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H. Jack Geiger, physician-activist and community health center founder, visits Boston health centers

4-22-10 Feature Story:

Dorchester, MA - Dr. H. Jack Geiger, who co-founded the first health center in the nation with fellow physician-activist Count Gibson at Columbia Point, Dorchester in 1965, was in Boston recently to visit his namesake, Geiger Gibson Community Health Center, and to tour Codman Academy, a charter school housed inside Codman Square Health Center.

Dr. Geiger met with the charter school students and employees and patients of both health centers to talk about his experiences as a physician working at a community-based medical center in Poehla, South Africa in the late 1950s and later, as a Civil Rights' worker in Mississippi. Both experiences inspired his launch of the first two community health centers in the United States: Columbia Point Health Center (now Geiger Gibson Community Health Center) in 1965 and Delta Health Center in Mound Bayou, Mississippi in 1966.

Geiger also spoke of the important role Senator Edward M. Kennedy played in expanding health centers nationally after visiting Columbia Point in 1966. Geiger recounted that Senator Kennedy was so taken with the mission and work of the health center that he offered a 1966 amendment to the Economic Opportunity Act which set aside $51 million to establish another 30 centers around the country. Today, 1,200 community health centers serve 20 million people through 7,000 sites located in all the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

Reiterating the broad vision of the community health center model in transforming low-income communities, Geiger told the crowd that addressing the root causes of poverty that exist in our rural and inner-city neighborhoods -- such as a lack of educational and employment opportunity -- must go hand-in hand with the provision of medical care.

Click here to read a Boston Globe interview with Dr. Geiger during his recent visit to Boston.

PICTURE: L-R: Dr. H. Jack Geiger; Murielle Rue, Geiger Gibson Community Health Center (GGCHC) patient since 1965; and Julia Duling, GGCHC patient since 1974.

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