The intersection of health and faith is a very natural place for our newest board member, Nancy Combs. She has an MA in religion from Yale Divinity School and currently serves as the Director of Community Health, Equity & Wellness at the Henry Ford Health System.
“Health is always more than a physical matter,” says Combs. “So health and faith go hand in hand.”
Combs serves on the board of the Ecumenical Theological Seminary and is one of the founders of Detroit’s Interfaith Health and Hope Coalition. She is an ordained elder and three-time Session member at Detroit’s Fort Street Presbyterian Church. She has already worked closely with the IFLC to present cultural competency and religious literacy programs for health care professionals. And she is looking forward to working with the IFLC to strengthen that tie.
“At Henry Ford, we consider IFLC to be a very close partner with us, particularly around end-of-life issues,” says Combs. “It will help the health system to have access to the expertise of this very inspiring group of faith leaders.”
She points out that her colleagues in community health will be both a great sounding board and a conduit for increasing cultural competency and religious literacy. “To me, this is a very important opportunity to serve the greater good in terms of health issues.”
The incredible diversity of our community, says Combs creates a unique opportunity for the faith and interfaith community to work together so all members of the community can be healthier.
In addition to her major involvement with Henry Ford’s Equity and Community Health programs, she provides staff support to the system’s Community Pillar Team which measurably links community benefit activities with community health needs in integration with overall health system strategic planning. Among her many outstanding accomplishments, Nancy co-authored a chapter on “Transformative Community Partnerships” in a monograph presented to the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services.
She is also involved in a very personal interfaith effort. Combs and her daughter’s father, David Goodman, biculturally raised their daughter Susannah Combs Goodman. Susannah, a 28-year-old Detroit potter and art educator, chose Judaism, and is an active member at Detroit’s Downtown Synagogue. With music as a strong avocation, Nancy wrote a new song setting for Psalm 150 (“the diversity psalm,” she calls it). She and David sang it to Susannah at her bat mitzvah in November 2000. “I have been happily bridging faith perspectives for the past three decades,” Nancy reflects.
When Nancy connected with the IFLC she said, unsurprisingly, that she felt like she was “coming home. These are my people.”