Erie Family Health Center

Erie Family Health Center

Innovative program trains medical residents; helps community members

Luis Rivera, MD, Erie Family Health Center. Photo by James Schnept

As a child growing up in South Chicago, Luis Rivera, MD, dreamed of becoming a physician and helping families in underserved communities. Today, Rivera is living that dream as a resident physician at Erie Family Health Center, a Chicago-based community health center that delivers comprehensive primary medical and dental care throughout the city and surrounding suburbs, and whose approach focuses on addressing a national shortage of primary care physicians and leaders.

Rivera is completing his second-year residency through the McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University Family Medicine Residency Program. Unlike traditional, hospital-based medical residency training programs, the program is at a community-based health center where most of the residents’ training takes place. This ultimately produces primary care physicians ready to deliver healthcare to the underserved. It also gives Erie the capacity to care for more patients in the community.

Under the Affordable Care Act, 20 million Americans have obtained health insurance coverage, resulting in the need for community health centers to expand their services. Many patients lack access to primary care because of physician shortages in their communities—an area of healthcare that Erie Family Health Center directly targets.

The program is providing essential services to Olivia and Luis Jimenez, both of whom had undiagnosed health issues prior to seeing Rivera. Since becoming Rivera’s patient, Olivia Jimenez has completed a diabetes treatment program and learned to control the disease. She prepares healthier foods for herself and her husband, and both she and her husband have lowered their cholesterol.

“We believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” says Lee Francis, MD, MPH, president and CEO of Erie Family Health Center. “Our mission is to provide accessible, affordable and high-quality healthcare for those in need.”

The program has helped the community by providing healthcare to more than 7,500 patients through almost 30,000 patient visits every year, Francis says. In its first five years, the program graduated 23 residents, the vast majority of whom have taken positions in medically underserved communities.

Erie Family Health Center, 1701 W. Superior St., Chicago, IL  60622, 312-666-3494,

Originally published in the Fall 2016 print edition