2007 News

Return to list

35 years of Family Health

August 11, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007
By Lisa D. Welsh
(c) Telegram & Gazette

WORCESTER - The Family Health Center of Worcester Inc. yesterday celebrated 35 years of service from which some of the more prestigious health care providers in the area could learn.

In a confusing era of health care reform, primary care physicians and physician hospital organizations, patients of the Queen Street center receive complete care at their one-stop neighborhood health center, including dental appointments, pharmacy service, emergency medicine and wellness visits.

"Our health system is very complex right now," said Frances Anthes, president and CEO of Family Health Center. "We are seeing 12 people a day who haven't had health care before. They have heard that they are eligible for health benefits for the first time in their lives."

The Family Health Center staff of 300 meets the needs of 25,000 patients annually. Because 40 percent of its patients need some kind of translation services, there are translators of seven languages - Albanian, Russian, Portuguese, English, Twi, Spanish and Vietnamese - and advisors who discuss MassHealth insurance.

"We help them figure it all out," Mrs. Anthes said. "People don't just need information, but actual assistance is what is needed. They need someone to sit down with them, and not feel degraded."

Despite the chilly, rainy conditions yesterday, many from the neighborhood showed their gratitude and attended the health center's annual Community Health Fair and 35th birthday party. Balloons, cakes, prizes, face painting, a moon bounce, refreshments and 20 vendors, including the Regional Environmental Council and the YWCA, contributed to the festivities.

One neighbor, Guillermina Campos, a native of Mexico, said she first visited the Family Health Center nine years ago because she has no means of transportation and the health center is within walking distance.

Now, she wouldn't think of going anywhere else.

"I come here for routine visits, dental services, and when I am sick" said Mrs. Campos, through her advocate, Joyce Diaz. "I walk to all my appointments. My children, Ariana and Eric, and my husband, Gerardo, do, too."

One time, Mrs. Campos said she had belly pain, and the Family Health Center questioned whether it was appendicitis, so they sent her to one of the largest hospitals in the city and she was admitted for observation. She said she was sent home and her appendix ruptured, so she returned to the hospital for emergency surgery.

"I was scared and I sadi to my husband, 'When the pain gets too bad, please take me home,'" Mrs. Campos said. "It was such a difficult case that Dr. Nancy Morden had to visit me in the hospital. She had to take time off from her schedule at the Family Health Center to visit me."

In 1972, Model Cities, a federal urban aid program to remedy health access issues among low-income residents, asked 25 families in Worcester what they wanted most. Their answer was a family doctor, one who would treat grandma's diabetes as well as children's colds. That year, the Family Health Center was established in a storefront on Main Street to provide that kind of family care.

In 1974, the University of Massachusetts Medical School began a family practice residency program in conjunction with the Family Health Center. Since then, 150 doctors have graduated from its program, including Lucy Candib, who joined the Family Health Center when she completed her coursework in 1976.

"Dr. Candib is a sought-after expert on family practice medicine," Ms. Anthes said. "She would be here today, but she's speaking at a conference on family medicine in Singapore."