By Starla Vaughns Cherin
Walking the red carpet into the Cora E. Braynon Family Health Center set the atmosphere to honor a visionary in the public health field. A woman who so loved contributing to her community’s health, she once said, “If I come back in a second life, I would still be a public health nurse.”
Braynon was the first African American public health nurse hired by Broward County in 1960 and worked her way up to become the first African American Senior Executive Nursing Director of the Florida Department of Health, Broward County. Retiring in 1998 she was later appointed to North Broward Hospital District’s (NBHD) Commission and served as treasurer and vice-president during her tenure until her passing in 2006 at 71.
“She had a love for people and public health. She was the instrumental individual who led the effort to get this facility built 15 years ago. At that time she was not a part of the Broward Health District sy-stem. She was with the County Health Department.
“She worked with North Broward Hospital District’s Commissioner Annie L. Weaver and through Mrs. Weaver’s leadership on the board helped the District understand the need for access to primary care and the need to expand and provide a top notch facility in this community.
“She was an agitator, an activist and an advocate. She was key in helping to change the mindset to get this facility here. She knew how to do it from the inside and the outside. She could build coalitions and have people come together for a cause,” said Jasmin Shirley, vice-president of Community Health Services for Broward Health.
Formerly known as the Seventh Avenue Family Health Center, community members helped plan the services to be offered in the 50,000 sq. ft., $7.6 million facility. It combines comprehensive primary health care with ongoing community services and outreach for adults and children that include a pharmacy, dental care and access to social services.
In addition, the center provides behavioral health services, health and disease specific health talks, alcoholic, gamblers anonymous as well as nutritional counseling and health classes.
“No one is denied access,” says Shirley. “We charge fees on a sliding scale according to what you can afford and we have counselors here to help assess that. “
Braynon’s public health extended to her family pitching in. “It was my grandmother’s passion the health, safety and security of the people,” said her grandson Florida State Senator Oscar Braynon II. “I remember she had us with her passing out condoms.
“I’m so proud of her legacy. I am this because she did the work. They have a picture of her in the gallery at the hospital and I’d show my sons. They did not get a chance to know her although they know all about her to keep her memory alive and now there is an entire building named after her.”
On the forefront of public health, Braynon was active in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDS. At one point she incorporated the non-profit People of Color AIDS Coalition of Broward County. In addition to enlisting her grandchildren’s help she also worked with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, to hand out discreetly packaged health pamphlets and condoms at the Sistrunk Festival in 1984.
“Mrs. Braynon was an old school public health nurse and knew about mobilizing the com-munity to address any health issue that affected her community. When HIV came to Bro-ward County long before it was addressed as a public health issue, she developed education and prevention programs that actually touched people,” Shirley remembers.
“She gathered us together and said we can get information, pamphlets and condoms to pass out to all the people at the festival. What better way to have a lasting impact. One way to prevent infection is to have a barrier to transmission. Let’s give them the tools to prevention. She was attuned to public health and knew how to prevent disease.”
The renaming event was standing room only as Broward Health President/CEO Frank P. Nask commented, “Whenever Jasmin Shirley plans an event there is always a great turnout. This is a jewel in the community for primary care. We provide comprehensive health care here and this center serves more than 150,000 visits a year,” Nask added.
For the event décor outfitted in Braynon’s favorite color, crimson, votive candles carried her light and the affair was catered by Dottie Stewart’s Global Elegance.
Florida Senate Minority Leader Senator Chris Smith at-tended. “It’s great when we honor those that came before us, so that future generations can know what she did for our community. Florida House of Rep. Gwendolen Clarke-Reed also attended.
North Broward Hospital District Chairman David Di Pietro, Esq., Vice-Chair Joel Gustaf-son, Esq., Commissioner’s David C. Nieland and Darryl L. Wright and North Broward Medical Center CEO Pauline Grant were present as well as Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bobby DuBose and the staff of the Westside Gazette Newspaper.
Members of the Braynon family from Cora’s children to her great grandchildren attended. ‘Our family has always had that community commitment,” said Senator Braynon.“My grandmother was also dedicated to not being the last. She wants others to follow in her footsteps. That is why you should contribute to the Cora Eaves Braynon Nursing Scholarship.
“So far we have provided over $20,000 in scholarship funds to Broward County students of nursing. So now just imagine coming here to the Cora E. Braynon Family Health Center and being treated by a nurse who went to school on a Cora E. Braynon Scholarship.”