As the dual pandemics of racism and COVID-19 intersected in 2020, the influence of Stella Whitney-West ’06 MBA would be magnified in her role as the CEO of NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center in north Minneapolis. Earlier in the year, Opus College of Business highlighted the alumna as an Opus graduate (“giant”) already making a huge impact on the world.
NorthPoint was founded in the late 1960s during a time of civil unrest, similar to the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
“Racism is systemic and unless you have the tools to disrupt and challenge the institutional networks and power that are set up to maintain the status quo, you will not create health and well-being in communities that have been marginalized,” Whitney-West said. “This means that addressing health access and health care is just as likely to occur working through political interventions as through clinical or public health interventions.”
COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color, and the trust that NorthPoint has developed over 52 years of service has helped the community health clinic effectively counter the pandemic.
Beyond providing COVID-19 testing and administering the vaccine, NorthPoint recruits its leaders and doctors from the community. A majority of its board members also must be patients or clients.
NorthPoint also has sponsored the African American Leadership Forum (AALF) Town Hall monthly series, asking clinical staff to present on panels to present accurate information on the impact of the virus, and ensuring that staff have the most up-to-date data and information.
“We have several staff, including me, who serve on statewide and county COVID-19 response advisory teams to ensure that planning includes the perspectives of the communities of color and that resources are distributed with an equity lens to impact the communities that are disproportionately impacted the most,” Whitney-West said.
Whitney-West joined NorthPoint, which serves more than 30,000 residents, in 2007. Ten years later, she influenced investors and policymakers to fund the expansion of the health center so it could meet the needs of its growing community and be more culturally responsive.
“The experience at St. Thomas helped me gain traction in the government sector. It showed me how to fully engage audiences in our mission and ways to gain the trust of clients, policymakers and investors by telling the story of ROI,” Whitney-West said.
She holds board seats on AALF and the Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers. Whitney-West’s leadership earned her recognition by the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST, a professional network of more than 500 women in health care.
Whatever challenges that the future holds, Whitney-West said that ethics should be at the forefront. “Future investments must reflect the diversity in our world and create a more inclusive future for generations to come.”