Community Health Centres Live and Breathe a Person-centred Model of Primary Care

Kitchener, December 15, 2014

Meet David Thornley, Executive Director, Guelph Community Health Centre

David ThornleyDavid Thornley grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario. He attended high school at Sir Winston Churchill and graduated from Brock University having completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Studies. His passion for healthy communities can be traced back to the time he completed his Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies from York University in Toronto.  He focused on regional planning and community development.

His desire to engage in community development led David to help found a community health centre in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto in the early 1980s. While there, he helped lead a community initiative that succeeded in turning two of the area's most deplorable rooming houses into safe, clean and affordable housing for homeless persons and refugees.  He later served as Executive Director of the East End Community Health Centre in the early 1990s. 

After that, he joined the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for 12 years working in the Community Health Branch and Community Health Centre Program: “I was project lead for the evaluation system and quality improvement program for Community Health Centres which evolved into an accreditation program.  We looked at ways to strengthen their role both as primary care providers and community capacity building organizations.”

You cannot miss the spark in David’s eyes when he speaks about the role of Community Health Centres: “By the late 1990s, the Community Health Centres had become a mainstay of the primary care system. They serve populations with greater than average needs and who face a complexity of health issues. They are often impacted by two or more of the social determinants of health, whether it’s lack of stable and secure housing, low income, instability in the family , or whether its newcomers who face cultural and language barriers.” 

Before David brought his extensive experience to the Guelph Community Health Centre in October 2011 as the Executive Director, he worked for about four years with libraries and cultural organizations. In that role, he worked on several province-wide digital literacy initiatives designed around equity in access.

Under his leadership, the Guelph CHC continues to provide accessible, responsive primary health services and community programs and creates opportunities for people to improve their well-being. He describes what is unique about his organization: “We are a valued leader and partner in our community in supporting everyone facing barriers to health.”  Our role as Ontario’s Early Childhood Centre in Guelph also gives us an opportunity to support families with issues around early childhood development.”

When asked what inspires him, David says: “People who despite difficulties in their lives keep working to overcome those challenges, who are able to turnaround theirGuelph Community Health Centre lives and find a place of safety, security and confidence. I’m also inspired by people who are always ready to roll-up their sleeves and get things done to make the world a better place to live.”

Outside work, David enjoys spending time with family and friends. He is a sports fan with a soft spot for basketball and baseball. He likes singing and occasionally organizes karaoke nights. David also has a passion for movies and has been going to the Toronto International Film Festival for the past 20 years.

The Guelph CHC which was established in 1988 believes that a person’s health is determined by social, environmental, economic, mental and physical well-being. It is committed to working with and meeting the needs of people who may find it hard to access health care.  CHCs are committed to both person-centred and community capacity building approaches.

The Guelph CHC is one of 74 providers of health service in the Waterloo Wellington region. The Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network (WWLHIN) provides a percentage of the organization’s funding for its programs and services through a Multi-Sector Service Accountability Agreement.

For more information:

David Thornley
Executive Director, Guelph Community Health Centre
176 Wyndham Street North, Guelph, Ontario
Telephone: 519 821 6638, Extension 310