Dr. Kendra Holmes was promoted to senior vice president and chief operating officer for Affinia Healthcare. She previously served as vice president/COO for the health care organization. Dr. Holmes oversees all of health center operations including pharmacy, radiology, and laboratory services. She has been instrumental in providing access to COVID-19 testing in North St. Louis City and County.
The four federally qualified health centers of Affinia provide primary and preventive care to St. Louis residents.
Holmes, who was honored with a Salute to Excellence in Health Care Award from the St. Louis American Foundation in 2016, worked her way up from a staff pharmacist at what was then known as Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Centers.
“I did always know I wanted to work in an environment that would have contact with underserved individuals, so that was my mission at that time,” Holmes told The American in 2016.
A year or so after joining Grace Hill, Holmes became pharmacy director and served in that position for several years, until CEO Alan Freeman approached her with an expanded opportunity.
“He had seen that I was going above and beyond in not only my work, but other departments, and he offered me the position of director of pharmacy and radiology,” she said.
Radiology was not her area of expertise, yet she was charged with creating its radiology and mammography departments. That was a bit of a learning curb.
“I just took some classes, did a lot of studying and networking with other professionals,” she said. “Within a year, we had our mammography suite up and we had general radiology in two of our locations.”
When you do something well, you get to do more – with greater responsibility. She began overseeing laboratory services.
“The first major project was to implement a moderate complex lab,” Holmes said.
At the time, all of its lab services were contracted to an outside vendor. Their in-house lab opened in late 2014 and now processes over 15,000 samples each month.
“We ended up bringing it in-house and actually resulted in tremendous savings for the health center,” Holmes said.
Afterward, she developed a plan to prevent unnecessary lab testing.
“In a lot of situations, providers can over-order labs, and that is a huge cost to a health center and, also, it can be a huge cost to a patient if they’re labs that aren’t needed,” Holmes said.
“I had a team which developed a lab formulary that really decreased the amount of labs that were provided – some of them were duplicates – and we compressed that, and it resulted in tremendous savings.”
Holmes then oversaw radiology, laboratory, nursing services, security, WIC, Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) initiatives, managed care incentive programs and, of course, pharmacy services. She also led the initiative to set up an urgent care center.
While she said there are many opportunities at Affinia to affect someone’s life, Holmes said she credits Affinia CEO Alan Freeman for her success.
“Alan has really been a mentor to me,” Holmes said. “He has given me the opportunity to grow professionally, and I do really credit him with a lot of my accomplishments.”
Holmes went to Metro Academic and Classical High School and earned her doctorate in Pharmacy from St. Louis College of Pharmacy, where she serves on its Board of Trustees. Holmes also completed a Community Health Center Executive Fellowship at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
“The best thing about what I do is, every day, you have accomplished something; you feel like you’ve helped someone,” Holmes added.
“Talking to the patients, just being able to provide quality health care to patients who otherwise would not have access to it – when you can see the impact that it makes on their lives, that really is the best part of working here.”
This is part of special St. Louis American series on Diversity in St. Louis.