Getting to Know Carlina Hansen!

January 31, 2018

As our Executive Director for 17 years, Carlina Hansen helped build the Clinic’s foundation and was a driving force behind our core values and mission – to improve the health and well-being of women and girls. We recently sat down with Carlina to see what she’s been up to since departing the Clinic, how her transition to the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) has been, and to listen to some stories from those early days of the Clinic…

Check out our interview below to learn more about Carlina before we honor her at Hysteria 2018!

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life? There are just so many women at the Clinic, naming one person feels like it diminishes the impact. The collective work, humility, and heart that people bring to their work- it’s so much more than one great person that stands out to me. Everyone at the Clinic was a hero to me in some way, shape, or form- like someone giving a welcoming smile to someone who was having an awful day, someone who was frantically busy fitting in time to meet a patient who was afraid of being pregnant, or an office coworker who was overwhelmed with their own responsibility and saw someone struggling and stepped in to help them. The everyday acts of volunteering at the Clinic, and even the courage that our clients have to come into the Clinic, changed and impacted me.

You were with the Clinic for 17 years. What did you most enjoy about your time at Women’s Community Clinic? What have you missed the most? The people that worked and volunteered at the Clinic. They are and were incredible in their dedication in serving the community, the women that came into the Clinic, and the women we saw on the streets. I was consistently inspired when walking into the Clinic to see people who were so enthusiastic about the Clinic’s mission and worked so hard. There was never a moment I didn’t feel that my colleagues were doing the best they can do. It’s a special place.

Can you tell us a fun story about the early days of the Clinic that people may not have heard? We were prone to flooding at the Clinic’s previous location. We had a lot of broken pipes and clogged toilets that would overflow. The ceiling would suddenly start pouring water. One time, we were excited to have just gotten a new coffee machine. Within 5 minutes of plugging it in, the ceiling opened up and poured water all over it. People were so generous in being willing to clean up- everyone pitched in. There’s definitely a sense of team spirit, saving computers off the floor and more when it flooded.

What have you been up to since Women’s Community Clinic? How has the transition to California Health Care Foundation been? I’ve been away from the Clinic for about 7 months, and am the senior program office on improving access team at CHCF. After 17 years at the Clinic, it’s a big change but it was the right time for me in terms of where I was in my career. It is an extremely rewarding job and is aligned with my values and the type of work we were doing at the Clinic. It’s also different: learning the ropes, dealing with healthcare around the entire state, learning new systems of care, and figuring out how to improve access to healthcare for low-income individuals.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women’s access to healthcare today? There are some very real threats right now because of the administration that we’re under. Last week was the first time a president spoke at the March for Life, and it sends a very big signal about where he stands. The administration made very harmful announcements about women’s health and proposals they plan to enact, and the signals have been very clear since Trump took office, and Pence, who is very anti-choice. They are doing very strategic things that will harm women’s health for many years to come and close clinics around the U.S. We really need to fight to keep those kinds of clinics open, and figure out how people can have comprehensive access to healthcare. There’s an element of hope for me, seeing the people who are smart and committed, and who are organized around creating solutions- from the Clinic to where I currently work- it’s pretty inspiring. There is a fight and we are fortunate in California with a supportive legislature.

What is a challenge you’ve encountered as a leader? What was hard about it, what did you do, and what did you learn? Some of the hardest things I’ve had to do at the Clinic was make decisions that not everybody was going to like. I had to try to determine the best answer for the clients that we serve, above all else, and know that there isn’t an exact right answer. You do the best you can with the information that you have, and you rely on your team to carry those decisions forward. I always kept in mind why the Clinic or why the organization exists, and what the ultimate mission is. Difficult compromises sometimes must be made.

What do you like doing in your spare time? I love hiking. Growing up in Marin, it’s a passion of mine. Being in the beautiful wilderness, this is how I regroup and grow, and there’s no better medicine for the soul. I also rock climb, partly because it’s a fun sport that requires a lot of concentration, but also a nice way to spend time with friends. I also like spending time in my community. I have a lot of adopted family in the Bay Area and I’m trying to make time to foster and cultivate those relationships.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? I’ve tried to let go of as much of my pet peeves as I can because I share a living space. Over time, if I get too indulgent of my pet peeves, it doesn’t make for a happy cohabitation. One pet peeve is a lack of consideration for others in public spaces like when you go to a restaurant and you have to wait in line to order your food at the counter. It makes me crazy when people come into the restaurant and find a seat before ordering.

What other languages do you speak? French, moderately well. I lived there for a year in college, went to a university for a year, and au paired for a summer.

Lastly, what’s the one thing we should all be doing to protect access to health care? We should all be doing at least one thing. People need to be active right now in terms of their political engagement, and that looks different for every person. People can feel overwhelmed with so many things, and say, “I don’t know what to do,” but we should all choose one thing to do. Just choose! People can write one letter a month to Congress, volunteer once a week to a community clinic, or choose something that is the most meaningful way for them to engage. Activism is such a political thing, but also such a personal thing. Activism looks different for every person, but there’s so much to do and it’s really just choosing what’s going to be most meaningful to you.