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With Northeastern support, Whittier Street Health Center finds new home


President Joseph E. Aoun (left) greets Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick at the grand opening of the new Whittier Street Health Center facility on Monday afternoon. Photo by Mike Mazzanti.

Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick were among roughly 150 members of the community to celebrate the grand opening of the new Whittier Street Health Center facility on Monday afternoon.

The new site is located at 1290 Tremont St. in Roxbury, about a quarter mile from its previous Renaissance Park address.

Prior to a ribbon cutting ceremony, Aoun highlighted the university’s commitment to the health center, a co-op employer whose staff includes Michelle Jacobs, an assistant clinical professor in the School of Pharmacy. “We need you more than you need us,” he said. “For students to understand the world, they must be engaged in the world.”

The clinic cares for some 19,000 patients each year, many of whom suffer from diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, cancer, obesity and mental illness, said Frederica Williams, the president and CEO of the Whittier Street Health Center. “It’s important for us to have this beautiful medical home to address the social determinants of health,” she said. “This is the beginning of a legacy in healing and transforming lives.”

The clinical services offered to patients at the Whittier Street Health Center rival those offered at larger hospitals in the city, Menino said. The health center, he added, will serve as an “oasis for folks who need the most help.”

Mary Wakefield, who was named administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration by President Barack Obama in February 2009, said that the Whittier Street Health Center received $12 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, which she called an “investment in the economy and the health of people who live and work here.”

Donna Matthews, a Whittier patient who suffered a stroke last April, praised the health center for its dedication to quality care. “I feel a sense of peace here,” she said. “It is a lifeline for a lot of the issues I suffer from.”

Whittier is an important cog in the wheel of the state’s health-care system, in which 90 percent of patients have a primary-care physician, said Patrick, adding that he supports “investing in the spirit of universal health care in Massachusetts.”

Patients in Massachusetts, he said, “don’t have to worry about going bankrupt if they get sick.”