| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter


Joseph Ferguson


Conner Creek Mother Nurture Project

15400 W. McNichols
Detroit, Michigan 48235
Joseph Ferguson came to the world of federally qualified health centers from a career in the for-profit hospital field. His philosophy has always been that a great deal of leadership is about serving, and his role at Advantage Health Centers allows him to do that in a very efficient way. 
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Advantage Health Centers Executive Director Joseph Ferguson: A leader is the individual that steps forward in challenging times to not only make the tough decisions, but assist in carrying the load. A leader is not so much concerned about the risk of actions taken, but more with the failures of actions not taken.
I can't do every job in the organization, but I can pick up a shovel and help.
A lot of being a leader is the ability to follow and a lot of leadership is about serving. I can't do every job in the organization, but I can pick up a shovel and help. I have to go out in the community and tell it like it is, sometimes to people who don't want to hear it. That doesn't always make you popular, but I read my contract, and I don't get paid to be popular.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream for kids is that they have an opportunity to achieve their potential. If a kid has dental problems, they can't focus on other issues. If they don't get immunizations they can't be in school. We work with parents and we know they can't always be where you want them to be because 85 things get in way that aren't a factor for many of us. We reward them for what they can get done in life, not chastise them. We understand there are challenges, and they're not going to hit every one out of the park. Kids need a shot at making it on down the road and when you give it to them and drive it to them equitably then that's the shot we ought to give them.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
The Michigan Department of Community Health should coordinate the publication of a report that would reflect the status of various determinants of social health across the state and rank those programs/agencies that have played a role in improving the particular elements within the report. The thing is that a lot of segmented dollars are allocated for things like obesity, neonatal care, reducing the neonate mortality rate and so on; there isn't one consolidated thing that says this is the progress we're making on these issues. If you don't have a consistent scorecard it's harder to say what kind of progress we're making. We tend to stick in our finger and pull out a plum if we move ahead on one area; a common method of reporting might hold everyone to a higher degree of accountability.
How do you know you’re making progress?
I know that AHC is making progress when it sustains financial viability while increasing the proportion of the population it serves, not only in terms of volume, but also in terms of parameter of need (medical, dental, behavioral, etc.) We're going on not only the numbers of encounters, but moving into area of dental health, behavioral health, etc.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the team of individuals that serve AHC and have allowed this organization to sustain a diverse pattern of growth. What I try to do if we have a plan is just stay out of the way – let the folks who are making progress move and make sure they have the resources they need. For those who are not using resources appropriately, either coach or replace them. You have to have accountability – if folks are not able to perform you have to make room or bring someone else in to give them the opportunity.
What originally drew you to your current profession? 
After more than 30 years in health administration, I have found FQHCs (federally qualified health centers) to be the most effective use of Federal dollars to address a diverse range of health care needs among the neediest in our society. 
I don't have 3,000-square-foot lobbies full of ferns, but we do take care of our patients.
More specifically, I can see in the efforts of the team at AHC that scarce resources are leveraged to achieve maximum results. For the majority of my career I have been on the hospital side; before that I worked for a for-profit company that managed small rural hospitals. I did that while my kids got out of high school –while they stayed in one spot I did too. When we came up here I was still in hospital administration. When they went through a regime change my wife said she was not moving, so I found an opening in the community health center world. I actually like this a lot better, more so than the other side. Our team has gotten a lot more done with what we have to deal with. I don't have 3,000-square-foot lobbies full of ferns, but we do take care of our patients.
Signup for Email Alerts

Program Profile


Stuart Ray, Mindy Ysasi, Mike Kerkorian, Ellen Carpenter from Grand Rapids' Nonprofits

Jumping Ship: Former Corporate Leaders Tell All

End Bullying, Save Lives

Putting the Brakes on Bullying


Transforming the Lives of First-Time Moms

View All People


Family Health Center of Battle Creek - list

Maternal Infant & Child Health Program

Addressing infant and child health issues

Community Action Against Asthma

Air Filter and Air Conditioner Intervention Study

Helping asthmatic children breathe easier

Advocacy Services for Kids list

Family Support Partners

Uniting families with similar experiences
View All Programs

Bright Ideas


Healthy Futures for Kids

The Grand Rapids African American Health Institute addresses disparate health outcomes by acting as a resource for health education, research, and advocacy.

Lead Technician Emily Quinn connects Deborah Johnson Wood to the computer for biofeedback

Wrestling with ADHD

Can brain training help wean kids with ADHD off medication? A Grand Rapids psychologist is seeing hopeful results.


Mentoring For Children From Migrant Families

Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance's Migrant Mentoring program offers community advocates and coaches an opportunity to connect with school-aged migrant children.
View All Bright Ideas

Directly Related Content