Life lessons fuel giving by hospital chief

Paul Jeffrey
Paul Jeffrey

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Paul Jeffrey and his wife Addy want to give something back in return for the opportunities they have enjoyed.

“We are basically looking out for those who in our estimation are not as fortunate as us,” says Jeffrey, vice president and administrator of Wesley Long Community Hospital in Greensboro.

The Jeffreys focus their giving, including their time, money and advocacy, on the issues of mental health and developmental disorders, immigration, and racial and social justice.

Those causes reflect their own life experiences: Jeffrey has spent most of his career of more than 20 years in the field of behavioral health, and the couple’s 13-year-old son is profoundly mentally-retarded.

And Jeffrey was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while his wife, who grew up in New York City, is the daughter of Cuban immigrants.

After majoring in psychology at the University of Florida, where he met Addy, his roommate’s sister, Jeffrey initially worked as a mental-health technician in psychiatric units at hospitals in Florida, supporting doctors and nurses in their work with patients.

Jeffrey then switched to the business side of the health-care industry and, after working as a marketing representative for a psychiatric hospital in Miami, earned a master’s degree in business administration at Florida International University.

While in business school, he served in South Florida as a regional director of managed-care services for a national hospital chain.

As a professional working in the field of mental health, Jeffrey says, he found that, in addition to “paperwork in the office or recruiting physicians,” the job of improving care also required changing the way patient care is funded.

And seeing that “government was basically curtailing and putting a price as to who gets care and who doesn’t get care,” he says, he concluded he needed to become an advocate.

In 2004, Moses Cone Health System recruited Jeffrey to serve as vice president and administrator at its Behavioral Health Center, a stand-alone psychiatric hospital.

Then, in 2007, he was named to his current post running the health system’s 175-bed acute care community hospital.

Since arriving in North Carolina, Jeffrey has contributed his time, funds, expertise and advocacy to community groups.

He recently completed a term as president of the board of the Mental Health Association in Greensboro, a group that focuses on education and advocacy.

As a board member and as board president, he helped the organization reengineer its structure and operations.

And in the fiscal year ended June 30, with entrepreneur Mike Weaver serving as honorary chair of its annual fund drive, the group raised over $40,000, nearly double the previously year’s total, despite the impact of the economic recession.

Jeffrey also has been an active donor to the Mental Health Association and to Family Service of the Piedmont, also serving on that group’s board.

He and his wife give to the ARC of Greensboro, which serves people with developmental disabilities, and to Gateway Education Center, the school for children with special needs that their son attends.

And Jeffrey is a member of the Governing Council for Mental Health and Substance Abuse of the American Hospital Association, which works on policy change at a national level.

Locally, he also serves on the executive committee and is president-elect of the Latino Professional Forum, a three-year-old group with roughly 40 members that provides mentoring and leadership development to young Latinos.

The group plans to create a scholarship fund, possibly with matching grants from foundations, to help young Latinos who otherwise could not afford to go to college.

The Jeffreys also work as advocates on the issue of immigration, discrimination, racism and bigotry.

Jeffrey serves on the board of the National Conference for Community and Justice of the Piedmont Triad, for example, and his wife volunteered a full week last year as a counselor at Anytown, the organization’s summer camp for high school juniors and seniors.

Addy Jeffrey, an interpreter who works as an independent contractor for the Center for New North Carolinians at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, also provides free interpretation services for the Latino community.

And she recently participated in a panel at a town hall meeting on the issue of undocumented immigrants that included Greensboro’s chief of police and Guilford County’s sheriff.

“We have seen the many disadvantaged kids in the world in the communities in which we have lived,” Jeffrey says. “So we basically feel that we need to be primarily advocates and try to always be at the forefront of whatever policies are being changed, whatever policies or funding is being taken away, from a government standpoint, to serve kids in need.”

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