When 17-year-old Arneatha Martin became pregnant in 1961 and received substandard hospital care because she was a young black woman, she made a decision that would not only change the trajectory of her life, but also thousands of lives in northeast Wichita.
“It had been his life’s goal to have a place where the underserved could go for health care,” said Cynthia Martin, one of his two daughters.
“His catchphrase was ‘Care good enough for me.’ ”
Arneatha Martin, who died August 27 at the age of 77, became a nurse and earned a master’s degree from Wichita State University.
Businessman Bud Gates, then CEO of Thorn Americas, heard she had a vision for health care in the Northeast community.
“We sat down for an hour-long lunch, and four hours later the vision for what was then the Center for Health and Wellness was born,” Gates said.
Today, it is known as HealthCore Clinic and serves nearly 11,000 patients a year, regardless of their ability to pay. A second $35 million HealthCore Clinic is in the works on the South Side.
“She had a great passion. . . and clarity of what she wanted,” Gates said.
He was the one who could open the doors to businesses and banks, but Gates said it was Martin who was “vomiting his passion, and people were like, ‘OK, I’ll give you x’.”
Martin was CEO of the clinic until her health – she was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – forced her into retirement.
HealthCore’s current president and CEO, Teresa Lovelady, called Martin a superhero who taught her to track data and “do the best for the community, even if the community doesn’t believe what’s going on.” I do is best”.
Lovelady said Martin was short and tough.
“She had a certain presence. When she walked into the room, you knew she was in the room.
Lovelady said Martin “planted a seed, and she has a legacy that lives on and on, and I’m so proud to stand on her shoulders.”
Martin was part of Lori Dennis-Johnson’s church family at St. James Missionary Baptist Church as Dennis-Johnson was growing up, and she remembered how Martin appreciated everyone.
“She’s always been a great listener, and she’s also always been a great people watcher.”
Martin was born in Malvern, Ark., and moved to Wichita just before sixth grade. She graduated from East High School at age 16.
“Because she’s just phenomenal,” said Cynthia Martin.
Then Arneatha Kennedy, she was still 16 when she married her high school sweetheart, Dwain Martin.
In addition to what happened to her when she was pregnant, another watershed moment came while she was still in school, and a guidance counselor told her that instead of going to nursing school, she should take up a trade.
“It just set the fire under her,” Cynthia Martin said.
It took Arneatha Martin years to earn her degrees while raising her children, including Regina Martin-Lynch, and working in nursing homes, among other jobs.
Eventually, she became a lieutenant colonel in the army, where she served from 1978 to 2000.
“She was stern but loving,” Cynthia Martin said. “She preached to us that education is key.”
The girls did community service with their mother and participated in activities with the Wichita Black Nurses Association.
Martin eventually became an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner and Dennis-Johnson said she was “one of the most valued community nurses” in the area.
The family is working to establish a nursing scholarship at WSU in Martin’s name.
Martin was living in Jacksonville, Florida at the time of his death. She is survived by her husband and daughters.
A family visitation is held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday and a celebration of life service is held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.
Gates said the world is a better place because of Martin.
“Think of the number of lives she touched. It’s incredible.”