Community Partner Spotlight – Kathey Avery, BSN

When Kathey Avery first started practicing community nursing in 2008 she took a little red chair with her everywhere she went. The chair sent a clear message to community members. She had come to listen. This attitude is the heart of community nursing and how you address years of mistrust in a healthcare system that has not always listened to Black, Hispanic, rural, and low-income community members.

Kathey still uses her red chair on occasion, but she always asks what matters most to the people she serves. This curiosity has been critical in the fight against COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected communities of color and rural residents. As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation clinical scholar working with MAHEC faculty, Kathey has been instrumental in training community health workers (CHWs) in her “door-to-door” nursing approach to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, Kathey has continued knocking on doors herself, visiting more than 600 homes in historically Black and brown neighborhoods to listen to concerns and provide COVID education, prevention supplies, and vaccine information. Residents welcome these house calls from a familiar and trusted neighbor, and she welcomes the opportunity to connect them with the resources they need to stay healthy. Not surprisingly, one thing they need is more health advocates like Kathey, who was recently given the Trailblazer Award by the Land of Sky Regional Council for her tireless commitment to promoting health equity for all including those living with dementia.

She’s doing her best to train new trailblazers through a contract with Curamerica’s Global and the state. Kathey’s also working with MAHEC to mentor CHWs who are focusing on COVID-19 response efforts across the region. And while they may not carry red chairs, they have the same passion for community health that inspired Kathey more than 38 years ago.

Go door to door with Kathey.