Making a Difference West Edition

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Community clinic provides full range of health services

In the heart of South Los Angeles is a one-of-a-kind, one-stop-shop for all things health related.

“There are other clinics in the area, but we have a full suite of services we offer to people,” said Ann Strucke, UMMA Community Health Clinic’s brand strategist.

It is, she said, one of the numerous things that makes UMMA, which stands for University Muslim Medical Association, unique.

As the medical base for more than 25,000 children and adults in the area, the clinic provides everything from prenatal and adolescent care to family/contraceptive planning, immunizations, on-site mammograms and much more. Its on-site laboratory allows for residents to get faster results and the medical care necessary to get them back to health quickly.

The behavioral health services they also offer ensures that people aren’t only getting their physical health needs met, but their emotional and mental health needs as well.

“We have case managers and counselors who do group and individual counseling,” Strucke said. And through its Black Visions of Wellness program, African American community members can receive substance abuse education, prevention and treatment, crisis intervention, case management and much more.

With the help of the community clinic’s partnerships, patients are offered yoga and tai chi classes every week, an art therapy class where a counselor and art instructor help attendees express themselves through the medium, as well as gardening workshops.

“We also have a weight loss challenge that just kicked off with patients,” Strucke said.

Because there is an emotional aspect to weight loss, obesity and overeating, she added, participants are teamed up with counselors to help them through the transformation process. Those up to the challenge get access to fitness classes or, if they prefer, dancing classes.

But workers at UMMA understand that healthy eating is key to not only weight loss, but a person’s general well-being, and that access to nutritious food in an area low in healthy food options is important.

So, in response, the organization offers “food access at a free farmers market every second and fourth Wednesday of the month” at UMMA’s Fremont Wellness Center and Garden, Strucke said. There, the community can pick up free fruits and vegetables.

The Wellness Center, which opened its doors in 2013 and shares its space with John C. Fremont High School, offers high school students the opportunity to learn about gardening. The space, Strucke said, serves as a great therapeutic location.

Healing has been the community clinic’s objective since it opened its doors in 1996 to provide culturally sensitive care to the residents of South L.A. And since then, it has held on to its five core values: service, compassion, human dignity, social justice and ethical conduct.

It all started thanks to a group of Muslim-American students from UCLA and Charles Drew University in 1992 following the Rodney King riots.

“They heard the outcry from their neighbors and knew they had services they could offer,” Strucke said. “They just wanted to see better outcomes for people.”

The medical students understood that if the people in a neighborhood with only one hospital bed for every 1,000 residents had better access to health care, that they could do more with their lives.

As the nonprofit continues to grow with a third location in the works, it hopes to continue providing services to and empowering thousands of residents for years to come.

And because half of the employees that work at the health center are people who were born and raised in the community., it is, as Strucke said, a “clinic for South L.A. by South L.A.”

INFORMATION BOX

CEO: Adel Syed

Years in operation: 22

Annual budget: $7,646,407

Number of employees: 55

Locations: UMMA Clinic, 711 W. Florence Ave., Los Angeles 90044; Fremont Wellness Center & Garden, 7821 S. Avalon Blvd., Los Angeles 90003