Our Story


The Gaston &Porter Health Improvement Center, Inc.(GPHIC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization developed in 2002 by Marilyn Gaston a physician and former Assistant Surgeon General of the United States, DHHS, and Gayle Porter, Psy.D a clinical psychologist. Its purpose is to help women, especially African American women, improve their physical and emotional health outcomes. Drs. Gaston and Porter, co-founders and co-directors of GPHIC, have over 80 years of combined experience in:

  •  providing services to and treating  individuals and families from racially and economically diverse communities;
  • providing services to  and treating poor and minority families and communities, especially African American women’s mental and physical health;
  • conducting research focused on  emotional and physical health issues;
  • administering local, state, and national programs; and
  • developing and implementing  community based health programs.

Drs. Gaston and Porter realized that many of the disease states and negative mental health conditions experienced by their patients were preventable or manageable if only the patients had more knowledge and felt empowered to make positive lifestyle changes.  Drawing on their experiences, focus groups, surveys, and the latest available research, they wrote the seminal book -  Prime Time: The African American Woman’s Complete Guide to Midlife Health & Wellness, published by Random House in 2001 and revised in 2003. In this book, that remains the only health book focused on African American women in this age group, they spelled out strategies for African American women to gain control over their physical and mental health.

Not even the authors expected the overwhelmingly positive reaction from the book or expected it to become an Essence Magazine best seller.  Women besieged them for help to make the lifestyle changes the book was urging. In 2002, GPHIC was established to respond to this call.  In November of the same year, with seed funding from The Ford Foundation, GPHIC started operations to pilot and determine the effectiveness of its core service, the Prime Time Sister Circles® (PTSC), an evidenced-based support group program designed for African American women between 40 and 75 years old. PTSC specifically targets three risk factors which are major contributors to morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases: unmanaged stress, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition. Within two years, PTSCs were operating in Washington, DC, and Orlando, FL. In 2004 PTSCs were established in urban and rural sections of Maryland through funding from the University of Maryland School Of Medicine.

Proof of concept was documented in 2007 with publication of the results in the Journal of the National Medical Association.

At this point, the PTSC has operated in four states (Maryland, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania )and the District of Columbia. Almost two thousand African American women have participated in the twelve week “life changing” program.  Across the country, thousands of African American women have been reached by Drs. Gaston and Porter through keynote speeches, lectures, workshops and distribution of their book.


Gaston and Porter Health Improvement Center Chronology


Publication of  Prime Time: The African American Woman’s Complete Guide to Midlife Health & Wellness by Random House.


With seed funding from The Ford Foundation, GPHIC started operations to pilot and determine the effectiveness of its core service, PTSC. A Curriculum was developed that was appropriate  for an educationally and economically diverse group of women.  Dr. Veronica Thomas, an evaluator and full professor at Howard University was contracted to develop an evaluation for the PTSC. 


Initiation of  the first two (2) PTSC in Washington, DC. The groups were 10 weeks and facilitated.  Anonymous  self –report evaluations were given at the beginning and end of the 10 weeks, six (6) months and one year(1) later.

Revision of   Prime Time: The African American Woman’s Complete Guide to Midlife Health & Wellness.


Initiation of  PTSC in Orlando, Florida. Funding from the University of  Maryland School Of Medicine allowed PTSC to be  established in urban and rural sections of Maryland.


Initiation of  PTSC in Chicago, Illinois. Johnson & Johnson selected GPHIC for its first “Leadership in Women’s Health Award.” 


Civic Ventures awarded, out of 1,500 nominees, its first Purpose Prize to GPHIC.


AFIA Foundation provides funding to GPHIC.

Publication of “Prime Time Sister Circles™: Evaluating a Gender-Specific, Culturally Relevant Health Intervention to Decrease Major Risk Factors in Mid-Life African-American Women” in the Journal of the National Medical Association.


Initiation of  PTSC in Tampa ,  Florida and expansion of PTSC in Washington, DC. through grants from the Florida and Washington, DC  Departments of Health.

Clinical measures i.e. weight; BMI; blood pressure; non-fasting blood sugar; abdominal circumference were added to the evaluation of the PTSC.

Extension of the PTSC to 12 weeks.

Partnered with Drs. Mary and Peter Esseff, Co-Founders of ESF,Inc. dba Educational Systems for the Future® to develop a new Curriculum for the PTSC.


Grants from the Washington DC Department of Health and the Kellogg Foundation.  Invitation to  attend a meeting, hosted by President Obama, of social innovators on the opening of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.


Expansion of PTSC in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC through grants from Care First/Blue Cross, the Kaiser Family and Walmart Foundations.

Selected by the UK's University of Edinburgh’s Medical School as one of only 30 international health promotion interventions to be included in their multinational qualitative study.


Publication of the “Paradoxes of Obesity in Mid-Life  African American” in the  Journal of the National Medical Association.

Development of the Prime Time Woman Circles™  (PTWC)-a group for women of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.


The Gaston & Porter Health Improvement Center, Inc.
Phone: 202-403-6266 / 301-765-1942  Fax: 202-454-1251

Credits & Contributions