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April 2, 2014

Community profile: Dorchester, Mass.

Upham’s Corner Health Center in Dorchester, Mass.
Upham’s Corner Health Center in Dorchester, Mass.

Upham’s corner, mass., is a section of Dorchester,  one of Boston’s largest neighborhoods. It also happens to be one of the most diverse, a melting pot of families, singles and rich mix of cultures. It is easily accessible from I-93 and is located along a major commuter route into Boston.

Upham’s Corner Health Center

In 1971, a committee of 30 residents gathered to help plan Upham’s Corner Health Center (UCHC, uphamscornerhealthctr.com) to address the community’s health care needs.

Today, UCHC "provides comprehensive, personalized and continuous health services" as one of eight Boston neighborhood health centers affiliated with Boston Medical Center.

More than 70 percent of the people who come to the health center live below the poverty level, according to Roksana Pirog, UCHC’s marketing and promotions manager. Three-quarters of those served by the Center primarily speak a language other than English at home.

Working at UCHC

UCHC staff speaks several languages to accommodate the community: Spanish, Haitian Creole, Arabic, Cape Verde Creole (Dorchester has one of the largest Cape Verde populations outside of the country itself), Italian, Polish, Russian, Hebrew, Mandarin, Cantonese, Chinese and Vietnamese.

UCHC has several programs that work cooperatively with outside organizations, such as those working for violence prevention, and a clinic that lets teens meet confidentially with health care providers­­ - or even get help preparing for college.

Burak Alsan, M.D., recently served as the center’s medical director. He majored in biology at Harvard, attended Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago, and completed his residency in both Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the Harvard Combined Program.

What are the advantages for physicians to practice at UCHC?
There is a sense of fulfillment, a mix of common and uncommon illnesses and inspiring coworkers.

What are the challenges?
The feeling that you can only do so much with the short patient visits to make a difference in patients whose lives are so complicated.

What about UCHC sets it apart from others?
Upham’s has a deep connection to the recent immigration community of Dorchester, specifically Cape Verdean. What makes it unique is the deep roots within the staff to the community. Most of our staff is from the area and some have even been patients themselves even from childhood. It really gives a soul to the health center that is very unique.

What might a physician encounter in practice at UCHC?
A city and community health center with a passion for hard work and compassion. The patients, coworkers and city are dedicated to helping each other and making a difference in everyone’s life.

- By Marcia Travelstead



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