Our dear friend and colleague, Edward Dunaway, 42, of Alcalde, passed away on June 8.
Often, when people think about health care, the focus is on the providers, not on the other people working to take care of people. We worked with Edward at El Centro Family Health in Española.
Edward was a community health worker. We want the world to know about our Edward—the difference he made in the lives of ordinary northern New Mexicans, many who would not be alive without him.
Edward helped get people into treatment for substance use disorder and hepatitis C. For years, he was the person that those who struggled with substance use disorders and chronic Hepatitis C could turn to. Edward could not fill up his gas tank or pick up groceries, without someone asking him for help. And he would never turn a deaf ear. To anyone.
Edward was the first Community Health Worker in New Mexico to be paired with a provider to provide Hepatitis C and addiction medicine services to the community. Community Health Workers are from the community and provide basic education about diseases.
He taught hundreds of patients about using naloxone for overdose, the importance of clean needles, and avoiding infections like hepatitis C and HIV.
Edward touched so many lives through his work as a Community Health Worker. He always offered his help without judgment, giving freely and kindly of his time, going the extra mile for every patient, often squeezing an extra two or three into the schedule to avoid another unnecessary overdose in the community.
He came to work greeting everyone as if he hadn’t seen them in ages. His love for his work was palpable, and he was so proud when he witnessed patient successes, like the birth of healthy babies to mothers who previously struggled with opiate use disorder.
He traveled from clinic to clinic, helping each of us, from Española to Truchas, then to school-based health, back to Española. He presented cases with us to Project ECHO to find the best mode of treatment for the most challenging.
This young man without a college degree moved mountains to get patients the help they not only needed but deserved—he kept waiting lists for buprenorphine treatment, and would call folks the minute there was an opening.
He helped to assure patients were not without medication, that they understood not to miss an appointment, and the critical nature of their laboratory testing. He was patient and kind, understanding and wise, to the community, to our world, he was a beloved treasure. We will miss him dearly.
Dr. Leslie Hayes and Physicians Assistant Deb Newman work throughout Northern New Mexico at various clinics.