National Association of Community Health Workers appoints Denise Octavia Smith as Founding Executive Director

December 10th, 2019

Denise Octavia Smith was announced as the founding Executive Director for the National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW), a groundbreaking national organization promoting the collective voice and professional advancement of the Community Health Workers (CHW) workforce and transforming the health and well being of our communities. The announcement was made at the American Public Health Association Meeting on November 4th, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by the NACHW Board of Directors.

Smith, a CHW, health services administrator, and equity leader, began as an artist-advocate over 23 years ago. “I’m thrilled and humbled for the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the members of the CHW profession,” said Smith, who was selected from a national pool of candidates. “CHWs are one of the most diverse, trusted and committed workforces in the nation, who are addressing upstream social determinants of health and advocating to eliminate barriers to health and well-being for millions of US residents.’’

NACHW’s Board of Directors, led by Board President Wandy Hernandez-Gordon, was pleased to bring Smith on board. “As individuals we are not able to enhance the CHW workforce, but together we can create a solid and united workforce that will benefit our profession nationally. Please join us as we begin to create history,” said Hernandez-Gordon.

NACHW was officially launched as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in April 2019, but the concept for the organization dates back to 2014 when Sanofi US convened a group of recognized leaders in the CHW field to discuss opportunities to support CHWs nationally. In 2018, Health Resources in Action (HRiA) became the fiduciary for NACHW. “We are excited to partner with Denise and NACHW’s Board as they work together to strengthen the profession and improve population health,” stated Steven Ridini, HRiA President & CEO.

As the Executive Director, Smith will  advance NACHW’s strategic directions with its Board of Directors, national members and partners to:

  • Mobilize and Organize Community Health Workers and their state and local networks
  • Increase Organizational Development
  • Create Professional Development, Education and Networking opportunities for the membership
  • Develop Strategic Partnerships with Mission Aligned Organizations
  • Build a Research and Education Clearinghouse for members and partners.

“My highest priority,” said Smith of her role, “is to develop a sustainable organization through CHW national unity, professional capacity building, and strategic partnerships.”

To learn more about NACHW membership and partnership opportunities, please email or visit


  • December 17, 2019 by 
    Victor G. Villagra, MD

    Congratulations Denise Octavia! From UConn Health Disparities Institute- your former home- we are all so proud of you.
    I am superbly confident that you will be a fabulous national leader of the NACHW. I wish you the very best.
    Your friend and colleague,

    • March 3, 2020 by 
      Denise Smith

      Hello UConn family! Victor, I deeply appreciate your support and mentorship. Thank you for your commitment to centering CHW and community voices in your research and practice!

  • December 17, 2019 by 
    Michelle Arsego

    Congratulations Denise! ! You will be amazing! Love , Michelle and Rob

    • March 3, 2020 by 
      Denise Smith

      Hello cuz! I am thinking back to when we were young! We have come so far by God’s grace and the love of our wonderful family. all the best to you. Thank you for your support!

  • January 5, 2020 by

    Congratulations on your success !

    • March 3, 2020 by 
      Denise Smith

      Thank YOU for your support! NACHW is on the rise – building with our fellow CHWs, allies and partners!

  • March 2, 2020 by

    Congratulations Denise !!!

    • March 3, 2020 by 
      Denise Smith

      Thank you so very much for your support!

  • March 31, 2020 by 
    Frederick Smith

    Congratulations on your appointment they couldn’t have chosen a more equipped individual, much success

    • May 15, 2020 by 
      Denise Smith

      Hi Fred! thank you for your kind words and support! I hope to follow in my mom’s footprints! All the best to you!

  • April 21, 2020 by 
    Seja Jackson

    What an honor. They couldn’t have chosen a more dedicated, knowledgeable, and honorable leader.
    Best of luck. Seja

    • May 15, 2020 by 
      Denise Smith

      Hi Seja! I am so blessed to have this opportunity. Thank you for your excellence and commitment to community health!

  • May 5, 2020 by 

    Denise – you are amazing! Do you remember me? I’d love to get back in touch! I work in STD prevention at the U of WA – public health, ya baby!
    Amy Radford (NYU 1988)

    • May 15, 2020 by 
      Denise Smith

      If this is the Amy I remember – wow! So cool to hear from you again! I love that we have a similar journey! Please email me at

  • May 22, 2020 by 

    Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

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