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Dignitaries and Health Care Leaders Discuss the Future of Health Care at Family Health Center

Dignitaries and Health Care Leaders Discuss the Future of Health Care at Family Health Center of Harlem Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Health care and community leaders and elected officials gathered on Friday, September 13, to celebrate the opening of the Institute for Family Health’s Family Health Center of Harlem, a state-of-the-art community health center located at 1824 Madison Avenue and serving residents from Harlem and throughout New York City. The 37,000 square foot health center represents the culmination of an extraordinary public-private effort to preserve access to primary care services in Harlem following the closing of North General Hospital in 2010. Just weeks before New York State is scheduled to open its “health plan marketplace,” the new statewide insurance exchange authorized by the Affordable Care Act, the future of health care in New York was on everyone’s mind.

“This building is health reform in the making,” said Dr. Neil Calman, the Institute’s co-founder, president and CEO, in his opening remarks. According to Dr. Calman, the Family Health Center of Harlem is set up to promote the larger goals of national health reform, such as easier access to frontline health services during nontraditional evening and weekend hours. “This building is open 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” he said, “and not just for urgent and emergency issues, but for primary care. We’re moving from a system where the doctors are at the center to one where the patients are at the center.”

The ceremony recognized the New York State Department of Health and the New York City Council, who provided significant funding for the new facility, as well as numerous public and private agencies that worked to arrange financing and expedite approvals so the center could open for business. The event’s keynote speech was given by Dr. Nirav Shah, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, which provided over $ 15 million dollars in funding to the Institute for Family Health to purchase and renovate the building. Commissioner Shah recognized the center’s commitment to providing an array of preventive and primary health care services, including mental health and dental care. “This is what New Yorkers need,” said Dr. Shah. “We’re getting closer to understanding that health care is not about a transaction – it’s about meeting people in the places where they live and work, in their neighborhoods. It’s patient-centered care at its finest.”

Congressman Charles B. Rangel, a long-time advocate for the Harlem community, reiterated the connection between the new health center and the national goal of affordable, effective health care for all. “We’ve got millions of people that don’t have access,” said Congressman Rangel. “I looked at the services here, and I’m saying to myself, where do I sign up? Every community ought to have something like this.”

The ceremonial ribbon-cutting took place in the building’s fifth floor atrium, a large training and meeting space most often occupied by faculty and residents of the Institute’s Harlem Residency in Family Medicine, which opened last year. The program receives highly-competitive federal Teaching Health Center funding to train 12 family physicians annually, through a new department of family medicine and community health housed at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dennis Charney, MD, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, The Mount Sinai Medical Center, commented, “The growing national interest in family medicine is no more clearly visible than in the interest shown by our own students and residents, who come from all over the country.” Dr. Charney also acknowledged the Institute’s long history operating the family medicine department and residency at Beth Israel Medical Center, an affiliate of Continuum Health System, which will merge with Mount Sinai this Fall. As a result, said Dr. Charney, “It’s our expectation that we will become, if we’re not already, the leading academic department of family medicine in the U.S.”

Other honored guests at the event included City Council Member Gale Brewer of Manhattan; representatives from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York and Community Board 11; and executives from Mount Sinai, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Primary Care Development Corporation, 1199 SEIU and Hunter Roberts Construction Group. Following the ceremony, guests were invited to tour the renovated building, designed by architects The Geddis Partnership.

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