Rooms to Remember

WWC offers tribute to Bahr, Chinn, Hawkins

by Yusef Najafi
Published on April 23, 2009, 12:00am | Comments

Whitman-Walker Clinic has made some changes.

The waiting room at the Max Robinson Center has been named the ''Barbara A. Chinn Waiting Area.'' And the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center now has a ''Mary L. Bahr Public Benefits Room'' and a ''Dr. Patricia D. Hawkins Medical Adherence Room.''

The clinic announced the move April 15, also advising of an upcoming ceremony at a yet to-be-determined date later this year. According to the clinic, the board of directors voted unanimously to honor the three lesbians who were laid off in December of 2008 without severance.

Dr. Patricia Hawkins, 68, a licensed clinical social worker and psychologist, who worked at the clinic for 19 years with her final position that of associate executive director for policy and external affairs, says she is honored by the tribute, but adds that the effort does not soften the blow of being let go after two decades of dedication.

''That's still painful,'' Hawkins says. ''But at least it acknowledges what we did and the contributions that we made. So that gives some closure.

''The clinic has been an extremely important part of all of our lives, and always will be. That will never change. To have something there permanently that acknowledges the times we lived through, that's touching to me.''

Brian Johnson, spokesperson for the WWC board of directors, which has supported WWC CEO Don Blanchon's efforts to trim costs, including rounds of layoffs, offered support for the tribute to the thee women in the prepared April 15 remarks.

''This is our way of publicly recognizing their tremendous work in their collective 59 years of service at [WWC]. We are very pleased that all three of them have accepted the honor.''

Mary Bahr, who worked at the clinic for 19 years, ended her time there as the director of administration of the public funding unit.

''It just made me sad, because I worked so long and hard with the clinic, and the reason I was there was because so many of my best friends in my life had passed away from HIV," says Bahr, 55, of having a clinic room named for her. ''I feel privileged that they would do something like that.''

Since being laid off, Bahr, who collected more than $150 million in contracts and grants for WWC during her tenure, says she has been looking for work in the grant- and contract-administration field.

''It's very difficult out here,'' Bahr says, adding that the honor does not make things any easier.

Barbara Chinn, 64, former director of WWC's Max Robinson Center in Southeast, says locals might not be familiar with Bahr because she worked mainly ''behind the scenes.''

''The people in the clinic known her, but in terms of the community, not that many people recognize her,'' Chinn says. ''Her job was in that office and she did it extremely well,'' she adds, describing Bahr as a ''godsend.''

''She was basically the financial backbone of the HIV program because she took a very small number of people and developed a significant response in terms of ability to write appropriate grants, and she had the money coming in.''

When asked if the clinic's effort to honor the women impacts how Chinn feels about being laid off, she says, ''I think it's two separate issues.''

''It is very touching that the board of directors would consider bestowing such an honor on me.''