Angela Clabon could never let her North St. Louis city community down, and that loyalty fuels her mission to provide health care services for her neighbors.
“The people who reside in this community, they know me as someone who grew up with them,” said Clabon, the CEO of CareSTL Health, formerly Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers, Inc.
“I would hate to see a look in their faces and see disappointment that I did not deliver. For that reason, I work very hard to make sure that they can continue to trust me to be a voice for the voiceless.”
When her community was hurting after the Ferguson unrest, Clabon made the decision to provide behavioral health services to students in the surrounding area.
“We started providing those services without a funding stream, but the need was so great,” Clabon said. “The response was huge. They were in so much pain.”
Under her leadership, CareSTL Health went from providing dental services for children at five Head Start programs to 15 programs now. She led the $1 million renovation of CareSTL’s headquarter clinic on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and also the opening of a fourth location on Pope Avenue.
CareSTL held a Know Your Status basketball game that resulted in more than 80 people being tested for HIV, an idea that has received national attention. The centers are also considered a leader in responding to the opioid crisis.
On top of all this, Clabon is the only African-American woman currently serving as a CEO at a federally-qualified health center in Missouri.
Just this month, the health center changed its name and became CareSTL Health.
“If you think about that and what Angela has done for the health center, she really embodies care,” said Karen Jones, board vice president of CareSTL. “She really cares for the community. She cares about the patients that we serve. And she also cares about the staff.”
Because of that caring and commitment, Clabon will receive the 2018 Stellar Performer in Health Care Award at the 18th Annual Salute to Excellence in Health Care Awards Luncheon at the Frontenac Hilton. Net proceeds from the event support the St. Louis American Foundation, which fostered more than $750,000 in community grants and scholarships for area youth in 2017.
At 18, Clabon started out in the health care industry as a temporary registration clerk at People’s Health Center (now Betty Jean Kerr People's Health Centers), and she was later promoted to building supervisor. She moved on to become the director of accounting at Grace Hill Neighborhood Services and then transitioned as chief financial officer at Hopewell Center, now part of People's Health Centers.
“I’ve always been an overachiever, so that’s how I ended up on the management side of the health care industry,” Clabon said.
For about seven years, she ran her own nonprofit, JA’s Youth Fitness Club, to provide health and fitness programs to low-income students in St. Louis. She joined Myrtle Hilliard Davis in 2005 as the chief financial officer. She remembers the exact moment she learned she would permanently take the helm of the center on December 18, 2012 at 1:15 p.m. during a board meeting.
“It’s one of my proudest moments,” she said.
When she started on this journey in health care, she had several powerful women role models, including Betty Jean Kerr at People’s, Myrtle Hilliard Davis herself and Amanda Murphy at Hopewell.
Now she strives to mentor young executives to succeed in the health care industry.
“I’m so passionate about making sure that I pull someone along because I had three aspiring women who were there for me and help me keep that vision strong and alive,” Clabon said. “I want to be that for some young woman. We need women executives in the health care industry, especially African-American women.”
Clabon said she responds to the demands of the community. After she answered the need for behavioral health services during the Ferguson unrest, the centers then transitioned into providing school-based health services. They now serve students in 11 public school systems, including Jennings, Hazelwood and Riverview Gardens.
The center has also partnered with the federal government to provide suboxone to treat opioid dependence.
“We cannot market the program because the demand is so high,” she said. “But we have responded, and we provide services for uninsured and insured individuals.”
She is known for giving people from the community job opportunities at the center.
“In the neighborhood that she’s grown up in, she’s hired staff and given us an opportunity to do things that we might not have had an opportunity to do in other companies,” said Jason Ware, director of grants and contracts and program manager of CareSTL Foundation.
Clabon plans to continue to empower her community, where she and her family still live.
“They count on me to speak up when it’s time to speak up,” Clabon said. “That’s why I do what I do, because I’m part of this community and my family and friends are in this community. And I love what I do.”
Tickets for the 18th Annual Salute to Excellence in Health Care Awards Luncheon on Friday, April 27 at the Frontenac Hilton are $750 per table for VIP/Corporate seating and $50 each/$500 table for Individual seating. To order tickets, call 314-533-8000 or visit www.stlamerican.com.