Celebrating Pride Month: Chris Cernak, RN, BBA, Executive Director, Integrated Care Management

Pride Month is a time to embrace and celebrate who you really are and to share who you are with the world

Chris Cernak leads Southcoast Health’s care management effort. Her important role involves providing leadership for inpatient care coordination, social work, ambulatory care navigation, and the chronic care management program.

She joined Southcoast Health last September because of her affinity for Southcoast Health’s mission as a not-for-profit healthcare system and the organization’s commitment to investing and re-investing in the health of local communities. In choosing to come and work in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Chris also cites the dedication and commitment among the long term staff with whom she interviewed.

Chris’ career aspirations are focused on population health and public health, and she will earn her master’s degree in public health at the end of this year. In her role, she plans to integrate population health systems with public health systems to benefit and support the communities served by Southcoast Health. 

“The social determinants of health – where people live, work and play – all have significant impact on their overall health and length of life,” Chris says. “A one-mile difference in where you live can represent a 10-year-plus difference in lifespan.”

“This region’s diverse populations, including the LGBTQIA+ community, are disproportionately affected by health disparities. My goal, personally and professionally, is to reduce barriers to preventive and chronic care and to ensure that care is provided in the least restrictive environment. I want everyone to have a long healthy life.”

Chris also speaks positively and enthusiastically about Southcoast Health’s LGBTQIA+ Welcoming and Knowledgeable project. “With this initiative and the enhancements to our electronic medical record system, our LGBTQIA+ patient community will have Epic and MyChart functionality that contain the appropriate terms and information to support everyone to accurately describe who they are in their virtual and in-person care. Those changes will come with the support of the entirety of Southcoast Health in providing clinically excellent care for everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Significance of Pride Month

“Pride Month is a time to embrace and celebrate who you really are and to share who you are with the world,” Chris says. “For my family and many friends, this freedom was achieved through patience, persistence, love and hard work. I’m grateful to have a family that’s bonded through our journey together, supporting each other.

Chris has fond memories of past Pride Month events, particularly the fun parades. She recalls the strength they gave her, and the sustenance they offered.

“My rainbow flag flies high during Pride Month,” she says. “My son and I used to drive a decorated vehicle together in a Western Massachusetts Pride Parade. We tossed candy to the parade viewers and found ourselves giggling with delight from the start of the parade to the end. There were times in the years leading up to that parade when giggles were in short supply as we passed through tremendous life challenges. That parade, the giggles and fun, were a gift to my soul as a parent.”