It was the vibe. It was the feeling that I got from the moment I walked in the door. Everyone was really friendly and very helpful, making sure I knew where I was going. The people that I interviewed with, they gave a really good spiel about the organization and its history, and it just really intrigued me that I could make a contribution to that history.

What is it about the history that resonated with you?

Outside of the services that we provide, it’s that, historically, we’re a group of hearts. We started out in someone’s living room as volunteers. That six people turned into 12 people and that 12 people has grown to be over 400. But there are still enough people here from the beginning that we’ve maintained our culture of really caring about each other, really being a family and working toward the common goal. The patients always come first, and people come first within this organization. The services are reflective of just how dedicated we are to providing the best patient care possible.

What are some of the challenges you face in your role?

When I first came on board, there was a bit of culture shock because I had come from working in a corporate setting. Granted, HR is never black and white, but the gray area was a lot smaller in that environment. Here, we welcome and accept everyone for who they are, where they are—not only patients but also employees. So, the challenge is always finding the balance of meeting people where they are but still maintaining compliance with government regulations and other HR standards.

If you had to describe Evergreen in one word, which word would you choose?

I want to say kaleidoscopic. And I would say that because there’s so many different colors and layers and different things all working together. Looking at the building from the outside, you would not see that. But when you come inside, you look around and get to see people, speak to people and meet them. There’s someone different in every corner, but they all come together so beautifully. It’s amazing.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I am the founder and executive director of a nonprofit. I also do HR consulting, and I’m very involved in my community and church.

Tell us more about your nonprofit. What is it called, and what is its mission?

Cameron’s Light Foundation is the nonprofit I started, and its mission is to provide advocacy, support and resources to families with premature and NICU babies and those experiencing infant loss. It started because I went through it myself, and I’d like for no other family to have to do that. I actually partner with other organizations and with the Oishei Foundation to bring that information and those resources to one place for parents of these babies. We are there to remind them that they are their child’s advocate—that it’s okay to ask questions, and that it’s also okay to run errands and not feel guilty about it while your baby is in the hospital. It’s okay to give yourself some “me” time while your child is in an incubator, and you can’t touch him or her. Things that no one really thinks about but that happen all around us. We also want families to know that they’re not alone. Other people have gone through it. We’ve lived through it, and whether it works out for the best or ends in the loss of your baby, you will be okay.

What an admirable cause. How do you make time for yourself in the midst of everything you do for others?

When I wake up, I always have some quiet time. I’ll meditate, drink my tea. I am a green tea drinker. That gets me ready for the day.

If you had a full day to yourself without work, errands or responsibilities, what would you do to get away from it all?

I would definitely go shopping followed by wine and dessert, and then I’d go home and binge watch TV. Quite often, when I have a day off, I’ll get in the car, and I’ll drive. I might go across the border, or I’ll go up to Syracuse to shop. I might stop in Geneva at one of the wineries or something on the way.

What’s your binge watching go-to?

“The Golden Girls.” I watch it every Sunday.

Well, that begs the question: who is your favorite Golden Girl?

I just had this conversation! I had to walk myself through it that time, but now I’m prepared. Definitely Dorothy.

Wise choice, Kimberly. Thank you for all that you do for Evergreen and the local community.


Evergreen Nurse Practitioner Shirley Swenson Has Something to Tell You About HIV

To meet the medical needs of the Southern Tier, Evergreen Health opened a new location for HIV and hepatitis C care, STI testing and PrEP services at 320 Prather Avenue in Jamestown. In our inaugural installment of the series we’re calling Team Evergreen, we talk to Shirley Swenson, a Nurse Practitioner at the new Jamestown location, about what makes the Southern Tier facility so special and how her background in music contributes to the care and compassion she brings to her work.

Congratulations on the opening of the new Jamestown location! Can you tell us a little bit about the services there?
Sure! In Jamestown, we specialize in treating HIV and hepatitis C and HIV prevention, which means if somebody is in a relationship where one individual has HIV and the other one doesn’t, the one who doesn’t can actually take a pill called PrEP every day to prevent them from acquiring it. Or, say an individual has an increased risk of acquiring HIV. If they are on this medication, it will protect them. So, we can have a patient walk through the door who is here for HIV treatment or somebody who’s here for hepatitis C treatment, or it could be someone who was out over the weekend and needs to be tested. They can all be seen without judgement and have their concerns addressed. There’s no place else like that in this area.

