CABS HeadlinesCABS Health NetworkHighlightsNewsOur CommunityPress

Haitian-born Sherly Demosthenes-Atkinson

makes waves in homecare industry

Haitian-born Sherly Demosthenes-Atkinson is making changes and new waves in the homecare industry in New York.

As chief executive officer of the Brooklyn-based CABS Home Attendants Service, Inc., Demosthenes-Atkinson is not only just doing homecare but also community care. CABS stands for Consumer Action Programs of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Demosthenes-Atkinson, who migrated to Brooklyn from Haiti, when she was just 11 years old, told Caribbean Life exclusively on Tuesday that CABS is “not just your average home attendant healthcare agency” – that she is in the communities, hosting community events and providing resources on issues such as overdosing, jobs and asthma programs for the youth, among other things.

A Caribbean-American Impact and Brooklyn Power Women Awardee, Demosthenes-Atkinson is renowned as a “senior and community care advocate.”

She was appointed as CEO of CABS Home Attendants Service, Inc. in 2017 and holds a Master of Health Administration from Hofstra University. She is also a graduate of Hunter College and Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn – both at the City University of New York (CUNY).

With over 20 years of healthcare experience, Demosthenes-Atkinson exemplifies CABS’s mission, focused on “designing innovative and evidence-based approaches to support holistic healing and teaching, and discovery to strengthen the quality of care for underserved communities.”

She has been with CABS since 2006 and has served in several roles. She was employed as the associate director of case management and was promoted to executive director in 2013.

Demosthenes-Atkinson said she is guided by the mantra, “Until aging in place is an option for all, the pursuit continues,” adding that she has used her cumulative professional experiences to focus on building a “sustainable and impactful organization.”

Some of her key priorities at CABS involve process re-engineering “to strengthen the agency’s operational capacity and a transformational culture that centers on the patient experience.”

As a dynamic and innovative leader, with foresight of the future of healthcare,  Demosthenes-Atkinson said she and her team launched the CABS Care Management Agency to expand and tailor the services CABS has been providing for years to a broader population in need of a “more integrated, comprehensive and patient-centered program.”

Additionally, under her leadership, she said CABS rebranded as the CABS Health Network during the pandemic.

Demosthenes-Atkinson said the network approach aligns with the organization’s mission to significantly support population health, access to services and evidenced-based health interventions.

Since 2017, she said CABS has also acquired contracts with several organizations, including the NYC Department of Housing Authority (NYCHA), the largest public housing authority in North America; New York City Health & Hospital Corporation; New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene; and Fund for Public Health.

Demosthenes-Atkinson said she began her journey at CABS in 2006 in middle management, supporting the organization’s case management department and eventually compliance. Prior to her CEO appointment in 2017, she served as executive director from 2013 to 2017.

“My goals were always about how my leadership qualities and my work could make a difference at the company, and how my contributions could improve the results I set out to achieve,” she said.

As a resilient Caribbean-born woman, Demosthenes-Atkinson said she always wanted to be a leader in an innovative organization.

“Over time, I learned how to navigate and seize every opportunity that supported my professional development, using the knowledge I acquired through the journey,” she said, adding that she values her people, accomplishes goals and helps solve problems for the staff, “which contribute to the organization’s success.”

In upholding the organization’s mission, the CEO said she consistently demonstrate a level of commitment that is in “perfect harmony with the company’s values and mission.

“When the opportunity presented itself, I was ready to take on the role and believed I could handle it,” she said. “Being CEO was the next opportunity, and I was at the right place and time to fulfill that responsibility.”

Demosthenes-Atkinson said she grew up seeing close people, like her Godfather, as a medical doctor, helping others outside of the hospital through a “collaborative approach in some instances unrelated to medical needs, whether it was food distribution, etc.

“I saw the joy and humility he exhibited in serving others in need, which propelled me to do the same in my educational pathway and career; and having compassion, while serving others, is the greatest reward,” she said, stating that becoming CABS’s CEO was the next opportunity and that CABS’ mission aligns with her commitment to serving people.

As a leader in the health and homecare industry, Demosthenes-Atkinson said some of the biggest challenges she has faced, particularly as a Haitian-born woman, are “women’s struggles.”

