Careers in the nonprofit sector aren’t exactly known for their glamour or grandeur. They’re synonymous with long hours and financial constraints. The work is often stymied by policies as organizations are continuously cut and programs downsized. Staying committed to the cause poses plenty of challenges, but Angela Quinn shows no distress about the nature of her industry.
Quinn is at the helm of nonprofit work in Las Vegas, and for the better part of 2016, she’s been devoted to her latest post as the CEO of FirstMed Health & Wellness Center. The organization, which since 2009 has provided comprehensive preventative and primary health care services to low-income and underserved families in Southern Nevada, opened its second location (400 Shadow Lane) in July.
“I confess it was a little bit more challenging than I had anticipated,” Quinn says. FirstMed was $3 million in debt. Mismanagement by the previous leadership, including failure to supply accurate information to Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, which led to the termination of grant funding, nearly shuttered what is only the second of two federally qualified health centers in town (the other, Nevada Health Centers, has six clinics).
A native of England who’s been in Las Vegas for a quarter century, Quinn has been working tirelessly for one cause after another. “I started 22 years ago in the housing authority as a public housing manager, then went on to the [Economic Opportunity Board] that subsequently went bankrupt,” Quinn says. “Toward the last 18 months of EOB’s life, they decided to build Head Start [the federal program that promotes school readiness for children up to age 5] on the campuses of Boys & Girls Clubs.” Since she was already building apartments and drug treatment centers, the Head Start project was a smooth transition that eventually led to the organization’s pursuit of her as president.
After five years with the clubs, she set up her own nonprofit community development company, Building Hope Nevada, or BHN, and implemented other notable programs including The Crossings, a 15-unit apartment building for young adults who were previously homeless or in foster care. But it was her work with Boulder City Hospital that ultimately landed her at FirstMed.
“I spent three years learning what it costs to run a hospital and how to make it more profitable,” Quinn says.
Unlike social causes such as helping the homeless, health care has a revenue stream—a way to invest and get a return. “Everything I’ve done has always been federally funded,” she says. That’s not to say the stressors have been nonexistent, but more so that she’s mastered the process. Case in point: The funding for Boulder City Hospital to prevent its looming bankruptcy came under the guise of economic development—rural development to be exact—instead of a health care project loan, which its leaders had struggled with for half a decade. “Boulder City Hospital is considered a rural hospital, so they had access to a rural community facility loan and grant program from USDA,” she says. “My team worked closely with the team at BCH to develop a business model that showed both a high quality of health care, but also a sustainable business model. We were able to do so, and BCH continues with this success today.”
Since she and her Building Hope Nevada colleagues took over FirstMed, they have regained the trust of the federal and state governments and have expanded to open a second location in the medical district—the area near Downtown that includes Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center and UMC, the soon-to-be-added UNLV School of Medicine, Clark County Social Services and two hospitals. Their goal is to open 10 clinics within five years.
“The reality is that for every 7,000 people in Southern Nevada who need primary health care, only one person has access to it,” she says. Thanks to Quinn and her team, 11,000 patients are expected to be cared for at the two FirstMed locations.
“When I started in public housing, I went in with this notion that people were here because they chose to be here—it was an easy way out,” Quinn says. “Six months later I would tell you nobody wants to live in public housing. But until we give people opportunities to get out, they do not have a choice.” Access to affordable health care is one of the ways out of the endless cycle of socioeconomic challenges, Quinn says.
“If you are living in public housing and have a chronic illness that you cannot get treatment for, you are less likely to search for and maintain employment,” she says. “If your child is sick and your only primary care is the ER, you are making decisions as to whether you go to work or care for your child. As a [federally qualified health center], FirstMed can be a community partner for all of these issues, and you have a home [for] preventive and primary health care.”
FirstMed Health & Wellness Center
400 Shadow Lane and 3343 S. Eastern Ave.; FMHWC.org