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Programs About Support JEVS

Helen O. Dickens: Women’s Health Pioneer with Philadelphia Connections

As we celebrate Black History month, JEVS Care at Home (JCAH) honors Dr. Helen Octavia Dickens. Dr. Dickens blazed a trail for other black women in medicine, and her work led to many advances in the healthcare of women, especially young mothers.

Helping Mothers in Philadelphia 

Dr. Dickens was born in 1909. Her mother was a domestic servant, and her father had been a slave. Dr. Dickens was an excellent student, and her desire to help improve the lives of others led her to enroll in medical school at the University of Illinois. She graduated in 1933, the only black woman in her class. She worked for a time in Chicago and developed a special interest in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the branch of medicine that is devoted to the care of pregnant women. In 1935, she moved to Philadelphia to work in a clinic that served one of the city’s low-income black communities.

Learning and Leading

Dr. Dickens wanted to continue her education, so she enrolled in a master’s degree program at The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) School of Medicine. After graduating, she took on leadership roles in the Obstetrics and Gynecology departments at two Philadelphia hospitals. In 1965, she began teaching at Penn. Dr. Dickens was dedicated, talented, and driven to change medicine for the better, and her career included several “firsts.” She was the first black woman to become a full professor at Penn and the first black female physician in Philadelphia who became board-certified in Obstetrics & Gynecology. She was also the first black woman admitted to the American College of Surgeons. That meant her fellow physicians viewed her as one of the leading doctors in the country.

Advocating for Women’s Health

Dr. Dicken called for the use of pap smears to detect cervical cancer. She wanted black women to have access to this test, and she personally visited churches in Philadelphia’s black community and performed the test for free. Dr. Dickens’s belief in the pap smear, which was new at the time, had a strong influence on other physicians. Pap smears are credited with saving millions of lives.

Eventually Dr. Dickens rose to an important position at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She founded a clinic where pregnant teenagers and young mothers could receive treatment and get advice about reproductive health. She also increased minority enrollment in the School of Medicine by over 2000% in a few years.

Legacy and Recognition 

Dr. Dickens passed away in 2001, but she left a remarkable legacy. Few physicians have had as much of an impact on improving the healthcare of young women, especially women of color. To honor her achievements, Penn named its women’s health clinic The Helen O. Dickens Center for Women’s Health. A portrait of Dr. Dickens hangs inside Stemmler Hall, Penn’s Medical Education building, inspiring future generations of physicians.

JCAH’s Commitment Today

Like Dr. Dickens, JCAH helps people get the care they need. In 2024, Home Care Pulse (HCP) honored JCAH as a Provider of Choice. This award reflects JCAH’s dedication to improving healthcare access and quality, just as Dr. Dickens did throughout her remarkable career.

Recognizing Black History Month 2024

By Ashley R.M.

Black History Month 2024 recognizes important contributions of African Americans in the arts. We celebrate the creativity and innovation of Black voices—artists, thinkers, organizations, and media outlets that enrich our culture and make a positive impact on society.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Efforts at JEVS

This month, we’re also reflecting on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) journey at JEVS. Our organization started in 1941 to help Jewish refugees during World War II. Over the years, we’ve expanded our services to support people of all ages, races, genders, and communities. We continue this work today, addressing current challenges and providing opportunities for fulfilling careers in an inclusive environment.

At JEVS, we embrace DEI in various ways, including supporting employee-led resource groups (ERGs). One of our largest ERGs, the African American, African, and Caribbean (AAAC) ERG, was created almost three years ago to promote diversity and inclusion. Members of this group make a positive impact beyond our company by volunteering throughout the year. For instance, they recently supported The Choice is Yours Dr. Martin Luther King’s Day of Hope, providing essential items to families in need in the Philadelphia area.

JEVS’ Partnership with The Ladipo Group

We also focus on equal education, leadership, and economic opportunities for all. In 2023, JEVS began a partnership with The Ladipo Group. The Ladipo Group is the region’s only therapy, counseling, and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion consulting practice that specializes in serving Black and African American communities. Through this partnership, we sponsor an ongoing DEI Speaker series, addressing important topics like employee well-being and creating safe environments in the Human Services industry.

Get Involved

JEVS remains committed to collaborating with diverse partners to amplify voices, broaden perspectives, and better serve our communities. As we reflect on #BHM, we want to know: what does Black History Month mean to you?

To explore Black History Month events in Philadelphia, click this link.

JEVS Care at Home Honors Rebecca Lee Crumpler During Black History Month

By Thomas H.  

JEVS Care at Home (JCAH) provides in-home support for older adults and people with disabilities. JCAH is different from other home care agencies because we have our own team of nurses who make sure each person’s care plan is right for them. 

To kick off Black History Month, JCAH celebrates Rebecca Lee Crumpler. Born in 1831, Rebecca was a nurse, doctor, and writer. Today she is seen as an important pioneer in American medicine.  

As a girl, Rebecca often helped her aunt, who was a midwife and healer. She was a great student and later became a nurse. She wanted to devote her life to helping others feel better. She went on to study medicine at New England Female Medical College, which is now part of Boston University School of Medicine. In 1864, she made history by becoming the first black woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree. 

After the Civil War, Rebecca went to Virginia to help newly freed slaves who needed medical attention. Her work showed other doctors that many slaves became sick because of poor living conditions. 

Rebecca also wrote what is thought to be the first medical book by a black person, called A Book of Medical Discourses: In Two Parts. It focuses on caring for women and children. 

Rebecca Lee Crumpler continues to inspire nurses and caregivers everywhere.  

Click here to learn more about JEVS Care at Home and opportunities to join our team of outstanding caregivers. 

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