By Ann Muder
Takisha Lovelace ’10 has spent her career making sure health care services are accessible to communities in need.
In January, she accepted a position as vice president and chief operating officer for Affinia Healthcare, a nonprofit health care system delivering care to underserved communities in the St. Louis area.
Lovelace previously worked as executive director of community health operations for Mercy health system. It was at Mercy that she found her life’s mission in advocating for health care equity.
Many patients would come into the emergency room as their primary means of health care. Part of her department’s role was to help patients find primary care providers and get coverage with Medicaid.
“Obviously coming into the ER for non-emergency visits isn’t sustainable for them, particularly when they’re coming in with chronic health care issues like heart disease and diabetes,” she says.
In addition to working with them to find primary care providers, she and her staff would work to find ways to help improve their living situation.
“We worked with them to help them secure transportation, food and housing – things you can’t necessarily address in a health care visit,” she says.
Lovelace was born and raised in Nashville. She enlisted in the Air Force and received an associate degree in computer science. After she was discharged from the Air Force, she moved with her husband to St. Louis, his hometown. She worked in information technology before pursuing a bachelor’s degree through Columbia College-St. Louis. The campus is part of Columbia College Global, serving nontraditional students, including those balancing work, family and school.
“I was working with AT&T at the time and was encouraged within the company to pursue further education to move forward in my career,” she says. “I chose Columbia College not only because it was local but it also had virtual options, which was important since I also had small children at the time.”
She earned a degree in business, which helped her pursue a path in business operations.
“The classes were impactful and challenged me,” she says. “I felt I got a lot out of the content from classes that I was able to use in my day-to-day work life.”
“The classes were impactful and challenged me. I felt I got a lot out of the content from classes that I was able to use in my day-to-day work life.”Takisha Lovelace ’10 on her experience at Columbia College
Lovelace went on to receive an MBA from Webster University in St. Louis in 2013. She started her health care career as a senior program manager for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, and later served as a clinic manager at Mercy, where she managed day-to-day operations.
From that point on, health care operations became the underlying foundation in her career. She’s held positions as director of operations at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and director of operations for Care STL Health before becoming executive director of community health operations at Mercy.
Today, as vice president and COO for Affinia Healthcare, she continues to work to provide health care services for those in need in the St. Louis area.
“It’s a rewarding position, because we have a lot of impact in the community for underserved populations,” she says. “If you’re here, you need our assistance, and we make it our business to ensure you get the health care you need.”
This includes preventive care and treatment in many different areas, including maternal/infant health, mental health issues, heart disease and diabetes — issues that are prevalent in many communities. Affinia partners with multiple organizations, including the National Kidney Foundation, to increase access to testing for kidney disease.
“Early intervention is key to improving health in these areas,” she says. “For example, identifying kidney disease early can help circumvent the need for lifelong treatments like dialysis.”
She says the most rewarding part of her job has been seeing the impact of providing health care services, not just in the clinic, but the community as a whole.
“We help bring health care to immigrant communities, refugee populations and children who need preventive care,” she says. “Our strategic initiatives involve addressing all those needs and partnering with regional organizations for outreach. At many events, we’re doing screenings and bringing mobile health and dental care services.”
In November, Affinia Healthcare opened a new health center in Ferguson, Missouri, with the goal to bring affordable quality health care to that community. Lovelace says that their goal is to branch out in providing sustainable resources throughout the metro area.
“It all ties into health justice and equity,” she says. “We want to make sure that we’re providing access to health care that’s available to everyone.”