Desert Senita Community Health Center Recognized for Patient and Family Engagement

Desert Senita Community Health Center (DSCHC) was recognized by the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the February 2018 CMS Quality Conference for Patient and Family Engagement in the center’s governance. Desert Senita was selected from twelve finalists for this national award. Linda Benson, Practice Innovation Institute (Pii) Practice Transformation Consultant, nominated DSCHC to acknowledge the changes implemented by the organization as part of their transformation. DSCHC has been part of Pii since April 2016, working with Ms. Benson to achieve this milestone in their transformation journey.

The Desert Senita Story
DSCHC is located in the rural community of Ajo, Arizona about 43 miles north of the Mexican border. DSCHC is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and part of the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers. DSCHC serves more than 2,400 people, approximately 75% of the population of Ajo, and more than one third of their patients live below the federal poverty level.

As a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH), DSCHC is committed to providing services that meet the pressing healthcare needs of its community, including preventative, acute, and chronic care for children, adolescent, adult, and elderly patients.

Guiding their community to create and maintain healthy lifestyles is central to DSCHC’s mission
DSCHC recognized their population included a high proportion of overweight and obese patients, with the majority of adult visits to DSCHC related to hypertension and anxiety disorder. To address these community-wide health challenges, DSCHC brought patient community representation to key decision-making roles, including a majority membership on the group’s Board of Directors. Their leadership shaped DSCHC’s response to Ajo’s high rates of obesity and hypertension. Two initiatives came to life through DSCHC’s involvement of patients in its Board of Directors and community partners.

Edible Ajo School Yard (EASY) Program
DSCHC’s Outreach Department facilitated the transformation of school grounds into vegetable gardens. Students participate in weekly gardening classes, producing fresh vegetables served in the Ajo Unified School District (AUSD) cafeteria. DSCHC’s dietician and behavioral health providers reinforce the importance of healthy eating and increased activity. This initiative has resulted in a gradual decline in BMIs.

Bike AJO
Community organizations, including the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health, worked with DSCHC to create this fun, inter-generational activity program. Forty bicycles and helmets are available to Ajo school children and their families. Licensed instructors supervise Bike and Hike events and educate students in bike safety and maintenance. The program is co-located at DSCHC and the AUSD campus.


Congratulations to DSCHC leadership, staff and community partners! Their community involvement is a first-rate example of comprehensive integration of patient and family voices in governance and decision-making.



The DSCHC Transformation Team: (left to right) Jane Canon, RN – Risk Coordinator, Oscar Reyes – Outreach-Garden, Lily Williams – Outreach Manager, Ellen Pritchett – Chief Compliance and Quality Officer, Jonathan Leonard – CEO