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Illinois Governor Declares “Carmen Velásquez Day”

Oct 16, 2013, 9:00 AM

For nearly 25 years, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leader Carmen Velásquez, MA, has helped members of Chicago’s immigrant community access the health care they need. She founded the Alivio Medical Center in 1988, which has now grown to six locations that serve 25,000 patients annually. Two more clinics are slated to open later this year.

In recognition of her work, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed October 2, 2013 “Carmen Velásquez Day.” At an event celebrating Latino Heritage Month at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, Quinn called Velásquez “a true pioneer in public health policy and health care affordability.”

“As the immigrant population in the Pilsen neighborhood grew in the 1980s, Carmen Velásquez was among the first to see the crying need for a health clinic, so she went out and built Alivio Medical Center,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans are alive today thanks to her, proving that one person truly can make a difference.”

Read more about Velásquez’ work.
Read a news release about “Carmen Velásquez Day.”

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

Getting SMART About Asthma Education

Jul 19, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Ruchi Gupta

Ruchi S. Gupta, MD, MPH, is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Physician Faculty Scholars program. She is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the maternal and child healthcare program at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and an attending physician at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. Learn more at www.ruchigupta.com.


This past spring, 12 students with asthma at James Hedges Elementary in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood took hundreds of pictures, filmed video Public Serve Announcements (PSAs), created a website, and rolled out a community intervention to improve asthma conditions. These activities were part of the Student Media-Based Asthma Research Team, or SMART program. We developed this program from a previous pilot program in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood that empowered students to learn about their asthma and challenged them to create change in their own communities.

As the most common chronic condition in children and the most common cause of school absenteeism, asthma is responsible for 13 million days of school missed each year. Asthma disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities, as African Americans and Hispanics/Latino children have significantly higher asthma-related morbidity and mortality rates compared to White children. While evidence-based guidelines for asthma care have been available for 20 years, ethnic minorities have a lower likelihood of receiving or following proper asthma treatment. Across and within racial/ethnic groups, asthma care has been shown to be more effective when it is tailored to the individual community instead of one-size-fits-all intervention.

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The Chicago Parent Program: An Effective Tool for Low-Income, Urban Parents

Jun 11, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Deborah Gross

Deborah Gross, DNSc, RN, FAAN, is the Leonard and Helen Stulman Endowed Chair in Mental Health & Psychiatric Nursing at the Johns Hopkins University Schools of Nursing, Medicine, and Public Health. She is also an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellows program (2006-2009).


As a child psychiatric nurse, my mission is to make a difference in the lives of families with young children, particularly those living in low-income, urban communities. 

There is now wide consensus that early childhood is the most cost-effective time for targeting prevention and early intervention. The foundation for children’s mental health is formed during the first five years of life, when 90 percent of brain development occurs. Since parents are the primary mediators of their young children’s earliest social and learning environments, any effort to promote mental health in young children must first and foremost engage parents and help them build up their strengths and caregiving capacities.

Nearly 20 years ago, I began searching the literature for parenting programs that had a strong evidence base and demonstrated substantial and enduring effects on parenting quality and children’s behavior. What I discovered is that the strongest programs available had been originally developed and tested on White, middle-class families. As a result, their content and delivery methods were often built on values and assumptions many families I knew could not relate to. 

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Physician Faculty Scholar Studies Compliance with Illinois Law Requiring Prompt Transport of Trauma Patients

Jan 4, 2011, 6:48 PM, Posted by mtomlinson

Marie Crandall, M.D., M.P.H., RWJF Physician Faculty Scholar (2008-2011), has an article in the December 2010 Archives of Surgery, in which she reports findings from her research into whether seriously injured trauma patients in Illinois are being transported to the care they need within a legally required two-hour period. Crandall and colleagues find that while just 20 percent of patients were transported within the required time period, the most seriously ill of the trauma patients were identified and transported rapidly. They also find no adverse effect on outcomes for patients whose transfer time exceeded two hours.

An abstract of the study is available here, and a story on it is available on the ORTHOSuperSite.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.