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Updated: March 6, 2023 / 2023 Business Leaders of the Year

WBJ Hall of Fame: Nosike pioneered cultural competency in health care

PHOTO | Matt Wright Chizoma Nosike, President and owner of Acclaim Home Health Care, Inc.

In 1995, after Chizoma Nosike picked Worcester as her destination after emigrating from her native Nigeria, she was welcomed by a nor’easter. She asked herself, “What have I done?”

Almost three decades, two children, and a self-designed home health agency later, Nosike does not have those doubts about the city any longer.

“Worcester embraced me, and so we have never moved,” Nosike said.

Nosike opened her business, Acclaim Home Health Care, in 2005 after an initial career as a physical therapist in England and her home country of Nigeria. She came to the U.S. on an H1-B visa during a shortage of workers with her experience. When Nosike’s husband decided to get his MBA at Anna Maria College in Paxton, she decided she wanted to get one, too, and graduated from there with an MBA in healthcare administration in 1999.

Bio box on Chizoma Nosike
Bio box on Chizoma Nosike

Degree in hand, Acclaim Home Health Care was born of working inside the home care industry, where she began to notice things that did not strike her right, particularly as the immigrant population in the region increased and she registered a need for care particular to cultural origins.

“There were many things I wanted to do differently, and I promised myself if I had my own business, I could do those things,” said Nosike.

Speaking patients’ languages

Nosike started with five employees in an incubator program at the Martin Luther King Jr. Business Empowerment Center, which has since merged with the South Middlesex Opportunity Council in Framingham. As she built Acclaim from the ground up, at the center of her work was a focus on the changing demographics in Worcester and empowering immigrant service-seekers through language programming.

“Cultural competency was on my mind even as we started in 2005. It was always a key thing,” she said.

In practice, this meant Acclaim sought out freelance interpreters who spoke their populations’ languages, and Acclaim offered these services free of charge to patients. This service, not reimbursed by private or government insurance in 2005, remains so today, but the costs to Acclaim are non-negotiables for Nosike and her business model.

“To this day, I look at this as my contribution to Worcester,” she said.

These contributions to the community are recognized by patients and providers alike, said Judy Kenary, associate vice president for academic affairs at Anna Maria College. Kenary is a member on the board at Acclaim.

“She is very involved in the community and knows the community. It is not a business from the outside contracted in. She knows them,” Kenary said.

Knowing her patients and her staff is a priority at Acclaim, even as it has grown from five employees to more than 40 at its peak before the COVID pandemic. Now the staff size hovers around 35, and addressing the landscape of hiring healthcare workers is the newest hurdle for Nosike.

While Acclaim has employees who have been fixtures on staff since 2006, finding and recruiting talent in 2023 is a challenge: 10 times harder than before the pandemic, Nosike said.

Despite this difficult environment for health care at large and home health care in particular, Nosike remains committed to the importance of Acclaim’s work as providers and patients alike move to a system trying to reduce hospital stays.

“Home care is the future of healthcare,” she said.

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