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A True Partnership: Community Health Center at Sayre High School
September 11, 2007, Volume 54, No. 3

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For more than a decade Penn has had a growing relationship with the Sayre School (Almanac September 28, 2004). That partnership has resulted in The Sayre Health Center—a community health facility designed to provide clinical and preventive health care services to Sayre High School students, their families and other members of the West Philadelphia community. Last Friday, the doors were opened to the newly renovated facility at the school, located at 58th and Walnut streets. While awaiting completion of the state-of-the art-center, the center has been operating out of a trailer adjacent to the school for the past eight months.

The center, in partnership with University of Pennsylvania, will serve as a health and professional education center for Sayre students as well as graduate and undergraduate students from several schools and programs at Penn.

The grand opening and ribbon cutting included remarks by President Amy Gutmann and Sayre High School Principal Joseph Starinieri, Penn deans—Dr. Arthur Rubenstein, (Medicine) and Dr. Afaf Meleis (Nursing), Albert Bichner, deputy chief academic officer, School District of Philadelphia, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, and community residents. 

President Gutmann noted that three years ago, at the Sayre School, she kicked off her inauguration week by joining in a day of community service (Almanac October 19, 2004). She said that it has taken “all of us—students, parents, neighborhood leaders, school officials, benefactors and university leaders—to forge the partnership that has produced this wonderful clinic.”

The $1.2 million project was managed by Driscoll Construction Co. and some 30 subcontractors and vendors who donated labor and construction materials, bringing “the vision into reality,” Dr. Gutmann said.

The vision came from Dr. Bernie Johnson, professor of dermatology and senior medical director, HUP, who is “an inspiration” along with Dr. Ira Harkavy, assoc. vice president, and director of the Center for Community Partnerships, who is a driving force behind this project.

The center’s mission is to provide high quality, culturally-sensitive, accessible care to the underserved residents who live in the surrounding neighborhood.  Sayre Health Center will be open 40 hours each week, with hours during the school day and on selected evenings.  

Although health care services have been established at other schools in Philadelphia, Sayre Health Center’s educational component makes it unique. The health center offers Sayre High School students interested in pursuing a career in health care the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field, and through Penn’s service-based learning opportunities, students from the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dental Medicine and Social Policy and Practice, and Arts & Sciences, gain real-world experience.

“Situating the health center at the high school accomplishes two goals,” said Sayre Principal Joseph Starinieri. “We believe that its placement in a familiar environment will increase the number of adolescents receiving primary care, and that the Penn students, in providing these health services, will also become mentors to the high school students who work with them.”

Community residents can come to Sayre for primary care services; emergency care; diagnostic testing and screenings; immunizations; gynecological, pre-natal and obstetric services; family planning; well-child visits; dental care; and pharmacy services. Outreach services, eligibility assistance, case management, including referral and follow up for medical and social services and tracking of hospitalized patients, will be provided, as will transportation assistance for patients with such needs.  Referrals for more extensive dental services and behavioral health and substance abuse services can also be made.

Founded as a federally qualified health center, the Sayre Health Center provides care regardless of the patients’ ability to pay. Staff will assist patients in registering for health insurance but patients will not be turned away if they are not covered.

As part of its health education and health literacy mission, the health center will offer workshops on nutrition, childbirth, infant and child health, self-empowerment and care, immunizations, sexually transmitted diseases, oral health, environmental health issues such as lead and tobacco smoke, and treatment of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma. Programming on parenting, child abuse, raising children with ADHD and other conditions, and adolescent decision-making and peer relations will be offered. See sayrehealth.org.

“We believe strongly that we can improve the health of our community best by linking clinical care and education,” said the Rev. Rodney Rogers, acting chair of the Sayre Health Center Board.

Almanac - September 11, 2007, Volume 54, No. 3