What challenges do people in the Jamestown area face when it comes to accessing STI health services?
Number one, it’s a smaller area, so people are afraid of other people finding out or people seeing them walk through that particular door, into that particular office. It’s to the point that the stigma can prevent people from seeking the help that could change and prolong their lives. We’ve had people walk in the door finally out of sheer desperation, and we’re able to give them medications and turn everything around. Within a few months, they feel like their life has been given back to them.

How do you combat those challenges?
We go to great lengths to accommodate patients’ feelings and help diminish the stigma. For example, we honor patients’ requests to see them at the end of the day. Some patients will call from the car, and we will let them know if the waiting room is clear before they come in, or we will let them in through the back door. And if they are diagnosed with a chronic illness, we try to help them realize they are the same person they were before, and that with proper medical attention, an illness like HIV can be even easier to treat than diabetes. We will also speak to family members, if patients want, to clear up common misconceptions.

What do you want people thinking of coming to Evergreen for HIV screening or treatment to know?
This is a very nonjudgmental place. It’s very loving, compassionate, accepting and friendly. And HIV is a virus that can affect anybody. You are not defined by that virus. You may be a person who happens to have acquired a virus, but you’re not the virus. And thankfully, it’s a time of miracles now, and we have medications that treat it. And with treatment, the virus cannot be spread to others, and life expectancy is normal. It is a very manageable chronic illness. Everyone needs to know that.

What most excites you about going to work every day?
The fact that we are on the cutting edge of care. Having lived through the 1980s and ’90s, I saw friends acquire AIDS and, within a few short years, they were gone. There was no hope then. Now, patients can take medication daily to suppress it and live healthy lives, and on the horizon is an injection that can be given once a month or once every six months, and it will do the same thing. And then hopefully, there will even be a cure. But really, the treatments we have available to us now are almost as good as cures. The life expectancy of someone with HIV who is in treatment is almost the same as anyone else’s.

What makes Evergreen a great place to work?
The organization truly cares about the people that we treat and want to make sure everybody who needs these services has access to them; it is at the core of Evergreen. We have a pharmacy that will work to make sure patients don’t have high copays for even the hepatitis C medications. For people who want to be on PrEP, we will work with the pharmaceutical companies, with copay cards, to make it so that it is accessible. And it doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like. If you walk into the waiting room at Evergreen, you are greeted with a smile. All patients are embraced and welcome. It’s just a place of great hope.

If you had to sum up Evergreen in one word, which word would you choose?
What’s one word to say a force for change? Let’s see. Changemakers. We’re changemakers.

Your daily contributions to that change must be highly rewarding and super challenging. What do you do outside of work to take care of yourself?
I love to cook. All four of my grandparents were Swedish, so I make things like cardamom bread and apple pies; Swedes love their sweets. And in what seems practically like another life, I was a music major, so I love to sing. I sing in our church choir. My husband and I also spend time on Lake Erie. I like to watch the sun set, see the different cloud formations. That’s my chill-out place.

A singer, baker and a nurse — you’re practically a triple threat! Tell us, how did you go from being a music major to a nurse practitioner?
When I finally went away to college, I realized there were other aspects of life and learning that I enjoy, like science. So, I came back to Jamestown and got an associate degree in nursing and then built upon that until I had my master’s degree, and I’m doing what I’m doing now. In some ways, it was a shift from thinking with the right side of my brain to the left side of my brain, but I think here at Evergreen, I integrate both, especially when it comes to reading emotions. If you walk into a room with a patient, and you’re thinking only with the left side of the brain, it’s not going to work. You’ll never get through. So, one way or another, all those years of music lessons and studying voice, somehow, it’s playing into what I’m doing now and making me a better nurse.

Evergreen is lucky to have you, Shirley! Thank you for all the compassion you bring to our patients.

Observer: Evergreen Health expands services in Chautauqua County

JAMESTOWN — To meet the healthcare needs of people in the Southern Tier, Evergreen Health recently opened a new location at 320 Prather Avenue in Jamestown. The building will be the central hub for specialty care services in the region, including HIV care, Hepatitis C care, STI testing and PrEP services. Evergreen is not expanding its primary care services in the region at this time.

