The building where Heartland Health Centers’ HHC-Wilson clinic is located was a major stopping point for immigrants on Chicago’s North Side for years says new pediatrician Michelle Phan, MD.
Michelle Phan, MD says she chose Heartland Health Centers for her first job out of residency to give back by working with a medically underserved population and because she loves the city of Chicago, having spent summers visiting her grandparents and the city and attending Loyola University in Chicago.
It came as a surprise when her family told her the clinic building where she would be working, HHC-Wilson at 845 W. Wilson was a local landmark.
“When I started here, my grandparents said, ‘Oh, we know that building,’ Phan says. Her Vietnamese-American parents and grandparents – who immigrated to Chicago in the late 1970s remembered it from when they first arrived as a required stopping point for health care and other services among virtually all immigrants who came to the North Side. Her grandfather, once he had resettled, helped other refugees by bringing them to appointments at Wilson.
Phan says working at HHC-Wilson puts her in touch with her immigrant family’s roots as the majority of her patients today are first or second generation immigrants, including some Vietnamese patients who are happy to know she speaks Vietnamese too.
“I’ve worked in communities before throughout medical school and residency, and I’ve done global health work in Honduras, Vietnam, South Africa and Malawi,” she says. “Here patients are from all over the world,” Phan says. “It’s like doing global health locally, and medically it is very interesting…. For example I’ve gotten a lot better at immunization catch up because people are coming from all over with all different schedules to match up. As a provider, I get to do a lot more problem solving.”
As a new pediatrician at HHC-Wilson, Phan sees new babies up to 21 year olds. Since she arrived in October, she has begun working to set up new systems and supports for her patients, such as working to establish a Reach Out and Read program to give patients access to free books and leading a Cooking and Nutrition class for families, from 4:30-6:30 every Tuesday beginning March 17.
Phan has a holistic view of her job as a pediatrician: “I chose pediatrics because I asked myself, ‘Where can I make the most difference?” Phan says. “If you start early with kids, that can really make a difference from the start and promote a lifetime of health.”