Emerging with Our Purpose, Our Principles, and Plans: A Message from Sultan

Emerging with Our Purpose, Our Principles, and Plans: A Message from Sultan

As the largest LGBTQ organization in the region, Mazzoni Center provides critical health and wellness services to our community. While the pandemic was challenging for us as it was for many healthcare providers, we’re incredibly proud of the commitment, support, and hard work of our staff, funders, and community, which has allowed us to continue providing the best care to the LGBTQ community, uninterrupted. Whether it’s providing primary care, gender-affirming care, behavioral health care, case management services, or food to those in need, the work of the organization continues to strengthen and grow.

While we’re back to wearing masks again at Mazzoni Center as we monitor rates of the flu and COVID to ensure that we take prudent measures to keep our community as safe as possible, it’s a reminder that, while we may have gotten through the “emergency” phase of another global pandemic, we serve a vulnerable and marginalized population.

The COVID-19 pandemic had tragic and lasting effects on our community and the world. We lost friends and loved ones. And, for some, the virus left them ravaged with longstanding and debilitating health issues that still haven’t gone away. Many businesses, organizations, and institutions also suffered their own forms of “Long COVID.” Mazzoni Center was not immune to those effects.

While I am incredibly proud of how the organization quickly shifted services to the realities of the pandemic, led by an incredibly agile and dedicated staff, the need to ensure distancing in the space and enhanced cleaning led to a significant decrease in the number of patient appointments. That, in turn, led to a decrease in associated revenue. The support from the federal government with PPP funds provided help at a time of great need, but that funding stream ended after two years. The support from the state and local government, as well as our community and allies, helped ensure we could continue providing culturally competent care to a community in need.

Mazzoni Center made a decision in those years. Despite the financial challenges we were facing, we held fast to our core principles of how we care for our community, including a longstanding commitment to never turn anyone away from care due to a lack of financial resources to pay. We continued our services to the community that counts on us, many of whom would simply go unserved without us.

To be frank, we lost a lot of money in the process, and in doing so, we never lost what we stand for. Part of the reason I was excited to take the helm of this organization a little over two years ago, is that the one message that’s been consistent is that the quality of care that the team here provides is not only second to none, it’s care that many people can’t get anywhere but here.

Yes, it’s no secret that we faced difficult times during the pandemic, as did so many institutions in our community. I’m thrilled to say that, despite the challenges, we reacted, we recovered, and we even expanded our support for the LGBTQ community.

We’ve hired a top-notch Executive Medical Director who attracted amazing new providers to join our team, expanded appointment schedules, and, importantly, increased the diversity of our medical team. We have added innovative life-saving programs, from high-resolution anoscopy to help screen for anal cancer for people living with HIV, to adding remote patient monitoring to serve patients with chronic conditions in real-time from the comfort of their homes.

We’ve received designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center Lookalike, a status that brings significant additional revenue and support from the federal government. We’ve worked with community artists and arts institutions to raise our profile, visibility, and support through outstanding community events such as last year’s inaugural Mazzoni Center Honors benefit at the Kimmel Center.

What started as a volunteer organization in 1979 is now a 130-staff comprehensive health and wellness center nearly 45 years later, and we intend to be here serving the community for another 45 years and more.

I, along with our board, am confident in the direction and team we have built here at Mazzoni Center. Our plan to ensure long-term financial sustainability is strong and we continue to see improved results month over month as we shore up our core as a critical health center serving some of the region’s most vulnerable populations.

The future at Mazzoni Center is a bright one, with a balanced budget, strong executive and board leadership, a committed and dedicated staff, and new and exciting developments on the horizon, all here to serve Philadelphia’s diverse LGBTQ community. To those that we serve, thank you for giving us your trust and the honor of caring for you.

Sultan Shakir, President and Executive Officer