Person of the Week: Sharon Elliott-Bynum

July 17, 2009 1:34:58 PM PDT
In the mid 1990s, Sharon Elliott-Bynum was working as the director of nursing services for a long-term care facility when she started doing HIV community outreach in Durham public housing.That's when she recognized the need in the community.

"So we talked about what we could do and what was our responsibility as a citizen to individuals and helping them to figure out how to improve their health and how to navigate the system to get help," she recalled.

With her sister, she co-founded CAARE INC to provide HIV testing and counseling, plus transitional housing.

Since many of CAARE's HIV clients were also dealing with drugs and alcohol problems, they started offering substance abuse counseling.

Next came a community food pantry.

"Not only do we wanna give away food but we wanna show you how to prepare it without all the fats," explained Bynum.

In February CAARE opened the Jeanne Hopkins Lucas Education and Wellness Center.

"It's a health disparities clinic. So, I looked at the five health disparities at the highest mortality rate in our community; and they were cancer, I'm looking specifically at breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate. Then diabetes, hypertension, obesity and HIV and AIDS," said Bynum.

But there's more to the free clinic. There's a gym and personal trainer, a massage area to relive stress and place for clients to relax.

"You can sit in there at a bistro table with a cup of coffee and discuss your medical issues. Not necessarily having you focus on the illness itself, on how you can take steps toward creating better lifestyle changes," Bynum said.

A chapel is now under construction help clients with the spiritual part of their lives. It's all part of Sharon Elliott-Bynum's dream of providing a holistic approach to helping those in need.

"I believe in a holistic approach to life, because man is not just a physical being. There's physical, there's social, there's psychological, there's spiritual," she said.

The clinic operates in the evening so doctors and nurses can volunteer their time. CAARE will soon offer dental screening and transitional housing for veterans and all of their services are free.

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