Physicians invest in communities
Who: Dr. Jorge Cabello, 63
what: Founder of Cabello Medical Group Community Health Center
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Your health center serves the Latino community on the southwest side of Chicago. How did the health center come about? I came to America when I was 6 years old and grew up on the south side of Chicago. Much of my motivation to become a doctor came from my father, who was a doctor and was very involved in the community. He had a small clinic in an area where care was in great need, especially for Latinx people. I started helping out and that’s where the idea came from. I decided to upgrade my care.
How did the community react? Initially, there was no support at all from local hospitals and organizations. But in your heart you know it’s the right thing to do. So we created a space there. It was probably around 1994 when we found our first patient. And I think the patient really just came to beat the cold. Neighborhood rumors spread, confirming the need for a clinic. Everything we did was with the community in mind. We have extended our business hours. It was weekend time. We were doing things that no one else was doing at the time. After about 6-7 years, we have grown into the largest Latino primary care office in Illinois. There were about 26,000 visits per year, probably 99% Hispanic. We are currently in the process of purchasing two adjacent buildings to expand into a 20,000 square foot facility.
How would you describe your patient? In the early days it was first generation immigrants, working class poor. Many of them had government insurance, which wasn’t something many doctors liked. We have made very good deals with several laboratories and his local X-ray company. Most of our patients are still at or below the poverty line. And despite being insured, all are still welcome.
Do you use volunteers? No, we are all employees. We recruited them from our neighborhood. Many of them had no medical training and were taught how to become medical assistants or front desk staff. And we paid for their certification. If they had to go back to school and take classes, we covered that as well.
Are you also investing in scholarships for Latino medical students? Looking around the residency programs and medical centers in the city, I noticed that very few people of Latino were studying medicine. There are many reasons, but what we could solve was that many of these people didn’t want to go to school because of the cost. I went to the person responsible for recruiting Latinos to study medicine. At the time, they were assisting about 6 to her 10 Latino students in a freshman class of about 300. I gave him the check. He immediately said, for $25,000, “This is my first check to you and I’m going to start a scholarship fund.” As time went on, we raised it higher and higher. We were able to get a lot of interest from companies and everyone started donating $10,000 a year, even his $20,000. Over the years, we have provided over $1.5 million to colleges.
what is the motive? When asked if I invest, I reply, “I invest in young people studying medicine.” I donate money to scholarships, not to the stock market. After all, what does it get you? Thank you. But taking that reward home means helping this kid graduate from medical school and become a doctor. He plans to go out into the community and meet 25 or 30 people a day for the rest of his professional life to take the pain away. We’ve helped over 130 children graduate from medical school. My wife and I, pediatric ER physicians at Lurie Children’s Hospital, have a motto: