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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Rush Opens Free Medical Clinic At Wendell Phillips Academy: ‘They Can Literally Come From Upstairs In Their English Class’

Physical and mental health services will be provided to the entire student body year-round and free of charge, thanks to grant funding.

Nurse Practitioner Rachel Ferry-Rooney stands in one of the clinic's examination rooms. Phillips is one of five school-based clinics run by Rush University Medical Center.
Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
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BRONZEVILLE — Students at Wendell Phillips Academy will have access to year-round on-campus health services, thanks to Rush University Medical Center.

Students, administrators and medical staff were on hand for a ribbon cutting at the school, 244 E. Pershing Road, Thursday afternoon. The clinic, one of five school-based facilities the healthcare provider operates in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, will provide mental and physical health services to all of Phillip’s 529 students.

“Today means that Phillips has easy access to health care. Mercy Hospital was very pivotal in this community, and when they announced they were closing our clinic and the hospital, the community was concerned. Having this health center here brings families closer to help,” said Adrienne Morales, Phillip’s assistant principal.

The school clinic was run previously by Mercy Hospital. Mercy’s owner, Trinity Health, shuttered the facility before selling the hospital to Insight Chicago. Several former Mercy staffers who will be part of the new team.

Rachel Ferry-Rooney, an adult nurse practitioner, has seen a steady increase in students since the health center’s reopening.

“Students need a place where it’s not going to be a disruption to them, their parents or guardians, or whoever needs to get them to a physical or an asthma treatment. They can literally come from upstairs in their English class, and we can be in contact with parents if it’s something parents should know about,” said Ferry-Rooney.

Students will be able to visit the clinic for a variety of services, including immunizations, chronic health condition management, acute care visits, sexual and reproductive health services and therapy for them and their families. Telehealth and virtual visits will be available to them as well.

All services provided will be free of charge, funded through grants to the center.

Providing sexual and reproductive health services is important, especially with chlamydia and gonorrhea cases in Chicago on the rise, added Ferry-Rooney. Since Mercy was a Catholic hospital, clinic staff were limited in what they could tell students.

“Before, we had to educate them before giving them their double shot [of Depo-Provera.] Now, we can just give them the double shot proudly and tell them they’re safe for three months.

For graduating senior Omolara Atoyebi, having access to an on-campus clinic has been a great relief for her and her classmates who often have to travel out of the way to hospitals for appointments. It may have also inspired the future Cornell University freshman to pursue a career in medicine, having participated in Rush’s Med-STEM program.

“Someone can raise their hand in class and ask for a pass from the teacher if they’re having anxiety. That’s something that wouldn’t have happened before, but now they’re able to take more control of that situation and go somewhere they know for help,” said Atoyebi.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
Phillips Academy senior Omolara Atoyebi address the crowd at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the school’s new health clinic, which will be run by Rush University Medical Center.

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