The founder and CEO of Mary’s Center, a prenatal care clinic for immigrant women in Washington, D.C., Maria Gomez (NUR ’77), celebrated the foundation’s 30th anniversary at a reception in Riggs Library on Nov. 28.
An immigrant herself, Gomez left Colombia at age 13 and attended public school in the District. She founded the center in 1988 while she was working as a nurse at the D.C. Department of Health. Gomez said that many women whom she treated had suffered traumas in their home countries and often found prenatal care inaccessible.
The School of Nursing and Health Studies co-hosted the event with the Georgetown’s Office of Government Relations and Community Engagement. Chair of Mary’s Center’s board of directors Stuart Butler, Dean of the NHS Patricia Cloonan, GRACE Vice President Christopher Murphy and D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) gave remarks.
Gomez founded the center, along with other activists, with funding from the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs and the Health Department to provide bilingual services to pregnant women and their children after noticing an increase in immigrants from Latin America.
The center has expanded to eight locations, with the growth of the clinic allowing for the creation of a comprehensive treatment plan for each patient, Gomez said.
“We have grown from one little basement in Adams Morgan to eight locations now, and we are seeing up towards 50,000 individuals with over six hundred people working for us,” Gomez said. “For that, we have a unique social change model which integrates health care, social services and education.”
The center’s model of health care integrates these three goals, pointing patients to resources like after-school programs, work skills development and other social services in collaboration with their community partners. The center provides care to patients independent of their ability to pay, according to the center’s website.
The Jesuit values she learned from professors and Jesuits at the university were foundational to her creation of the center, according to Gomez. The center’s values of participant-centeredness, accountability, respect and teamwork were inspired by the university’s Jesuit values, Gomez said.
Gomez also attributed the Community Scholars Program, the university’s five-week summer program intended to help low-income and first-generation students transition to college, for her ability to get ahead at Georgetown.
“Georgetown gave me that initial professional head start, truly professional head start, to be able to give back rather than turn my back,” Gomez said.
Gomez is set to return to the NHS at the beginning of the spring semester as a visiting distinguished professor, according to Cloonan.
After Gomez’s remarks, Nadeau recognized Gomez’s and the Mary’s Center’s dedication to immigrant communities in the area on behalf of the D.C. Council. The ceremonial resolution, introduced by Nadeau, is titled “Maria S. Gomez and Mary’s Center Recognition Resolution of 2018,” according to a Nov. 29 news release.
“The Council of the District of Columbia recognizes Mary’s Center for its accomplishments over 30 years of transformative work, and honors Maria S. Gomez for her important leadership in advancing the health and well-being of mothers and the District’s immigrant community,” Nadeau read from the resolution.