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‘It’s my life mission’: Pleasant Valley grad is selected to national COVID-19 task force

“I want to help make a difference.”

These are the words of Geoffrey Roche after he was selected to become a member of the National Health Equity Task Force that will be established this month by the CDC Foundation.

The 2004 Pleasant Valley High School graduate will represent Pennsylvania and join efforts with selected members from every state to determine inequities in the health care system to make recommendations for corrective implementations to the foundation.

Positions of importance

Roche has a track record of success ever since he left his childhood days in Saylorsburg and moved to Annville, where he lives with his wife, Rebecca, and their two sons, ages 5 and 3, and another child who will enter their world in a matter of weeks.

After graduating from Moravian College with a degree in political science and a concentration on public management, Roche earned his master’s degree from East Stroudsburg University.

“Then I worked nine years for the Pocono Health System,” Roche said, “as a coordinator of community relations.” He was responsible for media relations and interactions with the community and numerous nonprofit organizations regarding local health issues.

He also is an adjunct professor at Lebanon Valley College, where he teaches courses in health care management.

Roche now works at the Harrisburg Science and Technology University where he is the executive director of strategic health care initiatives. His work with the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health and the state Department of Health has earned him praise and recognition that led to his selection for the federal COVID task force.

Identifying health care inequities

Roche’s work at Harrisburg that focused on identifying specific issues with the coronavirus affecting older Pennsylvanians led to him being recognized by the state DOH, which put forth his subsequent nomination for the National Health Equity Task Force.

“We work with academic programs in health care systems, pharmaceutical and biotech companies and with the CDC at the federal levels,” said Roche. “With our state equity advisory committee, we focused on the disparities with health care for those with advanced age.”

His committee then engaged public and private hospitals and insurance companies to establish plans to address the inequities.

On the national task force, the committee will also address health care inequities within the minority populations in order to propose systematic changes, not just with pandemic issues, but also to make recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in regard to treating heart disease, diabetes and asthma, just to name a few.

“We will be collecting data and doing research to confirm that our studies and recommendations are fact-based,” he explained.

Boots on the ground

Roche contends that the task force, which will include physicians and nurses, will work together virtually, but eventually, they intend to put in some necessary legwork once current restrictions and guidelines are lifted.

“We want to put our boots on the ground and visit health care systems and talk to people on the front lines. We’ll also address health issues that affect the homeless. It doesn’t matter who we’ll serve.”

Roche sees his involvement with the task force, spearheaded by Dr. Daniel Dawes of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute of the Morehouse School of Medicine, as an opportunity to learn what can be done better to improve health care across the country.

“We have to take a long look at those states that are doing better controlling COVID outbreaks and bring that information to the states that are struggling.”

Leading by example

Roche says that we have to be serious about the coronavirus and its unprecedented consequences upon modern-day America.

“My family and I follow the CDC and DOE guidelines. We social distance and we wear masks. The new position I’ll be starting this month can be an overwhelming responsibility, but I must lead by example for preventing the spread of the virus.

“The health care heroes are the doctors and nurses who have been there in their darkest hours helping to save lives. We owe it to them and to our children to do what we can to improve the availability of quality medical services in regard to the coronavirus.”

His selection to the national task force has been a calling for Roche to continue his work to help all Americans. He stated his conviction with a firm tone of determination in his voice.

“It’s my life mission.”

Geoffrey Roche, right, with state Sen. Mario Scavello when Roche was honored earlier this year by Pleasant Valley School District by being named to their Hall of Fame. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO