Charmaine Spence Rochester, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Chester County Hospital, is an immigrant.
She left Jamaica with her family when she was 16. Her mother, a nurse, was recruited by a rural hospital in Texas. It was a long way off, physically and culturally, from the world they knew, but her mother recognized it as an opportunity for a better life for all of them.
Her sacrifices and the hardships all of them would endure over the years that followed have served as a constant source of motivation for Rochester as she’s forged her career — a career that has often found her as the only African-American woman in the board room.
“It’s very humbling,” she said of the experience. “There are other talented African-American finance professionals who have not gotten the opportunities I have. I feel a sense of responsibility to support the growth and development of others like me who are trying to find their way.”
It was that mindset that led Rochester to create the inaugural Legacy Builders networking and mentoring breakfast. Coordinated with the help of Jaqueline Felicetti, the hospital’s chief HR officer, Rochester hosted 15 African-American women — most from CCH but all of them Penn Medicine employees — for breakfast in the spring and again in the fall in West Chester. Their tenures spanned five months to 46 years.
Each of the women was asked to come prepared to discuss someone who’s supported or inspired them. After everyone took a turn, “we reflected on our journeys, including tragedies and triumphs, and expressed gratitude to be in this place at this time,” Rochester said. “We also acknowledged that this was the first time we have ever sat in a hospital-sponsored event with others who looked like us.
“If nothing else, it gave the folks in that room the validation that they are worthy and valuable. And I think that empowerment will translate to their work.”
The Legacy Builders breakfast is one facet of Chester County Hospital’s diversity awareness initiatives.
“What’s most important to me is, people who never felt comfortable feeling different now feel embraced here at the hospital,” Felicetti said. “The committee’s slogan is, ‘One person at a time. One difference at a time.’ And that’s really what we’re trying to do – make sure that each and every person here feels valued and safe.”
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