Kathy Grisham, Dr. James E. Zini Receive Dr. Tom Bruce Arkansas Health Impact Award

November 3, 2020


John Lyon
Strategic Communications Manager

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Kathy Grisham, former CEO of Community Clinic in Northwest Arkansas, and Dr. James E. Zini, an osteopathic physician who has been practicing in Mountain View for 43 years, are the recipients of the 2020 Dr. Tom Bruce Arkansas Health Impact Award.

On behalf of our Health Policy Board, ACHI presents the award each year to one or more individuals who embody the late Dr. Tom Bruce’s lifetime of service by demonstrating courageous leadership, serving as catalysts for improving the health of all Arkansans, and exemplifying the core values of ACHI: trust, commitment, innovation, and initiative.

Grisham and Dr. Zini were honored Friday at the annual Friends of ACHI Appreciation Event. In a break with tradition prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held virtually. A full video of the event is available on our YouTube channel.

“Both of our honorees this year have devoted decades of their lives to improving the health of Arkansans,” ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson said. “I could not be happier to recognize Kathy Grisham and Dr. James E. Zini, whose contributions to health care in their communities do credit to the legacy of Dr. Tom Bruce, known as the father of community-based public health.”

When Grisham began with Community Clinic in 1998, it was a mostly volunteer church-based organization in Springdale with a $300,000 budget. With the clinic $100,000 in the red and facing another projected deficit, Grisham was asked to turn the facility around. She built a multi-lingual staff offering culturally sensitive services, and under her leadership the clinic became the region’s largest healthcare provider to the Northwest Arkansas Marshallese community.

Over 20-plus years, Grisham expanded healthcare access to underserved communities, overcoming barriers of poverty, language, and location. Today, Community Clinic is a network of 15 clinics with approximately 300 employees, supported by a budget of $24 million and serving 40,000 patients in Washington and Benton counties. In 2019, Grisham retired as CEO and now serves as a clinic consultant.

“Thank you so very much to ACHI and its board for this award,” Grisham said. “I gladly accept it for all at Community Clinic who have worked so diligently to bring quality health care to all people, no matter the color of their skin, education level, their language, or their paycheck.”

Friday’s ceremony included the presentation of a video tribute to Grisham.

Dr. Zini started his family practice in 1977, providing primary care and community-focused public health for the people of rural Mountain View. He was the first osteopath to be appointed to the Arkansas State Medical Board and is a past president of the American Osteopathic Association. He has served as a teacher and mentor to young medical students, welcoming them to rotate in his family practice clinic and live in his home.

Dr. Zini was instrumental in the foundation of the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, which opened in 2014, the first in-state osteopathic medical school. His contributions to the field of osteopathic medicine extend well beyond Arkansas, as demonstrated by the establishment in 2002 of the James E. Zini Young Physician Award, given to young physicians for significant contributions to the osteopathic profession. More than 43 years later, Dr. Zini continues to serve the people of rural Arkansas.

“I am so humbled, so honored, to be a recipient of the Dr. Tom Bruce Arkansas Health Impact Award,” Dr. Zini said. “Thank you, God bless you, and I just want you to know: I’m not done yet.”

A video tribute to Dr. Zini was shown during Friday’s ceremony.

Dr. Tom Bruce was dean of the University of Arkansas College of Medicine for a decade and a pioneer in the field of community health. He is remembered for improving and expanding the College of Medicine and addressing a shortage of physicians in the state’s rural areas through the formation of the Area Health Education Centers, which bring physician trainees to less-populated areas of Arkansas. He and his wife, Dolores, also paved the way for the establishment of ACHI with a $100,000 seed donation.

Grisham and Dr. Zini are the sixth and seventh recipients of the award named for Dr. Bruce. ACHI’s Health Policy Board previously honored Dr. Joseph H. Bates in 2016, Dr. Joycelyn Elders in 2017, Ben Owens Sr. and Dr. Kent Westbrook in 2018, and Amy L. Rossi in 2019.

Dr. Thompson also paid tribute Friday to three Health Policy Board members who are retiring from the board: Susan Hanrahan, Ray Montgomery, and Robert Shoptaw.

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