The Mazzoni Center’s appointment of Dr. Nancy Brisbon, M.D., last week as its new medical director is an exceptional – even holistic – way in which to balm the wounds of the last year.
The Philadelphia native, Temple U medicine school grad and Thomas Jefferson University family medicine specialist has been at Mazzoni Center for the past ten years in an increasingly crucial role.
“The staff and clients here are like family to me,” said Brisbon, who started at Mazzoni as a part-timer. “Even still, there are a lot of learning curves coming into this job.”
In 2017, the Mazzoni Center, Philly’s principal health care and welfare provider for the LGBTQ community, has undergone dramatic changes.
Mazzoni’s longtime former medical director, Dr. Robert Winn, was suspended over allegations of sexual abuse, which are reportedly still under investigation. Former CEO Nurit Shein and Board President Jimmy Ruiz resigned in part due to the urging of Philly’s Black and Brown Workers Collective over questions about how allegations against Winn were handled, insensitivity and possible racial bias. In September, the nonprofit’s frontline staff voted in favor of unionizing with the Service Employees International Union. And the center expanded to Broad and Bainbridge.
Clearly, it’s time to let the healing begin at Mazzoni.
Brisbon never thought of herself in a leadership role, but when called upon to serve in the name of the greater good, she was in. “My leadership path until now has been as a liaison between administration and physician because I come from an academic background,” she said. “That said, I’m excited about the medical director post. I am a collaborative person, a good listener, and I want to make sure that everyone is always included. We must all work together to find solutions to any problem that arises and create new opportunities for Mazzoni.”
That must be music to the ears of Black and Brown Workers Collective (BBWC) co-founder and former Mazzoni staffer Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, who was involved in much of the aforementioned protests – including going on a strike of his own HIV medication to protest Shein's leadership, a move that quickly led to her ouster. “It’s great that Mazzoni has the opportunity to do something different than what they have been doing,” Muhammad said. “I think that there is more to be done at Mazzoni but that this is a first great step.”
Muhammad sees the installation of Brisbon as Mazzoni’s medical director as an opportunity for positive change for black, brown and all members of the LGBTQ community. “This is an opportunity for her to really take a step and listen to the Collective and the clients of Mazzoni. She knows what can happen as she’s been there and how that can better inform her decisions going forward.”
As for what the doctor would like to make her first initiatives, Brison is interested in direct patient engagement.
“I know my patient population, and they’re pretty diverse in their health needs and concerns," Brisbon said of those who struggle on a day-to-day basis with food and housing insecurity, chronic disease, emotional distress, addiction and HIV/AIDS issues – sometimes all at once.
“Getting to know everyone at Mazzoni, the huge range of services the agency provides and the necessary care for our clients – that’s exciting for me.”