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    • Karla Gonzalez, a student at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Karla Gonzalez: Promoting Wellness - at a Familiar Site

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Through my experience assisting in the planning of the collaborative programming to be offered at the center I was reminded that health is not achieved in a clinic but rather out in the community – and through the efforts of organizations such as those that have come together as The Wellness Center.

MD/MPH Candidate

I was drawn to medicine by my grandmother’s home remedies, kind doctors who comforted my mother when I became sick with meningitis, and the obesity epidemic I witnessed unfolding as a high school teacher. But nothing had a greater impact than rushing with family members to LAC+USC Medical Center, dubbed El General by the locals, for fully preventable situations that had somehow become life threatening because of a lack of financial resources and health insurance. 

The Wellness Center at the Historic General Hospital Building in Los Angeles.
The Wellness Center at the Historic General Hospital Building in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.

I set out to become a doctor to address the issue of physician shortages in medically underserved areas but quickly learned that a healthy community requires a more complex solution. Patients cannot begin to improve their diet, medication compliance and glucose levels when faced with issues of citizenship status, violence, poverty and low educational attainment, none of which can be addressed adequately in a 15-minute clinic visit. I concluded that a dual degree in medicine and public health was my best approach.

The perfect fieldwork opportunity presented itself when I learned that a wellness center was to be built on the very grounds of our former hospital. The Wellness Center at the Historic General Hospital is a collaboration of more than a dozen nonprofit organizations with a long history of dedication to the community, coming together to deliver comprehensive services – from diabetes education and mental health to healthy-cooking demos, legal advice and work training – that are essential in keeping patients healthy and reducing health care spending.

Through my experience assisting in the planning of the collaborative programming to be offered at the center I was reminded that health is not achieved in a clinic but rather out in the community – and through the efforts of organizations such as those that have come together as The Wellness Center. While walking through those doors after many years brought back memories of my childhood, it also filled me with hope that as a future physician and public health advocate, I can make a difference for my community.

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The Wellness Center at the Historic General Hospital