Transhealth’s new leader hopes to continue center’s early success

Joan Erwin is the new chief executive officer of Transhealth.

Joan Erwin is the new chief executive officer of Transhealth. Transhealth

By Alexa Lewis

Staff Writer

Published: 06-03-2024 4:12 PM

Modified: 06-05-2024 11:43 AM


Transhealth’s new CEO Joan Erwin understands how critical gender-affirming care is in today’s political climate, and said she’s ready to guide the health care center into the future.

Erwin, previously Transhealth’s chief operating officer, has a background in health care spanning over 30 years and expertise in areas including outpatient medical clinics, strategic operations, start-up business and nonprofit development, and hospital management. As a western Massachusetts native, she says her focus is on providing the best possible care to the community.

“We need to be here. The care we provide is critical,” she said. “We’re in the midst of a very fractured and hostile political environment right now… For right now, Transhealth is the only health care organization in Massachusetts focused solely on the trans and gender-diverse community.”

Since its founding in 2021, Transhealth has offered gender-affirming health care that includes not only primary care, but also services for mental health, community-based research, and community education and advocacy. The clinic operates as a support system for the trans and gender-diverse community in western Massachusetts and beyond, running vaccine clinics, support groups, a needle access program for hormone replacement therapy, a cost-assisted pharmacy program, and more.

These services are near to Erwin’s heart, who identifies as a gender non-conforming lesbian and is the parent of non-binary children.

“We’re here to stay, and we’re all very dedicated to the community we serve,” Erwin said. “Our goal is to provide the best possible essential health care in western Mass. and beyond, because this is life-saving, life-changing care.”

In its three years of existence, Transhealth has experienced significant growth. Just last summer, the nonprofit announced that it had served over 2,000 patients, and nearly quadrupled its staff from 13 to 50 to meet the demand. Since then, their numbers have continued to grow.

While this region has been supportive, Transhealth officials have chosen not to share the center’s location out of safety concerns for staff and patients due to threats that have occured at similar centers in other parts of the country.

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Erwin, who will replace outgoing CEO Dallas Ducar, previously worked in emergency and critical care as a registered nurse, before tackling administrative and leadership roles. For over a decade, she has worked in the outpatient addiction space as the leader of national expansion and operations teams, most recently as the senior vice president of operations at Wellpath. Before Wellpath, Erwin served as senior vice president of innovation at Promises Behavioral Health, senior vice president of business development and COO at CleanSlate, and director of in-patient services and emergency critical care at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield. In addition, she has served as a nurse consultant at the NEARI School in Easthampton for 24 years.

The chair of Transhealth’s board of directors and one of Transhealth’s founding team members, Perry Cohen, believes that Erwin is well equipped to lead their operations onward and upward.

“[Transhealth] started as a dream during COVID, and since then we’ve watched it grow from something super local to something nationally recognized,” he said. “I think Joan has incredible experience, but she also has the respect and appreciation of not only the staff, but the board and community as well… she’s a strong operator who will lead Transhealth and continue to expand our mission of providing the best possible care to our community.”

Celia Overby, who is taking over as COO after two years in various positions at Transhealth, looks forward to working alongside Erwin to expand the critical services and resources that Transhealth provides the community.

“I’m really excited to continue working with [Erwin] in this capacity, and I’m excited we get to continue to build this together,” she said. “Joan has a great background in health care and is really connected to our community and mission ... I think we’re both very operations-minded, and we plan to work hard to really perfect and build our operations.”

Erwin’s love for the western Massachusetts community and passion for removing the barriers between marginalized groups and quality health care are what initially brought her to Transhealth, she said. These are also the qualities she plans to keep front and center in Transhealth’s mission as they continue to grow and venture into the future.

Alexa Lewis can be reached at alewis@gazettenet.com or on Instagram and Twitter at @alexamlewis.