By Margarita Loeza, MD
The importance of providing accessible health care to protect communities and people in need is even more apparent today as we grapple with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Venice Family Clinic, where I am a family medicine physician, is among the many health care facilities on the front lines that are combating the spread of COVID-19. With the situation surrounding COVID-19 rapidly evolving, we are all adapting.
What isn’t changing is the commitment Venice Family Clinic has to our patients, volunteers and staff – a commitment that spans 50 years in the community as a trusted health care provider for people in need.
That’s a commitment I first experienced as a child, growing up in west Los Angeles. As the oldest of five children born to immigrant parents with no medical insurance and little money for health care, Venice Family Clinic became my medical home.
Venice Family Clinic’s health care professionals provided the primary care my family needed and helped with referrals to the orthopedist who performed the surgeries needed to correct my congenital hip dysplasia so I could walk.
After spending many hours at the clinic, I was inspired to become a physician when I grew up and, after one year in private practice, I returned to Venice Family Clinic to care for families like my own.
My experience – like that of so many of our patients – demonstrates Venice Family Clinic’s commitment to transforming the lives and health of our patients regardless of their income or immigration status.
This year marks the nonprofit community health center’s 50th anniversary serving as a health care leader that helps those in need, pioneers innovations that improve lives and advocates for equal access to care. Two volunteer physicians, the late Dr. Philip Rossman and Dr. Mayer Davidson founded the Clinic on October 12, 1970 in borrowed dental offices on Lincoln Boulevard. I can still remember waiting in line at that same dental clinic with my mom and siblings as we waited to see my doctor.
Today, we serve nearly 28,000 low-income men, women and children at 12 sites in Santa Monica, Venice, Mar Vista, Inglewood and Culver City.
We have created a one-stop health system that offers multiple services, often at the same locations and same time as primary care appointments. In addition to primary care, these services include dental care, substance use treatment, mental health services, vision screenings, child development classes, health education, prescription medications, school-based clinics, domestic violence counseling, HIV services, street medicine for people experiencing homelessness and health insurance enrollment services.
With the public concern about the spread of the coronavirus, it is vital that we all come together to protect our community. Please stay home as much as possible as the Governor and Mayor have instructed. Wash your hands frequently. If you do feel unwell, Venice Family Clinic is here to help. We have introduced telephone consultations, and we ask that you please call before you come to the Clinic to ensure that we protect our patients and community. Please know that throughout this crisis, we will continue to serve as a trusted health care provider that helps people who might not otherwise be able to access the care they need – as we have for 50 years.
We also recognize that there is still much more to do and many more who need our services. We continue to expand our programs, advocacy and facilities to help the thousands of people in the areas we serve who still need comprehensive health care.
We are broadening the Clinic’s many innovative initiatives to address the multiple factors that affect health and well-being, including food insecurity, homelessness and trauma. Among the initiatives planned for this year, we will be opening a food pharmacy to deliver healthy food and nutrition education to our patients with Type 2 diabetes and doubling the number of children and families served through our Children First Early Head Start program.
We couldn’t have reached 50 years without the support of the community, and we thank all who have supported us. Our anniversary represents an opportunity to focus on the future and our commitment to providing high-quality, comprehensive health care to families and individuals who might otherwise go without the care they need – families like my own.
One day, we hope that a world without that need will exist. Until that day arrives, with your help and support, Venice Family Clinic will be here, providing the best possible care to the people who need it most.
Margarita Loeza, MD, is a former patient and a family medical physician at Venice Family Clinic, a nonprofit community health center providing comprehensive, high-quality care to people in need in Santa Monica, Venice, Mar Vista, Inglewood and Culver City. For more information, please visit VeniceFamilyClinic.org.