Healthcare Hero: Leslie Abasta-Cummings

Leslie Abasta-Cummings is a healthcare star. She is determined, strategic, passionate and caring. It is rare to find someone so committed to making healthcare accessible, affordable and available to every person in the Central Valley. Her determination and talent will help ensure that her dream comes true.

Leslie is the CEO of Livingston Community Health (LCH). She has grown the organization into a 10-site Federally Qualified Health Center serving Merced and Stanislaus Counties. With her Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Glen Villanueva, and a wonderful executive team, she is leading an effort to create meaningful change.

Leslie comes from a multi-cultural family and understands what it is like to be without services and care. Because of her personal experience with the challenges many people face, fixing our healthcare system is not merely important to Leslie, it’s a personal priority. She understands that far too many women struggle to obtain needed medical and well-baby care. To aid women in Livingston, LCH has created a medical home in the heart of the city – a central location where women, children and men can obtain quality healthcare.

Leslie is focused on severely bending the cost curve; that is, helping all families access affordable care. To do so, she has led an effort to redefine where and how healthcare is delivered, recognizing the importance of bringing care to people when they are homebound.

Her goal is to create a healthcare response team that is family-focused. For example, she’s created a plan that allows parents to speak with physicians by phone or text when a child is sick, when appropriate, rather than having to bring that sick child into a healthcare clinic. With services available in English, Spanish and other languages, Livingston Community Health is pioneering new strategies in healthcare that are both patient-focused and family-focused.

Leslie receives a lot of support from her Board of Directors and, in particular, from Mary Ellen Arana, the chairwoman of the LCH Board. The amazing duo, joined by other board members, want to create changes in how healthcare is delivered to benefit the people in our community. But what is truly exciting is their recognition that we cannot change healthcare unless we also change how people live. They are therefore focused on what some call the social determinants of health – helping people earn more so they can achieve better healthcare and mental economic options.

As part of this effort, Leslie and her team are working to provide healthcare training opportunities for members of our community. They want to ensure that every person who wants to work in the healthcare field has a chance to be part of the future of the community by providing care, not just receiving it. One element of this initiative is a program that would provide training in respite and adult day care services, so that people who are caring for disabled family members, old and young, have access to the help they need.

I suspect in the coming months, the new healthcare environment that Leslie and her team are creating will demonstrate why she is a gift to each of us.

— Jeffrey Lewis is the President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock.  The views expressed are his own (jeffrey@legacyhealthendowment.org).