By Jessica Carreras
The Community Health Awareness Group held their annual Client Christmas Celebration on Thursday, Dec. 11 to mark the holiday season for all their clients, which includes people with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other illnesses.
The event was well attended, and featured live music, a buffet-style meal, dancing and prizes. It was held in the Penobscott Building in the Morning News Cafe.
“I think that every year, the clients need something that’s special that reminds them of good times and happiness with their families,” CHAG Executive Director Cindy Calhoun said of the event. “We feel the clients that we serve are part of our family, so this is something that we do for them every year because it’s how we show our love.”
This year, the event departed from its usual structure by honoring three infectious disease doctors in the area with Compassionate Care Awards. The doctors were Dr. Anne Chen, MD, Dr. Jonathan Cohn, MD and Dr. Peter Gulick, DO. All three doctors work with infectious diseases.
“The clients felt that it was important to let doctors know that it’s not just about coming to your doctor because you have HIV and you need to come to your doctor. It’s about forming a relationship with your doctor,” explained Director of Clinical Services Christina Fluker. “These doctors were all nominated because they felt like they could form relationships with them and they see them as not just their doctor, but their partner. Our clients wanted to recognize that.”
Calhoun echoed the sentiment. “So many times our clients tell us how wonderful their doctors are, but they never have a way to appreciate them or to show that appreciation,” she added. “So we just think that if we’re always talking about being grateful and being thankful, the doctors should also know how important they are to our staff, our clients and how much we really care about what they do.”
Chen, speaking about her practice, reiterated the belief that doctors – especially for clients with such diseases as HIV/AIDS – need more than just someone to administer medication and diagnose. “In my clinic especially I see a lot of patients who are positive patients,” she said. “We try to do everything we can to help everyone. I always tell all my patients that my goal is for them to have a very full and healthy life and to expect nothing but the best – anything we can do.
“Sometimes they can’t share their diagnosis with friends or family, so it’s really important for them to know that there’s someone they can turn to,” she added. “It’s just so important for them to know that somebody cares about them. That they’re not alone.”