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THE 2007 CLOSURE of Martin Luther King, Jr. Harbor Hospital after a failed federal inspection hit the South Los Angeles community especially hard. A needs assessment conducted shortly after the hospital closed found that in addition to lacking an acute-care facility, the community faced a shortage of 1,700 physicians — signiﬁcantly limiting access to primary and specialty care for a population with high chronic disease rates.
Dr. Elaine Batchlor (MPH ’90) is a leader in the effort to transform the health of the traditionally underserved community as chief executive officer of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH), which opened in 2015. Batchlor’s involvement began when she was appointed to a seven-member board formed to plan a replacement shortly after the original MLK hospital closed; she was hired as CEO of MLKCH in 2012.
Even before construction of the new hospital commenced, Batchlor’s team set out to engage and earn the trust of the community. The Know Your Basics Community Wellness Campaign, launched in 2014, has provided health screenings and health education to thousands of people at settings that include shopping centers, farmers markets, beauty salons, barbershops, senior centers and churches, as well as assisting participants who lack a primary care provider in ﬁnding a medical home. A partnership with local K-12 schools offers health education and mentoring, as well as introducing students to health-related careers.
To address the community’s continuing physician shortage and recruit high-quality providers to practice in South Los Angeles, MLKCH in 2016 started the nonproﬁt Martin Luther King Jr. Community Medical Group. The group’s ﬁrst outpatient care site has opened, and the hospital is working with the county to develop a medical office building on the MLKCH campus to provide additional space for the practitioners who are being recruited to practice in the community.
Batchlor believes MLKCH has earned the community’s conﬁdence since its 2015 opening through its performance. “It boils down to taking good care of patients when they come in, and treating them with compassion and respect,” she says. “When you do that, over time people learn they can trust you.” She notes that MLKCH has attracted top physicians, nurses and administrators, with the majority of staff coming from the community and surrounding areas. Despite its small size, MLKCH has one of the busiest emergency departments in the county, Batchlor adds — a reﬂection of both the need and the community’s satisfaction with the care.
Beyond high-quality hospital services, Batchlor’s aim is to address the overall health of South Los Angeles residents — a holistic approach she derived from her FSPH education. “Through the outpatient care being provided by the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Medical Group and programs such as Know Your Basics, we’re seeking to improve the overall health of the community as opposed to only treating people when they happen to land in the hospital,” she says. “We can see that we are making a difference with every individual we care for, but the ultimate goal is to make a difference for the population.”