Jericho Road Community Health Center: Serving and Leading the Under-Served

Buffalo, New York has increasingly found itself in the news for both its recent revitalization and its influx of refugees, immigrants, and asylum-seekers from around the world – two mutually dependent changes.  Jericho Road Community Health Center has continually stepped forward to address the needs of the city’s growing population since it opened its doors on its first health center in 1997 under the leadership of Dr. Myron Glick.  Dr. Glick’s roots in the Amish and Mennonite Church continue to shape his multi-faceted organization as they continue to grow to meet the changing needs of their culturally diverse, under-served, and marginalized neighbors around the world.

Dr. Glick and his wife were born into the Amish and Beachy Amish communities of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but his parents left their home to work as Mennonite missionaries in Belize when Dr. Glick was young.  Growing up in a place where doctors were scarce and observing the difference that the few doctors there could make made an impact on him.  The desire to connect with people and cause change through relationships became greater than the obstacles he faced moving from an Amish background into mainstream society.  Though his parents honored his passion, the process of convincing them to allow him to attend medical school was long.  With only 8th grade educations, higher education was a foreign concept to his parents and they feared that Dr. Glick would lose his faith and community in the process.  This left Dr. Glick to navigate the paperwork, finances, and logistics of college by himself.

With his wife by his side, Dr. Glick began medical school in Buffalo, NY, where he transitioned to one of the few Mennonite churches in the city that was consistent with their beliefs but was more relevant to the world that they were now a part of.  After medical school, they left Western New York for his residency, returning in 1996 because of the influence of their church.  That church, located on the West Side of Buffalo, would be the one that they would first rent space from to start Jericho Road in 1997.

Dr. Glick recounts, “if I was going to take my faith seriously, I needed to figure out what that meant with regards to my profession.  One of the most important aspects of our Anabaptist tradition is that this faith influences all of our lives, not just Sunday morning,” says Dr. Glick.  “[I asked] what would Jesus do if He was a doctor, faced with the health disparities and the broken healthcare system that we have in this country with regards to how it treats the poor.  I think that it would follow that I would be something different, that I would not be just a normal doctor.”  Though Dr. Glick did not set out to open his own practice, he quickly realized that in order to serve the kind of people that he wanted to serve, in the way he wanted to serve them, he could only do it right if he opened what would become Jericho Road Community Health Center.

In 1997, when Jericho Road served its first patients, Dr. Glick, his family, and his team could not have anticipated what their health center would grow to be.  Last year, Jericho Road’s 280 part-time and full-time staff served over 17,500 unique patients (including the delivery of 320 new patients), split nearly in half of those under age 18 and those 19-64.  The offered their services in 25 different languages and dialects due to the fact that 59% of their patients are better served in a language other than English.  79% of their patients are on Medicaid and all of them are people with limited access to care (i.e. families living in poverty, refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers).  They now have achieved “level 3 recognition as a patient-centered medical home through the National Committee for Quality Assurance” as they provide their care to anyone who needs it regardless “of insurance status or ability to pay.”

Though Jericho Road’s initial focus was on “simple” primary care, their services have gone far and above that.  Today, Jericho Road leads the Priscilla Project, offering pregnancy, labor, delivery, and post-partum support with the help of a team of highly qualified, culturally diverse doulas.  They continue to support families through their Parent-Child Home Program, equipping parents to be their child’s first teacher.  They have an ESL (English as a Second Language) program that teaches necessary language skills to their patients, a financial literacy program that includes hands-on education from US currency to buying a first home, and a spiritual care team that “exists to provide support, encouragement, and healing to people in their relationships with themselves, with others, and with God” should a patient or client request it.  All of their programs are aimed at equipping their patients to be self-sufficient.

For refugees and asylum seekers, the Hope Refugee Drop-In Center offers assistance as they adjust to life in the United States from applying for assistance, public schools and jobs, as well as small business support, understanding health insurance, and more.  Vive, founded in 1984 and acquired by Jericho Road in 2015, has given legal housing, basic needs, primary care, and temporary housing in a converted school to over 100,000 in its history.

More recently, Jericho Road has been “following the refugees back home” through their Global Health Outreach.  In the Sindhupalchok District of Nepal, the Motorbike Medical Outreach has been taking healthcare to the people.  Jericho Road’s Wellness Clinic at New Hope Center in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, “seeks to improve healthcare for the most vulnerable individuals in Goma, especially orphans, traumatized children, and widows and their children, who would otherwise have no access to primary care.”

In Sierra Leone, a team from Jericho Road, including GAHN member Karlin Bacher and Phebian Abdulai, a refugee originally from Sierra Leone, established the Adama Martha Memorial Community Health Center (Kono District) in February 2015 in the midst of the Ebola crisis and the Orfonthy Community Health Center (Port Loko District).  Karlin, a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Clemson University and Master of Arts in International Development from Eastern University, found himself in Sierra Leone after working as an ER nurse and taking many short term medical trips with faith-based organizations.  While working at a government-funded hospital in Freetown, mutual friends from his home Mennonite church in South Carolina connected him with Dr. Glick.  “He invited me to join his small team as they conducted mobile medical clinics, and as they did some groundwork for the new health facility they were building…I initially agreed to work with them for one year, but that one year quickly turned into about four and a half years.”

Karlin’s initial role was focused on clinical operations from patient registration and triage to staff training and medication procurement.  However, because of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, his tasks quickly turned to screening processes and setting up isolation areas.  “When Jericho Road decided to open a second clinic in partnership with another faith based partner,” Karlin recalls, “I served as a lead on that project…The Ebola outbreak made us rethink almost everything.”  There were many people advising Dr. Glick to delay opening the new clinic but Dr. Glick “had the courage to keep us moving forward and the strength to face the criticism and media hype” to serve our “neighbors” in their time of great need.  Because their health center had enough staff, resources, a steady supply chain, and an efficient system, it quickly gained the trust of the community giving them the motivation to keep going in spite of the criticism and daily difficulties.

“Dr. Glick is fantastic!” Karlin says.  “He’s really not worried about credit, but instead is really worried about justice.  Instead of becoming completely overwhelmed by the needs, he often sees the potential…especially in relation to having others join him on the journey toward justice.  He feels like everyone can and should play a part in this journey.  The team at Jericho Road, both in Buffalo and globally, is quite reflective of the communities in which they serve.”  Jericho Road has a history of mentoring its clients and recognizing their potential to help them be leaders in their communities and in Jericho Road.

The future of Jericho Road is unknown.  “I ask,” Dr. Glick says, “what does God want to do with Jericho Road today?  We’ll let someone else worry about what happens tomorrow.”  He wants Jericho Road to be uncomfortable and constantly working to figure out how they fit into current culture.  Contrary to his Amish background, where the community desires for their way of life to remain unchanged over the generations, Dr. Glick “doesn’t have a desire for Jericho Road to live forever [as it is]…I believe that the power of community is primarily found in the first or second generation in the people that have been a part of its beginning; when you start focusing on how to keep the organization going, it loses its power.” 

For now, Dr. Glick continues to lead his organization by being an example of servant leadership to his employees, whether that means seeing a patient or shoveling snow. He continues to hire people who believe in the work and the people they serve and can be accountable to live out the mission.  His advice? “Connect with people and be like Jesus by taking care of the vulnerable and the poor. Ask ‘are you caring for the people that Jesus cared for and doing it well?’…As long as the need is great and the resources are there, we will keep going.”

For more information on Jericho Road Community Health Center, visit their website at https://www.jrchc.org/.  Here you will also find current job openings and information on rotation opportunities for medical students and residents in addition to physician assistant and nurse practitioner students.