If there was a word of the decade, it would have to be "pivot" — something Cempa Community Care has always done exceptionally well.
"Whatever we need to do, we're going to do," says Ian Stanbery, operations and mobile clinic manager.
One example of that adaptability is Cempa's first mobile unit, first established about a year before the global pandemic. The clinic on wheels allowed health care workers to take services to patients in rural and underserved communities, offering primary care, HIV treatment, lab diagnosis, health risk assessments and substance abuse screenings.
"We did that for a while, and the needs of the world switched. And when the world changed, we changed with it," Stanbury recalls. "We pivoted quickly and were able to begin offering vaccinations and testing — we were one of the first nonprofits to offer that. We shifted to what was needed around us and did that through the entirety of COVID.
As the pandemic came to an end years later, the organization shifted its efforts yet again.
Cempa began a partnership with the City of Chattanooga, offering preventative screenings for diabetes and hypertension, both of which Stanbery says have undergone an "extreme uptick" in the region. Many Chattanooga residents still live in "food deserts," he says — impoverished areas with limited access to fresh food options and nutritional resources.
And poverty itself is a barrier for many to receive proper health treatments and nutrition. Many living in these rural communities can't afford a vehicle, or have health problems that make driving difficult or impossible.
In 1986, Cempa embarked on its mission to support underserved communities, initially founded as Chattanooga CARES, with a focus on serving and assisting patients affected by HIV and AIDS. In 2019, the nonprofit transitioned to become Cempa Community Care — continuing its work around HIV and AIDS but expanding its mission to eradicate health disparities at all levels, for all people.
What sets Cempa apart from the rest, in Stanbery's opinion, is its overall commitment to holistic care and drive to take resources to those who can't access them otherwise.
"We don't focus, necessarily, on treating just the clinical diagnosis. We look at all the ways we can help people have a higher standard of living," he says. "We offer everything to achieve quality health care ... and we treat them with value and respect, no matter who they are or where they are from.
"They can receive the whole value of care, from start to finish. We don't focus on treating one patient with his or her illness — we look at things like behavioral issues and start from the ground up to get a patient to a better place."
What does the word "cempa" mean?
People often think "cempa" is a Spanish word or that it's an acronym and should be in all-caps. But it's not. "Cempa" is an old-English word meaning "champion" or "warrior." So it's actually a play on that — that we are "champions for your health care."
Something readers might not already know:
Through all of its programs including clinical, outreach and prevention efforts, Cempa has served more than 12,000 people over the last 12 months.
Locations and Services
* Main Campus, 1000 East 3rd Street - Clinic services, free HIV and Hepatitis C testing, community pharmacy, behavioral health, prevention services and food market
* Dental Clinic, 1042 E. 3rd Street – Cleanings, oral examps, partials and dentures, restorative work, pediatric dentistry
* Impact Hub, 4001 Rossville Blvd. – Primary care, walk-in clinic, STEP TN exchange services