Moving Mountains, Getting Doctors to South LA

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With the new state-of-the-art facility opened, staffed with leadership earning recognition, and welcoming more patients every day, it would be natural to assume that the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital is well on its way to fulfilling its mission of improving the health of the South Los Angeles community.

Not so fast, says hospital CEO Dr. Elaine Batchlor. The hospital’s opening was just the beginning. “Nothing is going to change for healthcare in our community until we get more doctors here.”

“There are 39 physicians per 100,000 residents in South LA,” Dr. Batchlor explains. “Compare that with 1,000 physicians for the same population in Los Angeles’s Westside. The physician gap in this community is the next mountain we must move.”

The MLK, Jr. Community Medical Group

MLKCH has an innovative solution: it has created the tax-exempt nonprofit MLK, Jr. Community Medical Group. Unlike typical medical groups, which are for-profit corporations, the MLK, Jr. Community Medical Group is a unique model for the state of California. As a charitable organization, physicians in the medical group are required to serve the community. In joining the group, its members commit to provide quality, compassionate care for South Los Angeles.

“Members of this medical group put the community’s needs first,” says Dr. John Fisher, the hospital’s chief medical officer and president of the MLK, Jr. Community Medical Group. “Everyone who joins is committing to the mission of the hospital in improving health in South Los Angeles.”

Central to the new medical group’s recruitment effort is the hospital’s partnership with UCLA’s Department of Family Medicine, and the department’s International Medical Graduate program. Experienced IMG physicians are able to provide culturally aligned care—essential for South Los Angeles, which is 70% Hispanic.

“The physician gap in this community is the next mountain we must move.” – Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of MLKCH

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First Cohort Arrives

The first members of the MLK, Jr. Community Medical Group, distinguished by diverse backgrounds and demonstrated commitments to vulnerable communities, have signed up to begin their work.

Dr. Neha Chandri served as a member of the Honduras Outreach Medical Brigade Relief Effort. Dr. Juan Cabrales provided volunteer medical assistance in the rural communities of Baja, California, while Dr. Blanca Campos conducted public health research in Costa Rica.

All three physicians hold faculty appointments in the UCLA Department of Family Medicine, and Drs. Campos and Cabrales are also alumni of UCLA’s International Medical Graduates program.

They will staff the hospital’s new Advanced Care Clinic on Rosecrans Avenue, offering primary care for adults with complex, chronic conditions.

Attracting and retaining high-quality physicians like these to South Los Angeles is critical to turning the tide on the community’s overwhelming health disparities. Indeed, it’s the MLK, Jr. Community Medical Group—and its potential to bring a larger cohort of primary care physicians and specialists to the area—that could be the key innovation that finally fills the gap.