The Class of 2019 profiles the women and men who joined the AHA board this year.

Like hospital and health system leaders across the country, AHA board member Vanessa Ervin has serious concerns about Congress repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without enacting replacement legislation that preserves coverage for millions of Americans.

“The idea that you could lose health care coverage is terrifying,” says Ervin, who serves on the board of the Onslow Memorial Hospital Authority in Jacksonville, N.C. “It would be gut-wrenching,” she says, noting that those exact words were used by her colleague JoAnn Anderson, president of Southeastern Health in Lumberton, N.C., at a Dec. 6 AHA-hosted Washington, D.C. briefing on the impact of repealing the law without an adequate substitute.

How the new Congress and administration tackle the ACA tops a long list of AHA board concerns. If Congress repeals the ACA without simultaneously providing similar coverage, the AHA has said it is essential that it also repeal funding cuts to Medicare and Medicaid payments for hospital services that were included in the ACA. These funding reductions, if not restored, coupled with the loss of coverage, will jeopardize care, the AHA has told lawmakers.

Besides standing up for coverage, Ervin says she will be a voice for advancing behavioral health issues on the AHA board. It’s a personal issue for Ervin, who lost a 23-year-old niece seven months ago to gun violence. Her niece’s husband, who suffered from mental illness, shot her several times before taking his own life. “The warning signs were there,” Ervin says.

She wants to make her “story and experience not one of frustration, but one of advocacy and change.” She believes the AHA can harness the resources that help hospitals and communities better address behavioral health needs and coordinate care for treating mental and physical conditions.

“It’s an area where we all need more help and support,” says Ervin, who is CEO of Hubert-based Carobell, Inc., a nonprofit provider of residential, medical and educational services to people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. “We must not be afraid to tackle the issue.”

Looking at health care holistically comes naturally to Ervin, an ordained minister. She says it’s important to treat the whole person – not simply symptoms and disease – and that wellness has to do with body, mind and spirit.

America’s hospitals and health systems are working hard to ensure that every person in every community receives high-quality, equitable and safe care. To do that, Ervin says all hospitals must work to must eliminate health and health care disparities that continue to exist for far too many racially, ethnically and culturally diverse people.

“It is also my desire to promote and encourage hospitals to join AHA mission to eliminate health care disparities by taking the #123forEquityPledge,” says Ervin. “The power of unity can only make our health care communities stronger.” 

She notes that hospitals are striving to redefine what the “H” means to their communities in the midst of the seismic changes taking place in health care.

The AHA talks about redefining the “H” as a way of “recognizing that today’s hospitals are about more than just inpatient care,” Ervin observes. “We are increasingly community health care providers.”

Ervin chairs the AHA’s regional policy board 3, which oversees policy development for hospitals and health systems in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. She’s been a RPB 3 member since 2012.

Ervin is a past board chair of the Onslow Memorial Hospital Authority, which serves Onslow County and the surrounding coastal communities of eastern North Carolina.  She also was a member of the North Carolina Hospital Association’s board. In 2015, she received the state association’s Trustee Merit Award, which recognizes a trustee’s unique contributions to the individual’s institution and the health care field.     

“As a trustee, I want to make sure that people see the H as a beacon that brings comfort, care and compassion,” she says. “The ‘H’ represents our community and a destination where dedicated caregivers work together to create value, wellness and hope.”