Dr. Lerla Joseph is a 1970 graduate of J. T. Barber High School. She attended Winston Salem State University (WSSU) and was awarded a full scholarship where she was a Reynolds Scholar. At the beginning of her junior year, she and 2 other students were invited to apply and begin medical school at the end of their junior year. They spent the entire time boning up on subjects not available at WSSU at the time. Their medical school career began the summer of 1973, preparatory to give them a head start. She graduated from WSSU May 1974, having completed her first year of medical school. While at WSSU, she became a member of the Gamma Phi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.
In May 1977, she graduated from Bowman Gray School of Medicine, now Wake Forest Univ. Medical School. From there, she went on to Howard University Medical School to complete her internship and residency. Upon completion of her first year internship, she was awarded the “Daniel Hale Williams Intern of the Year Award”. This was very special to her as it looked at all the specialties interning at Howard University Hospital at the time. During her third year, she was named Chief Resident of Internal Medicine. She later moved to Detroit to complete a National Health Service Corp obligation. After 3 years, she relocated to Richmond, where she has been in private practice since 1983 joining two colleagues who were in residency with her at Howard. In 1987, she opened her own practice and has been in practice since that time.
Community service has always been important to her. She was the first female president of the Richmond Medical Society and subsequently the first female president of the Old Dominion Medical Society, which is the state organization. While president, she helped raise more than $60,000 to support African American medical students in Virginia. She has advocated for improved access to health care during and after her tenure. At that time, she was invited by then First Lady Hilary Clinton at the National unveiling of her health care plan in Washington, DC with many other doctors. Her advocacy for healthcare resulted in receiving the “Outstanding Woman of the Year in Health/Science, 1996” presented by the YWCA of Richmond. During the fight for the Affordable Care Act, she served on panels with Congressman Bobby Scott and numerous town hall meetings. At its passing by both houses of Congress, she was 1 of the 100 doctors, President Barack Obama invited to the Rose Garden.
In February 2005, while attending the movie, “Hotel Rwanda” and seeing the self-less sacrifices of Paul Rusesabagina, she committed in her heart to do more to help others in crises. Upon returning home from the movie, there was an email requesting doctors to join a local Christian mission team heading to Haiti in April. She joined the team initially as the first medical doctor on the team and became the lead physician with a team of one other retired physician, a fourth-year medical student, nurses, EMT’s and her 15 year -old son. It was her first medical mission trip. Despite growing up in the south, visiting migrant labor camps in North Carolina and seeing poor public health care in rural Alabama, she had never witnessed such poverty, destitution, and lack of medical care. In one week, the team saw more than 900 men, women and children PAGE – 2any of whom had never seen a physician. The Haitian founder of the mission asked why more African Americans had not come to Haiti to volunteer, her response was, “they don’t know, when they hear the story they will come”. In 2006, the team could not return due to civil unrest in Haiti, however, in 2007 Dr. Joseph returned with her niece, a pediatrician and the two friends who saw “Hotel Rwanda” with her; their daughter and granddaughter. Since that time, she and her niece have led mission trips to Haiti annually with more than 200 African American physicians, nurse practitioners, dentist, nurses, psychologists, ministers, social workers, and lay persons serving in medical mission and vacation bible school.
As an outgrowth of the Affordable Care Act, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) developed the Medicare Shared Savings Program for Accountable Care Organizations (MSSP ACO). She was inspired at a medical continuing education meeting to look into organizing an ACO for African American physicians. She began learning about the organizations in 2011 and submitted the first application in 2012 when the program was launched. CVCHIP, founded by Dr. Joseph was not awarded until 2015, a 3- year contract to provide care to a cohort of beneficiaries. That organization has successfully fulfilled the Triple Aim of healthcare by improving the individual patient experience, improving population health, and lowering the rate in rise of health care expenditures. As a result, it has saved the American economy more than $15 million dollars. It is one of only 30% of the 560 Medicare ACO’s in the country to achieve the Triple Aim, shared savings and has done this successfully for 3.5 years, consecutively. CVCHIP is one of only 3 African American led and owned ACO’s in the USA. CVCHIP is now a member of a collaborative ACO, Emergent.
Over her professional career, she has received many awards, including “Outstanding Humanitarian of the Commonwealth of Virginia “, presented by then Gov. Jim Gilmore; “Community Sponsor Award”, Nov. 4,2004 by Chi ETA Phi Sorority, nursing sorority; “Community Service Award” by the Baptist General Convention of VA, June 27, 2017; “Excellence in Community Service” by the Eastern Division of the Links, Inc., April 2017. She has been recognized by the City of New Bern with a Proclamation by Former Mayor Bayliss and by the New Bernians as “One of Our Own”. She is a past Board member of Richmond Community Hospital, Bon Secours Richmond Health Systems, J.Sargent Reynolds Community College, Richmond Renaissance, and the Richmond Free Press. She presently serves as President and Chair of CVCHIP, LLC and is a Board member of Community Transformers Foundation and Honoring Choices of Virginia. Dr. Joseph is active in her church as a Deacon, adult Sunday School Teacher, and former Chair of the Christian Education Ministry for more than 20 years. She has delighted in leading a traveling Black History Program for the Sunday School Union of Chesterfield and Vicinity for more than 10 years, visiting historic African American sites in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC during the month of February.
She is the mother of two sons, Akere and Earl and the grandmother of 3 darling grandchildren ( Braylin, Mala, and Akenji) who are her joy.