The 2,600 square foot office has a large waiting area, three exam rooms and one space for private patient consultations. The entrance and restrooms are ADA accessible and there is ample parking adjacent to the building.

“The expansion of specialty care services in the Southern Tier aligns with our goals to provide quality healthcare and decrease barriers to care,” said Melissa Gulino, Vice President of Administration at Evergreen Health. “Continually improving the patient experience is at the core of all we do and we’re excited to have opened a new facility in this region.


To support this growth, Evergreen has hired one nurse practitioner, two registered nurses, one medical case manager and two front desk clerks who will work at the Prather Avenue location.

“As the local leader in HIV care, it’s important that we continue to provide prevention and treatment services to areas outside of Buffalo,” said Gulino. “We want to make sure people in rural locations have access to the same kind of care as people in urban areas.”

Evergreen Health offers the following services in the Southern Tier:

¯ Care Coordination, 408 W. 5th St. in Jamestown

¯ Syringe Exchange, 31 Water St. in Jamestown

¯ Specialty Care, 320 Prather Ave. in Jamestown

Evergreen will continue to provide specialty care services in its Olean and Dunkirk locations.

Patients seeking specialty care services in the Southern Tier can call the Prather Avenue office at 664-7855.

Evergreen Health fosters healthy communities by providing medical, supportive and behavioral services to individuals and families in Western New York — especially those who are living with chronic illness or who are underserved by the healthcare system.

This article was published by The Observer here. 

To learn more about Evergreen Health and the services we offer, please visit our website at evergreenhs.org

Emma Fabian: Committing to a Cause

When I was an undergrad in college, I read a book that included the following statement:

“We make our lives most meaningful when we connect ourselves with some really important causes or issues and we contribute to them. So we feel that because we live, something has gotten a little better than it would otherwise; we have contributed in however small a way to making the world a better place.”

That’s by Peter Singer, and it has probably been the single-most influential guiding principle in my career. That, and: “life’s always easier when someone is in your corner.” That one’s not from a famous author, though. It’s from my Dad.

This is a simple statement to understand, but not necessarily as simple to build a career and life around. Dedicating one’s self to causes or issues is complex to say the least. First of all, how can we be sure the causes and issues we have chosen are the most important ones?

Second, being committed to social justice, human rights, and efforts aimed at increasing the well-being of others can mean consistently going against the grain of society, having few tangible victories, navigating through ambiguity with no road map, leaning into personal growth, and building authentic (not just transactional) relationships with others. Most people, I think, choose not to go this route, and I can see why.

After bouncing around a few nonprofit jobs (all at organizations I have immense admiration for), I have been with Evergreen Health for over three years now. Evergreen Health was founded over thirty years ago as AIDS Community Services and now provides several targeted programs – chronic illness support, HIV care and prevention, Hepatitis C care and prevention, LGBTQ services, sexual health services, and services for people who use drugs. I work primarily with the latter in our Harm Reduction Center.

It’s a population that has been extremely stigmatized by our society and that stigma has resulted in people having very little access to healthcare. People are dying by the hundreds and thousands in our communities across the US due to drug overdoses, and there is a great deal of work to be done in order to implement effective responses.

The work can be difficult, but also fulfilling- sometimes my heart literally feels so full that it could burst. And I think that’s what Peter Singer is talking about in the excerpt I quoted earlier. He goes on to say,

“It’s hard to find anything more meaningful than doing that, than reducing the amount of unnecessary pain and suffering that there has been in this world and making the world a little bit better for all of the beings that are sharing it with us.”

Here’s my advice: Early in your career, find something to commit some of your energy to that makes the world a better place. Even if it’s not what you are doing from 9-5. Decreasing the amount of pain and suffering in this world is worth your time and you will never regret it.

Emma Fabian wrote this blog post after being selected as a BN360 Spotlight Professional for September 2018. The original post can be found on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership site

For more information about Evergreen Health, please visit evergreenhs.org

Here’s what Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U) really means.

When a person living with HIV takes antiretroviral drugs as prescribed, and achieves and maintains an undetectable viral load, that person cannot sexually transmit the virus to an HIV-negative partner. 

