Group Health Cooperative Board of Trustees elects its first African American president, Ida Chambliss, in May 1978.

  • By HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 8/16/2005
  • Essay 7433
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In May 1978, the Group Health Board of Trustees elects its first African American president, Ida Chambliss (d. 1983). She will serve as president through 1979. Chambliss, raised in Alabama with 14 brothers and sisters, is a social worker with a degree from the University of Wisconsin. She had joined Group Health in 1969 and become active on the Member Services and Hospital Affairs Committee. In 1974 the membership elected her to the board of trustees. As president of the board, Chambliss sees her role as "to assure that interaction takes place" among Group Health's constituent parts "so existing policy can be reviewed and new policy formulated, as needed" (Crowley 158).

Chambliss served as president of the board of a Group Health Cooperative that had 290 physicians serving 255,000 enrollees in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, and Kitsap counties. In 1979 enrollment increased by 23,000. That year the Cooperative made a transition in patient care to a panel system in which each enrollee had a personal family physician. Appointment scheduling was decentralized and the consulting nurse service was expanded.

Ida Chambliss died of a heart attack on September 28, 1983, while in Zimbabwe performing humanitarian work for Africare. A month later Group Health dedicated the new Rainier Valley Medical Center, which Chambliss had worked hard to establish during her years on the board. Later Group Health organized the Ida Chambliss Memorial Health Team to carry on her work of aiding the poor in other nations.

Sources: Walt Crowley, To Serve the Greatest Number: A History of Group Health Cooperative of Seattle (Seattle: GHC/University of Washington Press, 1995), 156, 165.

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