No doubt about it, Ira Combs is a blessing to the community. After a long career working as a nurse at UNMC and other social and health organizations, Combs felt a strong calling to do more to positively impact his community.
Over the years, he could see the gaps in healthcare that were creating issues and leaving thousands of people un-served. Lower rates of health insurance. Poverty. Unemployment. Lack of transportation. Lack of awareness and information. Lack of access. He decided to do something about it and stepped out in faith to form the North Omaha Area Free Clinic (NOAH). His story is one of perseverance, faith, passion, hard work and commitment.
(Photo: Ira Combs and the NOAH Team)
“We want to make North Omaha the healthiest place in the state.”
Not one to seek personal attention, Combs just does the work. He is focused on making sure his community has what it needs, and if possible he wants to provide it at no charge. He has been quoted as saying, “We want to make North Omaha the healthiest place in the state.”
The work to make that happen is daunting, but he keeps plugging along with the assistance from his team and many others in the community working to improve conditions in North Omaha and for African-Americans and people of color.
He is also incredibly committed to reaching the youth. Combs has consistently created innovative and creative ways to get messages into the minds of children and teens. He has a “whatever it takes” mentality when it comes to making sure children understand healthy behaviors.
He is also incredibly committed to reaching the youth.
Whether it’s creating attention grabbing marketing materials, bus benches, radio spots, jingles or billboards, Combs and his team are dedicated to the cause. He’s even created superheroes and other characters to get the message across.
Knowing kids usually relate to people closer to their age and speak their language, Combs is dedicated to hiring younger staff members from the community.
Another key need that Combs identified over the years is the limited number of African-Americans and people of color in the health industry. Rather than complain, Combs did what he always does, he did something about it.
He launched Youth Expressions of Health (YEOH), one of the best youth training programs in the city. Every year, the program recruits youth and exposes them to career options available in the health field.
Shomari Huggins works with Combs to facilitate the highly impactful and successful initiative. A number of the graduates have entered the health field, attending and completing college in pursuit of their goals.
Through his efforts, Combs is lifting up the health of North Omaha. Though he does not seek attention, his work has brought him plenty of it. He was recognized by the White House under President Barack Obama’s administration.
Personally, Combs has lived through his own challenges, but always seems to have a positive and comforting spirit at all times. He has his own health obstacles and has cared for his loving wife, Victoria, who is confined to a wheelchair, for many years. Their love is as strong as ever as they continue to pursue this faith filled journey.
North Omaha is blessed to have Ira Combs and his team in place before, during and after this pandemic passes.
To connect with NOAH visit: noahclinic.org or call 402-933-0737
NOAH Clinic is a beacon of light in the community, by ministering to the hearts, body and minds of families and individuals in North Omaha. The clinic provides care to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Their primary value is “the needs of the patient come first.”
- Drive Thru COVID-19 Testing
- Physical exams for men, women and children
- Family Planning
- Health Education
- Medical Referrals
- Mental Health Screening
Personal Health Screening for:
- Diabetes, High Blood Pressure
- Anonymous HIV and Hep-C testing and risk counseling
- Anonymous STD testing and treatment
- Daycare worker and camp physicals
Health Classes and Support Groups:
- Smoking Cessation
- Weight Loss
- Diabetes Support
- Hypertension Support
- Grief Support
- Sickle Cell Support Group
Watch NOAH’s weekly show, COVID Conversations on Facebook at: facebook.com/NoahFreeClinic. The live show is hosted by Pastor Portia Cavitt and features guest panelists who discuss topics related to COVID-19. Noahclinic.org 402-933-0737
Ted Lampkin: Rising to Meet the Challenge
Charles Drew Health Center
Growing up down the street from Charles Drew Health Center, Inc., it was no question for Ted Lampkin to give back to the community that helped raise him.
“I’m passionate about public health because I am a product of public health services. Coming up, my family and I used the services at Charles Drew.”
As the Associate Director of Behavioral Health Services, Ted has been on the front-line teaching and training team members in new approaches to behavioral health. It’s no surprise that when COVID-19 struck, Ted was front and center.
“My role was to help transition the Behavioral Health department from doing face-to-face therapy to telehealth therapy.”
While COVID-19 began to escalate, increasing evidence highlighted racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
“We made it easy for the patients, providing traditional face-to-face, telehealth, and when needed telephonic sessions. A lot of patients had anxiety about COVID-19 and being in the middle of a pandemic, in addition to their other stressers.”
“The benefit of telehealth is we can continue to provide quality service during a pandemic. You take out the barriers to care with telehealth.”
Brenda Avant: Providing Quality Healthcare in the Midst of COVID-19
Charles Drew Health Center
As a North Omaha native, Family Nurse Practitioner, Brenda Avant, understands educating her patients about their healthcare choices is a foundational principle to accessing safe and quality healthcare.
When the pandemic shut down Omaha metro schools, Brenda and the team members at Charles Drew Health Center, Inc. School-based Health Centers had to switch gears. While still providing in-person care, the SBHC Medical providers began utilizing telehealth to remain in contact with their patients.
“The telehealth program at Charles Drew really grew at that time. As Medical providers, we were able to continue serving our student patients through telehealth. The parents really enjoyed it because they felt even through a pandemic their child’s provider is still in tune with their needs.”
As the pandemic surged, the healthcare inequalities within the American health system began to come to the foreground. “It made me proud to see that Charles Drew was a front runner in COVID-19. The community was looking to us to help guide them through.”
“Charles Drew made it very easy for the population we serve to continue receiving care. We may be small, but we are mighty.”
Larry Duncan: Resiliency in the Face of a Crisis
Charles Drew Health Center
Hailing from the south side of Chicago, Larry Duncan, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Charles Drew Health Center, Inc. has always had a passion for helping others. “My passion, at first, started off with a drug and alcohol emphasis based on my own experiences and knowledge. As I grew and received more education, mental health became the next umbrella. It rests with my understanding that there are unique issues that affect black and brown people, and people who are marginalized.”
Within the first year serving at Charles Drew, Larry faced his biggest challenge yet, leading a team while in the mists of coronavirus. “The number one thing we did quickly was become active.” As COVID-19 began to highlight the care gaps within marginalized communities, the Behavioral Health team at Charles Drew looked to bridge those gaps within the community.
“For our population it was a dual threat. On one side of the coin, the crisis becomes an additional stress to a population of people who already live with stress. On the flip side of the coin, the lack of community and social interaction increased depression, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness.”
The message was simple, but practical: Practice the Five Cs–Connection, Commitment, Communion, Contain, and Continue.
Looking back, one of the greatest strengths of Charles Drew, in Larry’s eyes, was the ability to remain active. While most were waiting, frozen in their activity, Charles Drew advanced forward.
“We got better and better at it. We were doing testing on the front line when testing was just starting. As masks began to be required, we were handing them out to the community members in need. Whatever needed to be done in the face of this virus, we did it.”