That’s a lot of information. Let’s talk it out:

With medication, HIV has become a treatable condition in which the virus can be suppressed. This means an individual living with HIV can live a long and healthy life. This also means people who are HIV-positive can have partners and start families with people who are HIV-negative without passing on the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when a person has an undetectable viral load in their body, they cannot transmit the virus sexually.

U=U is a way to unpack the stigma associated with an HIV diagnosis, and ensure people of all statuses can feel confident it will not be passed when a person is undetectable.

We need to retrain people over and over again until we undo the ways we have talked about sexual health for so long and adopt the new, positive language that is the real and accurate way to depict HIV.

The U=U movement is an opportunity to do the following things:

  • Improve the lives of people living with HIV by reducing the shame and fear of sexual transmission and opening up possibilities for conceiving children without alternative means of insemination
  • Dismantle HIV stigma at the community, clinical and personal levels
  • Encourage people living with HIV to start and stay on treatment, which keeps them healthy
  • Strengthen advocacy efforts for universal access to treatment, care and diagnostics to save lives and bring us closer to ending the epidemic

Evergreen uses a harm reduction model. But what we practice and provide at Evergreen is not the norm in other cultures, regions or parts of the world.

And though the strides the medical community has made in terms of HIV treatment and prevention in the last few years has been groundbreaking, the challenge is to dismantle 30 years of stigma.

Therefore, it is vital that Evergreen continue to educate and advocate for this new way of thinking that people living with HIV deserve.

Evergreen Health is an Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U) Community Partner.

The Prevention Access Campaign’s U=U movement is a health equity initiative committed to using science to explain that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment do not sexually transmit HIV. It was launched in 2016 by a group of people living with HIV who wanted to educate the public using scientific evidence as a way to change the way we think about HIV and end stigma. The movement is now made up of a global community of HIV advocates, activists, researchers and more than 550 community partners.

To learn more about Evergreen Health and the services we offer to prevent and treat HIV, visit www.evergreenhs.org.

This is why you should join a Syringe Exchange Program.

When you join a Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) — like Evergreen Health’s in Buffalo and Jamestown— you become protected in more ways than one.

Exchanging old or dirty needles for clean syringes not only reduces the chance of getting HIV, Hepatitis C, other viruses or infection, it also provides you with a level of legal protection. Syringe possession — without being enrolled in an SEP — is a crime in New York state.

Joining is easy and can be anonymous. 

When you ask to join our Syringe Exchange, you will be given access to clean syringes and injection works, along with an SEP identification card. We respect your privacy; you don’t have to provide your name or any contact information to be part of the program. Additionally, the ID card we use is special to Evergreen and no personal information will ever be given to police about SEP members.

Here’s where your SEP card comes in.

If you are ever stopped by police with syringes on you, show them your SEP card. There is a 24/7 number to call that will connect them to an SEP employee at Evergreen, who will confirm you are enrolled in our program.

Reminder: SEP membership does not protect you from charges for drugs or other drug-related items. But you will not catch a charge for the syringes.

We’ll be there for you. 

Joining our SEP also connects you to services that include Narcan/overdose prevention training, HIV and Hep C testing, medication-assisted treatment (if interested), and educational and support groups.

To learn more about our Syringe Exchange program and harm reduction model, visit www.evergreenhs.org.

Evergreen Health is a Leader in Healthcare Equality

Since Evergreen was founded, we have dedicated our services to those who many feel uncomfortable, misunderstood, or  judged at mainstream health care providers.

We’ve expanded across WNY — from Buffalo to Jamestown and the Southern Tier — to offer programs and services to under-served and stigmatized communities. And we’ve become a leader in many areas of care, including health care for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Evergreen is proud to have received an HEI score of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign for LGBTQ+ health care policies and procedures. 

Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) is the national LGBTQ benchmarking tool that evaluates healthcare facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees. –Human Rights Campaign

We offer specialized care and support for our patients in the LGBTQ+ community, including mental health counseling, transition assistance, housing, food pantry and more.

You can view all of our ratings from the Human Rights Campaign here. 

For more information about Evergreen Health, the communities we serve in WNY and the services we offer, visit evergreenhs.org

How do you get to a doctor’s appointment without a car? We can help.

