Two longtime East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) employees were honored this month for their work and commitment to the health center for four decades.
Both Paula McNabb-Ippolito and Carol Singletary, who both started working for EBNHC on the same day in September 1974 received the Health Center’s Service Recognition Award at EBNHC’s holiday party.
McNabb-Ippolito, Director of Pediatrics and Singletary, EBNHC’s Nutrition Director have been seeing generations of families in Eastie and have become familiar faces at the Health Center over the years.
“EBNHC is so fortunate to have staff that have stayed committed to us and this community for so many years,” said EBNHC President Jack Cradock. “Paula and Carol exemplify so many others past and present who had such a positive impact on this community over the years. They should be congratulated for their 40 years and the work that they do here every day.”
Under McNabb-Ippolito the EBNHC’s Pediatrics Department has provided high-quality, affordable health care to the children and families of Eastie, Revere, Chelsea, Winthrop, and Everett. Today, the Health Center’s Pediatrics Department cares for almost every child living in Eastie.
“It has been the best job I’ve had and I had two before coming to the Health Center,” said McNabb-Ippolito. “It was an opportunity to come into a department and help build it from the ground up and that is what we did. I worked with a very creative staff and an ambitious medical director and we truly built this department from the ground up. We went from one nurse in 1974 to currently 27 nurses and it was based on the community’s need.
McNabb-Ippolito said she has seen generations come through her department and is now starting to see the grandchildren of the children she once cared for.
“East Boston is still very much like it was in the 1970s,” she said. “For the most part everybody knows each other, its still multi-cultural, multi-generational and over the years I can say I know more people in East Boston than I do in my hometown of Brighton.”
But what has kept McNabb-Ippolito at EBNHC for 40 years is the staff.
“Jack (Cradock), Jim (Dr. Taylor), Manny (Lopes, CEO) all worked with same goal of providing high quality medical care to the residents of East Boston,” she said. “We never cared if someone had insurance or didn’t have insurance it was about providing health care to everyone.”
For Singletary she has spent the last 40 years working to meet the needs of all families, with programs to support lifelong health and well-being. Some can argue Singletary and EBNHC were ahead of their time. When no one was thinking of nutrition as a vital part of wellness, Singletary was showing countless Eastie residents that eating well plays an important role in healing, good nutrition and is an essential part of preventing disease.
Singletary has been EBNHC’s full-time clinician at the health center. She works in collaboration with all of EBNHC’s primary care and specialty departments, consulting with patients and providing nutrition education and support. She also teaches group classes.
Singletary said she knew she wanted to be a dietician since the 1960s and, as luck would have it, the Michigan native found herself in Boston with a gig at EBNHC.
“When I started we would visit every new born baby in East Boston and give young mothers the tools they need for nutrition and health wellness,” she said. “It was public health at its finest. We went to the people, they didn’t have to come to us. I know we were more like a mom and pop organization in those days but I look back very fondly on that time at the Health Center.”
Singletary said being the Health Centers resident nutritionist has been tricky because personal nutrition is not motivated by pain.
“If you have a back ache or stomach ache you are going to trek through snow to go see your doctor,” she said. “But when do people come see me? When they have diabetes, hyper tension, high blood pressure–all silent killers. It seems like such a simple important topic but lure people in was a challenge but we’ve had great successes over the years.”
The success has been driven by Singletary’s goal of prevention and partnering with other organizations in Eastie to bring nutrition awareness and healthy eating to families across the neighborhood to help combat disease at every level.
“The diseases we face are mostly genetic, so the health message we provide is for the whole family. The major diseases affecting people in the US are heart disease/stroke, diabetes, and cancer,” she said. “Food is an essential part of preventing these diseases. I work with families to help them understand how they can take care of themselves while living busy lives.”
Singletary said a combination of things have kept at EBNHC for these past 40 years.
“It’s not always about money, sometimes it is about the environment you work in,” she said. “The number one thing for me is I’m doing what I wanted to do I didn’t get stuck and there’s a community of people here that are all doing what they really wanted to do in life and they love doing it. Also the people that I’ve met and touched their lives, the patients, they have become part of my life.”