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Caring for Our Most Vulnerable in Unprecedented by Times: Annette Logan Parker

Published in the May/June edition of Roseman University’s print edition of spectRum magazine.

By Vanessa Maniago

When your young child can be counted among those medically fragile and vulnerable children battling for their own health, and their lives, you learn things – things that alter your view of the world, real-life lessons on cultivating empathy and gratitude, and principles that guide your career and how you live your life.

Annette Logan-Parker, CEO of Cure 4 The Kids Foundation (C4K), and Roseman University Board Member, was dealt some unfair blows early in her adult life. A simple football injury to her eldest son, coupled with a bout of mononucleosis created a near perfect storm, rendering him septic, with peritenius, peripheral nerve damage, and chronic neuropathy of the diaphragm. Annette and her son received a grim prognosis, and one delivered without a shred of empathy — this 15-year-old athlete would need full-time care indefinitely, and live his life out on a ventilator. Determined and ready to face the fight of a lifetime, Annette became her son’s greatest advocate, getting second (and third) opinions, looking for research or grant opportunities, finding loopholes, all while staring at what she perceived to be the harsh and dark underbelly of the business of medicine.

Miraculously, four years later, and with 20 surgeries complete, Alex was improving. His breathing became stronger, his nerve system rebounded from the use of an embedded spinal cord stimulator, his pain receded, and he tapered off his medications. Annette had maxed out her insurance and moved jobs several times to be sure she had coverage. She mortgaged her home, sold jewelry, borrowed from her family, all to stay afloat as a single parent with two boys. Her mission had been delivered to her clearly, to provide the very best medical choices to her ailing son. But while she was fighting, she couldn’t help wonder what people did who had very little. She saw that the business of medicine dictated the patient’s outcomes, overriding physician’s wishes, limiting patients to only what they could afford, and in many ways determining if they lived or died. While her life began to show signs of normalcy again, Annette saw her next mission — to provide all children high-quality, patient-centered, empathic care regardless of their ability to pay. And so, in 2007, C4K was born. Now in 2021, the clinic has treated over 68,000 patients, become a widely respected research entity with its clinical trials, won countless awards, received Joint Commission Accreditation (the most esteemed and stringent standards for medical facilities), and donated millions back to our community.

Along her journey, Annette was touched by exceptional physicians, doctors who not only performed at the highest ethical and technical standards, but who truly felt the pain of her son and her family, taking time to get to know them, demonstrating empathy and care, a certain quality felt, but hard to explain. With this as her guiding star, Annette knew that she could shape how patients were treated by her hiring practices, and that everyone, from the front desk receptionist to the nurses and treating physicians would subscribe to this ethos. She then built her team with the highest standards in mind, but knew that she too, as the CEO, had to reflect those same standards.

There are CEOs who operate at a protected distance from their day-to-day business but Annette Logan-Parker is not one of them. Trained as a nurse, she is frequently seen in the clinic with her patients. She is often the person coordinating care among external partners, making things happen. Early on, Annette took to cooking breakfast for her small staff of five for their weekly staff meetings. “Breaking bread” with her colleagues was meaningful to her, and her employees felt cared for, and nurtured. As C4K grew, so did the pots and pans she used to prepare those morning team breakfasts. She began to scale her operation up, which prepared her for her greatest challenge yet – COVID 19.

COVID-19 – A CALL TO ACTION

In the early days of the pandemic, Annette surveyed her staff of 100. They shared their concerns, that despite their solid pay and benefits, they were worried about food, providing for their families, and staying healthy as frontline workers interacting with immunocompromised patients daily. Annette activated quickly and established a food commissary in the building for her staffers. At the same time, she took her cooking to the next level and prepared family-sized meals every weekend for not just her staff, but for the families of her 100 employees. She found peace and comfort in preparing the meals, and even greater jo

y in seeing that in doing so, her staff felt nurtured and fueled to bring their very best to the work at hand. “I considered that our staff, our C4K family, have enormous demands placed upon them, and they, as providers and nurturers, need themselves to be nurtured and comforted. How can they do what they do every day, with no margins for error, without themselves feeling fueled?” Annette is to quick to remind that this strategy to attend to staff needs had an enormous halo effect in minimizing the contact her staff had with the outside world, reducing exposure, and enabling a safer, more protective environment for her patients.

Procurement of food supplies to feed her staff presented yet another challenge, and one that Annette took on with the same determination emblematic of her get-it-done work ethic. Annette and her husband, John Henry, in full PPE, visited local grocery stores, buying the “limit-one per customer” gallons of milk, pasta and meat. Using a “shop and drop” strategy canvassing all the local stores, they were able to procure enough food weekly to feed her 100 families. She soon became well-known in the Costco check-out line. C4K also developed a Food Voucher system during this time that enabled patients, working with social workers, healthcare providers, and teachers within C4K, to receive vouchers to purchase healthy food.

As C4K evolves and grows, it will, in partnership with Roseman University, open the Roadrunner Café on the first floor of its clinic. Affordably priced, healthy foods will be offered to patients, staff, and community members. A comfortable, warm environment will nurture those that need nutritional and emotional fuel. When asked if that means that Annette will retire her home cooking operation, she laughs. “The café really gives us the ability to extend and further scale what I was doing at home and to expand it to patients and our community. I look forward to this Fall to open the Café, but no, I don’t plan on hanging up my pots just yet.”

Annette brings her work ethic, service ethos, and deep patient care experience to Roseman’s Board of Trustees. At the time of the Roseman University-C4K partnership in 2019, Annette joined Roseman’s Board, while Dr. Renee Coffman, President, joined the Board of Trustees of C4K. Annette explains that her time on the Roseman Board has been invaluable thus far, allowing her to connect with Boards members, share experiences, and learn, as an insider, how academia works. Annette also explains that Dr. Coffman brings exceptional experience and entrepreneurialism to her C4K Board. As the partnership and collaboration between the two entities grows, the intersection between both Boards enables communication, resource sharing, and idea generation.

THE PATH FORWARD

It takes a great deal of strength, resolve and motivation to translate adversity into something positive, yet some of the greatest community resources are spawned from difficult or painful experiences. It would be just as easy to let adversity beat us, to let something painful dictate who we are, and feel victimized. Annette Logan-Parker is not one of those people, nor are her sons. Alex is now 35, and is a Clark County firefighter, giving back in his own way and performing physical feats every day. Jeramy, Annette’s younger son, is now 28, and having spent his childhood as his mother’s right-hand man, and his brother’s caretaker, is now a nurse with the goal of teaching one day.

Annette Logan-Parker is an exceptional visionary and leader, mother, wife, CEO, and nurturer. A tireless advocate for her patients and her staff, she finds solace in nurturing those that need it most. COVID-19 created new challenges in her clinic, which she met head on with empathy and ingenuity, working with her talented team to bring their absolute best in difficult and challenging times.