At Evergreen Health, we pride ourselves on helping people get to where they want to be in their lives and with their health. The Transportation Services Program takes this mission a bit more literally than most of us, helping patients get to and from the medical appointments and other supportive services.

After all, getting to and from medical appointments is the first part of becoming — and staying — healthy.

Chris is the Transportation Coordinator at Evergreen. She processes patient requests for bus passes or tokens. “Addressing a patient’s transportation needs helps them to achieve a better quality of life, physically, mentally and emotionally,” she said. “I’ve had patients who were going through more than they could handle. Linking them with services — and providing transportation to get to those services — made it possible for them to find support and build relationships that benefit their overall health.”

Providing transportation services helps our patients take control of their own health.

Something as simple as reliable transportation can have a huge impact on the lives — and health — of our patients, but Chris notes that it’s about more than just getting to and from their medical appointments. “The TSP helps patients access a wide variety of important services that aren’t covered by their insurance benefits,” she said. This can include food pantries, social services, health education services, the pharmacy and other medical services.

“I get to work with our patients to help them find support and stable ground. Being a part of their success in finding their own path in a safe and healthy way makes it all worth it.”

Evergreen Health provides comprehensive health care for under-served and stigmatized communities throughout WNY. To learn more, visit www.evergreenhs.org.

Finding HIV Care Doesn’t Have to be Confusing.

Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed or have been living with HIV for years, finding and receiving care can seem scary and confusing.

Sometimes it’s just hard to get to an appointment or fill your prescription. Evergreen Health knows this and will work with you — wherever you are in WNY — to make receiving and staying in treatment as easy as possible.

Don’t know where to start?

Call our HIV Helpline at 716-541-0674 — it’s free and confidential! You’ll be connected to one of our team members who will personally help you find and receive the care you need, including:

  • Finding a doctor
  • Getting prescriptions
  • Getting to and from appointmets
  • Finding housing and paying rent
  • Receiving other supportive services, like counseling, alcohol and substance use support, social and therapeutic groups, and more.

We’re here to help you feel better!

Care is just a phone call away.

Evergreen Health has offices in Buffalo and Jamestown, and works with communities across WNY. To learn more about the services we offer, visit evergreenhs.org

Sharing Your Status Doesn’t Have to be Scary

Meet Chris.

Chris is Evergreen Health’s Disease Intervention Specialist at our Testing and Sexual Health Center in Buffalo. Chris is on-site to help those newly diagnosed with HIV or an STI recall partners and contacts so he can notify them. The notification process is completely anonymous. Partners are not told the identity of the patient or any details of the possible exposure.

Here’s how it goes.

“My role, in conjunction with the DOH, is to notify and counsel patients and their partners who have been in contact with or exposed to STIs,” explained Chris. “I talk to patients to identify exposure dates and partners, and I research medical history to assist the medical staff with treatment.” Chris also makes referrals to link patients with any other care they may need, through Evergreen or another provider.

“It’s a great feeling when I contact a partner over the phone and they come in and get tested or treated,” said Chris. “Patients are already stressed about having to deal with a new life-changing medical condition, and anything I and Team Evergreen can do to help them and their partners take some of that burden off their shoulders, we will. Also, every partner that is treated means less risk of spreading the infection in the community.”

It’s all about harm reduction.

“We accept that people are having sex. Sometimes they’re going to have STIs, too. Letting someone know right away that we can help them and tell the people that may have been exposed is a huge relief for them, and it’s immediate,” said Matt, AVP of Enhanced Medical Services, who oversees the program. “It’s also a service to the people we notify, who may not have experienced any symptoms and who can now access appropriate treatment as quickly as possible, increasing their chances of good health and reducing the risk of further transmission.”

“The more we all talk in a sex positive manner and acknowledge that everyone has the right to make their own choices around their sexual health, the more we’ll continue to decrease the stigma that exists around STIs in general,” said Matt. “We’re working toward a time when people don’t feel angry or embarrassed if they receive a call that they may have been exposed.”

Evergreen’s Embedded Partner Program (EPP) is a one-year pilot program in partnership with the New York State Department of Health. To learn more about Evergreen Health and its services, visit www.evergreenhs.org