“There are so few women leaders, especially CEOs, in this country. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true,” she said. “Women’s leadership in homecare also needs addressing; the industry is much male-dominated. “They (women) are marginalized in all industries.

“And in healthcare, there’s a definite struggle to find a seat at the table, without a doubt,” she added, stressing that there’s also “a definite struggle of being heard.”

But she said being of Haitian-born empowers her “self-identity and pride” in her cultural history, while she embraces and upholds the US tradition of multiculturalism, pointing out that “that aspect of the melting pot is well-represented at CABS.”

In her career and what she has seen as CEO, Demosthenes-Atkinson said the biggest challenge that many other organizations’ leaders face is funding.

“Running a nonprofit organization with multiple programs takes grit and resilience,” she said. “Therefore, it’s also very important to have a good team that believes in your vision.

“We strive with little, and my management team stays ahead of the curve and is always ready to deal with challenges head-on,” she added about CABS. “We make it work, and persevere.”

In terms of resilience and perseverance, Demosthenes-Atkinson said the Haitian community comes to mind for most people.

“Haiti was the first Black slave country to rebel against oppression from France and became the first republic in the world to free itself from colonial rule,” she said. “In fact, Haiti is only second to the US (in the Western Hemisphere) to have gained independence from European colonizers.”

At CABS, Demosthenes-Atkinson said she has had to find her “north star”, stating that “that’s the grounding that keeps me moving forward; that’s what keeps pushing through to make sure that we have the funding; to make sure that our clients are serviced with the best care possible they can have; to make sure that our essential home care workers – who are our precious asset, are respected and supported doing this important work in the community – can live fulfilling lives with a decent living wage.”

She said it wasn’t a linear path for her in getting into the homecare industry, but added that it wasn’t too far off.

Nonetheless, she said she was glad that “the pendulum swung in that direction, because the work in this field supports the most vulnerable population in our communities.

“I always wanted to be in administration to help people; that was my true north, which led me to grow in the organization,” Demosthenes-Atkinson said. “Helping others motivates me, and serving people with dignity in the homecare field is very gratifying.

“I am always motivated by CABS’s mission to provide essential services to elderly and disabled residents, and employment opportunities for neighborhood residents throughout New York City,” she added. “So, success in this position is how I approach the work with genuine intentions for achievable goals.

“Recognizing talents and putting great teams together to accomplish the work for the community continue to keep me and the team motivated, with the ultimate goal of paying it forward—because the founders did just that in return,” Demosthenes-Atkinson continued.

She said CABS has garnered a reputation for its community-focused initiatives, and that the Caribbean community has always been an integral part of CABS.

For over 43 years, she said the organization has been one of the larger employers of homecare workers in New York City.

Demosthenes-Atkinson said the majority of CABS’s homecare workers are from the Caribbean, and that they have had the opportunity to maintain employment for an average of 15 to 20 years.

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said one of CABS’s homecare workers retired after 51 years of employment.

“This is one example, as many others still find a place and a career that they can continue to work in their golden years,” she said. “This is still the only career where you can age gracefully, while doing something that you love, which is helping the most vulnerable in our society.”

Demosthenes-Atkinson said there are opportunities for upward mobility at CABS, and that many have attained this over the years.

“I am a prime example of that process,” she said. “We promote from within. For example, we train homecare workers to become community health workers, case coordinators and nurses.

“For many NYC residents, CABS is their one-stop shop for homecare and care management services, including pediatric asthma,” she added. “Our ‘Circle of Care Awards’ – in its 6th year – was started just before COVID-19, recognizing our community partners, clients and staff.

Through shared knowledge and experience, Demosthenes-Atkinson said CABS continue to build partnerships for collaboration, “with a deep sense of understanding of community dynamics.

“CABS aims to continue enhancing screening and navigation for services to help reduce gaps, better address the social determinants of health and prevent people from going to the hospital when it’s unnecessary,” said Demosthenes-Atkinson, whose work at CABS has been acknowledged by various organizations.

In 2021, one big milestone was being appointed to the Dean’s Advisory Board at Hofstra University School of Health Professions and Human Services.

Demosthenes-Atkinson continues to play an integral role in the circle of care for the vulnerable, elderly and disabled populations.

She said she was “so grateful to have had the opportunity to share” her story and “the great work that CABS has been doing in the community over the past four decades and beyond.”


Back to top button