Doris Ison is an under-appreciated hero in her hometown of Florida City. CHI of South Florida honored the memory of its founder Doris Ison on the 41st anniversary of her appearance before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging where she spoke on behalf of the elderly and those underserved by public transportation.
How did a black woman with a third grade education – a woman who earned a living harvesting tomatoes in the fields of South Miami-Dade County have such a dramatic and continuing impact on medical services and transportation in Miami-Dade County? In the words of CHI CEO Colonel Brodes H. Hartley Jr. Ms. Ison was a woman of vision, determination and persistence.
In the 1960s and 1970s and earlier people of color had little opportunity to seek medical attention in the Homestead/Florida City area. They were not accepted for care at the local James Archer Smith Hospital. Until it closed, the county hospital at Kendall provided hospitalization for people of color and others. Jesse Robinson and a brother operated an ambulance service which provided transportation from Homestead/Florida City to the Kendall hospital. With the closing of the Kendall hospital the nearest hospital accessible for them was Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Doris Ison mobilized support in her church and community for expanding and improving medical care in South Miami-Dade County for all races and became the primary spokesperson for the effort. Her work resulted in 1971 in the establishment of Community Health of South Dade Inc. – later Community Health of South Florida Inc. Facilities grew from two trailers at US1 and 216 Street to currently ten health centers and 42 school-based health centers. The health centers range from Coconut Grove in the north to Tavernier in the Keys with additional centers on the drawing board. CHI provides a full range of services to include primary care, pediatrics, urgent care, women’s health, dentistry, behavioral health, radiology, pharmacy, laboratory and more.
Grandson Dr. Brian C. Lucas emphasized in his remarks at the ceremony that his “Granny” never asked her family to take second place to her advocacy and that she passed along her values to the family.
Florida City commissioner Eugene Berry presented a Florida City proclamation to salute the event. As a young boy he attended the same church as did Ms. Ison.
Doris Ison is featured on the cover of the Gospel Truth Magazine February 2015 issue and in its lead story.