Until recently I knew little about Lawndale Christian Health Center (LCHC), which is a pretty revealing statement.
I had heard of it, but never understood how valuable it is to the low-income and disadvantaged people on the west side of Chicago. Having spent 33 years as publisher of Modern Healthcare magazine, I am on a first-name basis with the people who run some of the famous healthcare institutions in Chicago, such as Northwestern, University of Chicago and Rush Presbyterian. Those are the only places that count when it comes to healthcare in my hometown, with the best clinical staffs and facilities.
Or so I thought until one recent day, when I visited LCHC and met its CEO, Bruce Miller. I was bowled over seeing the great things they were doing with limited resources but total dedication to delivering quality care to struggling communities.
In any organization, the culture can be traced back to its leader. Bruce speaks softly, but you can feel his passion for his mission of caring for others who may not have the means or opportunity to avail themselves of getting treatment at one of the more recognized facilities in town.
On my visit to LCHC, I met a young couple who had just returned from Afghanistan, where they had lived for a number of years attempting to bring quality healthcare to the people of that war-torn nation. Their stories were riveting and I want to share them with you in future columns. What I really wanted to learn more about was the impact of an operation such as Miller’s on community health.
LCHC’s patients are mainly minorities. Nearly half of LCHC’s patients are uninsured. Its 50-plus-member clinical staff takes care of more than 119,000 patients a year at four clinics across Lawndale. When I asked Miller as to why he got into this business of caring for others who are less fortunate he told me it was something he believed from the time he was seven years old and went to Pittsburgh schools in a racially diverse area.
Bruce worked at the renowned Children’s Hospital in Pittsburg prior to joining LCHC. He truly believes he is where he should be, and that because he is, he has a deep sense of satisfaction from his involvement in the community, on Chicago’s tough South Side. He and his wife live only a few blocks away from his work. They have raised their their three children in Lawndale.
When he recites the history of how the center was conceived, he makes it clear that the mission of the center is far from complete and that the best is yet to come. The values of the institution are an extension of the Christian community-development philosophy, embodied by the words relocation, reconciliation and redistribution. Relocation involves living in the community being served, as Miller has done. Reconciliation is about people of different backgrounds sharing a single community peacefully. And redistribution involves the just distribution of resources, in this case healthcare dollars.
Other values cited by LCHC include:
- Accountability through the use of performance measures.
- Excellence, through high-quality service and the employees seeking ways of improving individually and collectively through continuous learning.
- Faith integrated into work and service; recognizing spiritual diversity while embracing a Christian heritage.
- Justice, by advocating for the communities and focusing on those with poor access to care.
- Recognition, by seeking opportunities to recognize others for accomplishments.
- Stewardship, by judiciously using resources to have the greatest impact.
- Wellness, by modeling healthy physical, emotional and spiritual living in the communities being served.
Of course there are other organizations like LCHC across the country that contribute to helping minorities and the disadvantaged obtain affordable access to care. What makes these groups so special is their deep sense of mission and the fact that they practice their values every day by helping others regardless of race, religion and ability to pay.
As more famous organizations face strained economic circumstances and shrink from providing charity care, groups such as LCHC will become even more important to the well-being of the country. We will need more of them, and more people like Bruce Miller.