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Creating Care for Philadelphia’s Underserved Communities

For many immigrants and refugees, their time in America begins in tumult. There is housing to find, job placement, a battery of forms, schools to enroll in, and a host of other boxes to check that would daunt even a native-born person. Unsurprisingly, health can fall by the wayside.

Enter the Hansjörg Wyss Wellness Center, slated to open in the Bok Building in early 2020, which will serve as many new Philadelphians’ first stop for medical care in the United States. Part of the Jefferson Center for Refugee Health (JCRH), the largest center of its kind in the city, the Wyss Wellness Center will serve as a medical home for the South Philadelphia immigrant and refugee populations.

Founded in 2007, JCRH sees approximately 1,500 new patients each year, or 25to 30 percent of Pennsylvania’s refugee intake, as well as a diverse group of individuals and families. Since its start, it has gone from an informal, one-off clinic to a mainstay of Jefferson’s residency curriculum and Philadelphia’s mission to welcome those fleeing oppression. The center’s patient care and training programs have been so successful that the JCRH is now a nationwide model for refugee health.

Established by a generous gift from the Wyss Foundation, the wellness center will add to this already expansive infrastructure by placing wraparound services like medical and mental healthcare, social workers, nutritionists, and translators in the heart of one of Philadelphia’s most diverse immigrant neighborhoods. Jefferson has invested in the Wyss Wellness Center becoming a federally-qualified health center capable of accommodating more that 6,000 patient visits annually within a few years of opening.

For more than 30 years, Jefferson’s Department of Family and Community Medicine has cared for underserved populations, always searching for ways to keep the city’s vulnerable neighbors from falling through the cracks. The Wyss Wellness Center is the latest statement of this commitment, serving Philadelphia’s recently arrived and resident refugee populations, along with the thousands of immigrants who call the City of Brotherly Love home.