The Next Chapter: Chris Fraser is the New President & CEO of Westside Family Healthcare
WILMINGTON, DE (July 31, 2023): On July 1st Westside Family Healthcare began a new chapter. Chris Fraser, former Chief Operating Officer, transitioned to his new role as President & Chief Executive Officer of Westside Family Healthcare. Fraser’s appointment follows the retirement of Lolita Lopez, the former President & CEO. “I’m overjoyed that our Board has agreed with my recommendation to have Chris take us to new levels of success,” says Lolita Lopez, former President & CEO of Westside Family Healthcare. “He inspires admiration from his colleagues. He is a mission-first, results-driven leader who is committed to providing an environment where our patients and communities receive exceptional care.”
Fraser will become the second President & CEO for Westside, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that opened in 1988 as a volunteer organization run by local nurses. Under Lopez’s leadership for more than three decades, the organization grew from a two-exam-room suite in Downtown Wilmington to the largest community healthcare provider in Delaware. Westside currently has 5 locations across the state, and a mobile health unit that serves agricultural workers in Kent and Sussex counties. Fraser has worked alongside Lopez to grow Westside and expand access to healthcare in Delaware since 1998. “Chris Fraser’s appointment as President & CEO of Westside is an exciting new chapter for the organization,” says Dr. Tom Sweeney, Chair of the Board of Directors at Westside Family Healthcare. “The Board of Directors is confident that Chris will continue what Lolita’s built over the last three decades and bring Westside even closer to its vision to achieve health equity for all. Chris is a results-driven leader with a longstanding commitment to Westside’s values. He is passionate about our community, and we look forward to what his leadership will bring.”
Before becoming Assistant to the Medical Director in 1999, Fraser interned for Westside as a student at the University of Delaware. “When Lolita opened the door for me, little did I know what opportunity was being given,” says Chris Fraser, President & CEO of Westside Family Healthcare. “She taught me the importance of public health and the beautiful mission of community health centers. I discovered that Westside and the community health center model is the perfect synthesis of public health, healthcare delivery, and community action that results in healthier communities.” Fraser’s first responsibilities at Westside included visiting other organizations, attending health fairs, and attending organization meetings with community members and stakeholders. He then worked in various administrative roles for Westside until August 2020, when he was appointed as Chief Operating Officer (COO).
As COO, Fraser was hands on during the organization’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with Delaware Health and Social Services and partnerships across the state, Fraser and the Westside team championed equitable access to vaccines in Delaware communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19. “Our team has shown that it is both resilient and resolute,” Fraser says. “That is so evident when we look back over these last three years. It was our responsibility to make healthcare accessible during the most challenging of circumstances. The scourge of COVID-19, and its impact on our community and our caregivers was unprecedented. And so were the actions we had to take at Westside.” Westside distributed more than 30,000vaccines to underserved areas in Delaware, including agricultural works in Kent and Sussex counties.
As CEO, Fraser plans to uphold Westside’s mission to improve the health of the community by providing equal access to quality healthcare, regardless of ability to pay, by caring for Westside’s employees and expanding Westside’s influence on the future of community-based healthcare. “First and foremost, we will take care of and grow our team. Especially in the last few years, we’ve had to trust one another and to look out for one another. We’ve certainly seen that our team is a group of humans who are super, but we are not superhuman. Healthcare teams were, and are, feeling overwhelmed.” By caring for Westside’s team, Fraser will ensure that Westside’s organization can best serve its communities in Delaware. His response follows experience and research that suggests healthcare workers are burned out in the wake of the pandemic. In 2020, Mental Health America found that 82% of healthcare workers were feeling emotionally exhausted, 70% struggled with sleep, 68% reported feeling physically exhausted, and 63% experienced work-related dread. “It is essential that we support our workforce,” Fraser says, “As a leadership team, we are focused on taking care of our people: investing in development, training, and wellness. We must care for each other, so that we can continue to care for the community.” Fraser’s initiative demonstrates his commitment to data and results-driven action plans and his dedication to ensuring a healthy, safe environment for healthcare workers in the current climate. Westside has 230 employees, who serve more than 28,000 patients a year. In 2022 alone, 111,922 patient visits occurred at Westside’s health centers.
Fraser also plans to emphasize and expand Westside’s commitment to developing the future of community-based care. Westside currently partners with ChristianaCare, Bayhealth, and academic institutions a to provide healthcare workforce training for family medicine and general dentistry residents, nurse practitioners, nurses, medical students, and medical assistants, many of whom go on to pursue careers in community health. By expanding partnerships and infusing the workforce with Westside values, Fraser believes Westside can better serve communities in need and achieve Westside’s mission to provide equal access to healthcare regardless of ability to pay. “For students to come to Westside to train and not only see what we do, but do what do in Community Health, it provides them that opportunity to get involved in hands-on patient care,” says Debbie Bryant, Director of Clinical Operations at Westside Family Healthcare. In addition to expanding Westside’s reach with these partnerships, Fraser plans to continue hosting students from high schools, colleges, and health center partners to learn from Westside.
“In this way, these amazing people will learn from us and about us, and some will become us—office team members, nurses, doctors, dentists, and the like. We need these people to see the mission of Westside. We will grow the next generation of healthcare leaders, and we will guide them to those openings, like what was done for me at Westside,” Fraser says.
Fraser’s reach in the community exceeds the walls of Westside. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (2008-) (FACHE), a member of the Healthcare Leadership Network of the Delaware Valley (HLNDV) and remains active in the local community. He received the 2021 American College of Healthcare Executives Senior Level Healthcare Executive Regent’s Award. Fraser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Wilmington University (2002) and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Family & Community Services from the University of Delaware (1998).
About Westside Family Healthcare
Westside Family Healthcare is a Joint Commission accredited non-profit community health system with locations currently in Wilmington, Northeast Wilmington, Newark, Bear/New Castle, and Dover. Additionally, Westside operates a mobile health unit and outreach team that provides necessary primary care, infectious disease testing, vaccinations, and oral health services to seasonal migratory workers and their families throughout the growing season. Providing care to more than 28,000 patients, Westside is the largest community health system in the state, offering family medical, dental, prenatal, and behavioral health services to all patients, regardless of ability to pay. Thirty-three percent of Westside Family Healthcare’s budget in 2022 was comprised of Federal funds. Learn more about Westside at www.westsidehealth.org.