Keystone’s Key Player

Joanne Cochran built from scratch a successful health-care provider for the underserved in rural Pennsylvania. These life tenets keep her grounded.

UNLOCKING PATIENT CARE: Joanne Cochran; (left) Keystone Health headquarters in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

UNLOCKING PATIENT CARE: Joanne Cochran; (left) Keystone Health headquarters in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

THE PROBLEM WAS ACUTE: Migrant farm workers in rural Franklin County, Pennsylvania, were going without health care. In 1986, Joanne Cochran decided to do something about it, starting Keystone Health in her basement with help from three volunteers. As she identified other pressing community-health needs, she did something about those too—and today Keystone Health is a 18-practice system with more than 500 employees who see some 53,000 patients annually, regardless of their ability to pay. It’s the largest multi-specialty Federally Qualified Health Center in the country.

Cochran obtained Rural Health Clinic and Medically Underserved Population status in the early ’90s—a designation that kicked off a period of expansion that saw Keystone take on problems as diverse as behavioral and addiction medicine, pharmacy, pediatrics, HIV/AIDS specialized care and both adult and pediatric dentistry. It’s currently adding 10 dental treatment rooms to bring its total to 50. The need remains great: One in five patients that Keystone Health serves lives in poverty. Here are the three adages Cochran keeps in mind above all as she works to help them.Keystone’s Key Player

  1. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. “You can have umpteen advanced degrees and consider yourself the smartest person in the room, but all that truly matters is that others accept us and love us. I’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse. When we die, all we take with us is our good works.”
  2. We’re all angels with one wing, who can fly only when embracing. “We’re incomplete—but by reaching out and connecting, we can do wonderful things for each other. Rabbi Isaac Luria, a sixteenth-century mystic, would often tell this story: In the beginning there was only the holy darkness—the ein sof, the source of life. To make the human world, God set forth 10 holy vessels that held His divine light. Had they all arrived intact, the world would have been perfect. But the vessels were too fragile to contain such powerful divine light. They shattered, and all the holy sparks were scattered like sand, like seeds, like stars. Our sacred task is to gather the sparks no matter where they’re hidden. This is possible to do, because every person comes into being with the capacity to find the light hidden in all events and all people—to make it visible once again and thereby restore the innate wholeness of the world.”
  3. Who you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. “In his essay ‘The Over-Soul,’ Emerson writes, ‘That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily but involuntarily. Thoughts come into our minds by avenues which we never left open, and thoughts go out of our minds through avenues which we never voluntarily opened. Character teaches over our head.’ ”