MedStar Georgetown University Hospital commemorated the 20th anniversary of the KIDS Mobile Medical Clinic/Ronald McDonald Care Mobile on Tuesday, when program sponsors, clinicians, D.C. councilmembers and patients gathered to celebrate at the Old Naval Hospital.
The mobile clinic, a 40-foot long trailer, launched in 1992 and serves medically underserved children in the District’s Wards 5, 6 and 7 four times a week. Although this year is technically the program’s 21st year, MedStar Georgetown spokesperson Marianne Worley said the program decided to celebrate the anniversary belatedly.
The program also established two permanent clinics in 2006 at Anacostia High School and at the D.C. General Emergency Family Shelter. All services are free of charge, and Georgetown medical students staff the clinics on a volunteer basis.
“We were excited 20 years ago when the mobile clinic started serving the communities with the greatest needs at a time when very few families had access to good quality health care,” MedStar Georgetown Director of Community Pediatrics Matthew Levy said. “Over the years, we’ve helped thousands of kids stay healthy, stay in school, learn and grow to their full potential. We’re proud of them and proud to still be serving the community 20 years later.”
David Nelson, chair of the Georgetown University Medical Center pediatrics department, expressed pride in Georgetown’s desire to provide medical attention to the underserved.
“Georgetown was the only academic institution in the city to show interest in helping this community in Southeast and Southwest D.C.,” Nelson said. “It was and is a combination of community service and medical practice, two areas that Georgetown prides itself on. People were skeptical about what Georgetown was doing in this part of the District and said that our commitment wouldn’t last. Well, now we’re here 20 years, and I think that we’ve more than proved ourselves to this community that we care and are here to stay.”
Over 20 years, the clinic has helped approximately 50,000 children from birth to their 22nd birthday. Each year, the clinic treats between 900 and 1,200 patients and immunizes an average of 300 children.
“I want to thank not only our partners and sponsors, but also the families who have welcomed us into their neighborhoods,” M. Joy Drass, MedStar Health executive vice president of operations for the Washington region, said. “The trust and relationship that we’ve built with you is very important to us, and we intend to care for and give medical access for as many children in the city as possible.”
In 2000, eight years after the clinic launched, MedStar purchased Georgetown University Hospital Clinical Enterprises. Although maintaining the medical clinic was not a requirement of the deal, MedStar chose to continue operations and expanded its reach, despite the fact that the hospital was losing $30 million every year at the time.
“We celebrate the dedication and commitment to children’s health that we all have. We believe in cura personalis, the health of the total person, body and mind,” MedStar Georgetown Vice President of Philanthropy Katie Coyle said. “As such, we make sure that kids have access to health services that would otherwise be unavailable for them and also receive for their overall wellness.”
Between 2002 and 2007, the mobile clinic also partnered with the Department of Health and D.C. Public Schools’ Immunization Taskforce, which organized immunization clinics for students at the start of each school year.
Mayoral candidate and councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), a former member of the D.C. Consortium for Child Welfare, emphasized the importance of providing immunizations and medical care to the underserved.
“Bringing health services like immunizations to the young people of this city, those without the proper health resources, has been a major priority of mine in 30 years of public service in the District,” Wells said. “Taking care of our children makes our city one that we can believe in, one that reflects the values that make up who we are.”
Owen Rennert, former chair of the MedStar Georgetown pediatrics department, joined in the praise.
“Georgetown takes great care to embody authenticity and service. We aspire to the Ignatian quality of magis, meaning being more, serving more,” Rennert said. “This inspires our vision. We do good work here, and we believe that children all deserve the same right to health care.”
Levy, who has run the mobile clinic for the last 14 years, said that the clinic has been a medical practice trendsetter by engaging the community with a teenage-based approach and focusing on wellness and disease prevention.
Moreover, Levy emphasized the importance of a holistic view of patient care outside of merely medical care. In the 2013 Annual Magnet Nurse Champion Backpack Drive, the mobile clinic helped to distributed over 350 backpacks. In addition, since 1999, the program has distributed more than 7,000 toys to children and adolescents during the holiday season.
“The overall improvement in the lives of children that the clinic serves is the main drive behind the effort,” Levy said. “We have become a family center, a community base and built trusting relationships with residents in Southeast and Southwest D.C. as a result. I look forward to the next 20 years of KMMC/RMCM research, advocacy, innovation and service to this community.”