Behind the cover: Marie's story

Marie walking with patient

When Marie Kharifene arrived in Houston, Texas, from N’Djamena, Chad, in Central Africa at 17 years old, she didn’t speak English and knew just four people: her mother, her siblings and her aunt.

Today, she cares for as many as 60 patients each week as a community health worker at the Optum WellMed campus in Houston. She spends her days visiting the homes of patients in the greater Houston area, traveling as far as 50 miles outside of the city to knock on their doors and connect them to follow-up medical care.

Her patients range in age from early 20s to late 80s. Many of them have just been discharged from the hospital or the emergency department after a medical event and need social support, like food or transportation. Some are disabled; others are struggling with multiple health conditions, like cancer or high blood pressure.

Marie has arrived at homes that look deserted, with broken windows and no vehicle access. In one instance, she opened the door of a trailer to find a man unconscious on the floor. She quickly called 911 and flagged down the ambulance when it arrived.

After working for the AIDS Foundation, at a women’s domestic violence shelter and as a contact tracer during COVID-19, she was drawn to Optum because of her passion to provide hands-on support to people that need it most.

“We don't differentiate whether it's a million-dollar home or a trailer – we give them the same respect and access to care.”

Marie Kharifene
Community health worker, Optum

Next up

Modern Health System

Helping to create a consumer-first health system that delivers high-quality outcomes and better experiences at an affordable cost.

Read more
Download our full report for more on our actions, achievements and progress.
Download our 2023 Sustainability Report
Or download report chapters