As a family physician working at an Albuquerque, N.M., hospital, Andru Ziwasimon-Zeller, M.D., was shocked to learn that the hospital was requiring uninsured and low-income patients to pay up front for medically necessary care. When he decided to take up the cause of these patients, he found himself out of a job.
So he turned his attention to creating a better health care system.
As co-founder of the Community Coalition for Health Care Access, Ziwasimon-Zeller became a tireless advocate for “common sense” health policies for disenfranchised patients. “I assisted in a lawsuit and helped to organize a community protest to remove the bad payment policies,” Ziwasimon-Zeller said. He also worked with community residents to open Casa de Salud (“House of Health”), a clinic for low-income and uninsured patients. Today, the unfair payment policies that Ziwasimon-Zeller opposed are gone, and he is tackling broader issues.
In recognition of Ziwasimon-Zeller’s efforts, he was named one of 10 recipients of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award. The award honors exceptional men and women who have overcome significant obstacles to tackle some of the most challenging health and health care problems facing their communities.
Community Health Leaders National Program Director Janice Ford Griffin said the selection committee honored Ziwasimon-Zeller for “his peer leadership with community residents to address a range of unfair policies and practices that have an impact on public health, and for his collaborative participation in establishing a community clinic that respects the cultural context and character of that community.”
Ziwasimon-Zeller’s commitment to creating what he calls a “better and fairer health system” started during medical school, when he worked in a clinic in West Africa. The only practitioner in the region was a physician’s assistant, whom Ziwasimon-Zeller described as “the most amazing clinician” who diagnosed his patients with limited resources.
Now Ziwasimon-Zeller puts that skill to work at Casa de Salud, where patients are never denied services based on their ability to pay the $30 cost of an office visit. “We serve some of the poorest people in Albuquerque and what amazes me is how committed they are to paying for our services. They really appreciate the fact that we are their partner in health,” Ziwasimon-Zeller said.
A central mission of Casa de Salud is advocating for public policies to improve access to care. “We are able to use the clinic as a platform for community organizing. We will not hesitate to advise patients to speak up when injustices happen,” Ziwasimon-Zeller said. His advocacy efforts range from working to protect the jobs of medical workers who advocate on behalf of their patients to changing how the state provides care to drug-addicted youth. “We must work to treat young people earlier in their addiction and prevent them from carrying the stigma of arrest and drug abuse for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Ziwasimon-Zeller has a dream of “doing medicine better.” He credits his wife, a natural medicine practitioner, with teaching him a “patient-centered approach to health care,” and the clinicians, staff and organizers who work with him for helping make this dream come true. “Without our clinicians, students and supporters, we wouldn’t have a clinic. I couldn’t do any of this without them,” Ziwasimon-Zeller said.
- 1 Judy Berry Creates Facility that Provides New Model of Care for Dementia Patients
- 2 Dana Harvey Revitalizes Low-Income Community with Urban Health Food Store
- 3 Joe Hollendoner Provides Critical Health and Social Services to LGBT Youth
- 4 Roseanna Means Creates Program to Meet Unique Needs of Homeless Women
- 5 Josephine Mercado Creates Program to Teach Latinos How to Stay Healthy
- 6 Susan Rodriguez Helps Women Living with HIV/AIDS Learn about and Manage Their Disease
- 7 Fran Rooker's Family Tragedy Inspired Breakthrough for Brain Injury Patients
- 8 Shira Shavit Honored for Creating a 'Medical Home' for Former Prison Inmates
- 9 Kris Volcheck Honored for Creating Free Dental Clinic for the Homeless
- 10 Andru Ziwasimon-Zeller Cares and Advocates for Uninsured
Learn how to improve care transitions and prevent avoidable hospital readmissions, and pick up nursing and medical education con-ed credits.
A White House “Champions of Change” event yesterday honored 12 men and women who spent their careers improving the lives of children who hav...
This is the agenda for the June 19, 2013 RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America public meeting.
How the County Health Rankings helped US News size up children's hospitals.
"We often see the benefits of diversity as being for minorities," Angela Amar writes. "We seldom see that the majority benefits as well."
The full list of commissioners for the re-convened Commission to Build a Healthier America, led by Mark McClellan and Alice Rivlin.
We create new opportunities for better health by investing in health where it starts—in our homes, schools, and jobs.
How discouraging that, despite the escalating obesity crisis in the U.S. among adults and, even more scarily, children, America seems to be ...
Team members, grantees, and guests discuss breakthrough ideas that will allow us to move toward solving challenges in health care.
A grassroots, consumer-driven campaign, “Get Covered America” will educate Americans about new opportunities to obtain affordable health ins...
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is working to increase awareness and understanding of the impact of ACEs and the need to develop effectiv...
A national conversation highlighting efforts to improve care transitions, reduce avoidable hospital readmissions, and lift overall quality o...