Patricia Fonzi, 49, joined the Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania in 1997 as director of development. She later became vice president of customer service and relationship management, and has been the organization’s president and CEO since 2015.
Fonzi has a bachelor’s degree in English and education from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, and a master’s in counseling from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.
She and her husband, Scott Simons, live in York with their two amazing cocker spaniels.
Q: You have been with FHCCP for 22 years. Has the organization’s focus changed over time, and if so how?
A: The first is HIV. When I started in January 1997, we were still doing end-of-life care and helping make sure people didn’t die alone and without support. We had people who relocated to our area to come home to die, as opposed to thinking they were ever going to recover and get jobs and get married and have children. Today that has drastically changed. How we approach living with HIV as opposed to dying from a disease, it amazes me when I think about it.
The second is we have the HPV vaccine. I never thought in a million years when we were first doing work around cervical cancer that there would be a vaccine to prevent cancer. And more recently, I think no one would have anticipated the opioid use epidemic and how that has really impacted every service delivery system, how significant it has been and how quickly that has happened.
Q: How do you develop partnerships with health organizations?
A: I’ll go back to HIV — we used to say, “Collaborate or die.” There were not enough resources to go around, and if we didn’t work with other people, people died. I think that became ingrained in who we are as an organization. You look at the data that drives the need, and then we look to who we can partner with to leverage resources to have an impact. Every community in central Pennsylvania is different and that’s just so critical that the partners in that community are recognizing that. That means the community need and what is acceptable is different, so our aim is to find partners that can help us address that need in innovative ways.
Q; How do you balance the human side of healthcare with the need to sustain the organization?
A: I really believe if you take care of your employees, they take care of others. We try to be a place where our employees feel valued, and not just by making sure they’re compensated fairly. It’s using what we learned through these programs and having it live and breathe through our policies, too. We have a paid parental leave policy. We have a policy regarding gender-affirming surgery that we would grant time off and we have an insurance rider that would help employees pay for that. We try to ensure our environment takes care of our employees and we trust them and empower them to take care of others.
Q: What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving?
A: My mom used to say, I feel bad for Thanksgiving, because it goes from Halloween to Christmas and Thanksgiving can really get overlooked. And yet, it’s the perfect holiday because all it is about pausing and saying thank you. Your family of choice comes together and can binge eat and put on sweatpants and just appreciate each other. It’s this underrated holiday in the middle of this craziness that’s all about pausing for a minute and being still and saying thank you.