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Puentes de Salud – Providing “Bridges of Health” in a New Home Base

“This is a tremendous day for the community…”
“What an honor and pleasure it is to see this dream come true…”
“This has been a labor of love…”


Positive emotions were running high when these heartfelt remarks were heard at an open house for the nonprofit health and wellness organization Puentes de Salud or “Bridges of Health” – this past Saturday, April 25. The festive celebration marked Puentes’ achieving a long-range goal by opening its doors at a new Philadelphia facility, a permanent home for the program’s longstanding efforts to provide low-cost primary care and a range of educational and social services to the city’s Latino immigrants.

Penn Medicine donated the space to establish the clinic, and its funds toward the $1.2 million renovation of the clinic set the stage for additional foundation grants and in-kind donations from area construction, engineering and supply companies.

Click below for a full photo gallery.

The new 7,000-square-foot clinic and education center – its full name the Puentes de Salud Health and Wellness Center – is part of the Penn Medicine Rittenhouse campus, located at 17th and South Streets. Puentes, which was featured recently in the Philadelphia City Paper, has grown over the past decade since its founding to be recognized as a national model for immigrant health and wellness.

“You read a lot about the use of new research, technology and buildings in health care, but this is where it really happens, down here on the street,” said Kevin B. Mahoney, vice dean for Integrative Services, senior vice president and chief administrative officer, University of Pennsylvania Health System. “And it’s the passion and vision of the Puentes co-founders that we must recognize.”

Penn Medicine physicians Steven C. Larson, MD, an associate professor of Emergency Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and Jack Ludmir, MD, chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Pennsylvania Hospital, co-founded Puentes in 2006. Both physicians share a common philosophy of maintaining low cost health care by preventing illness and addressing the socioeconomic factors that affect patient outcomes. “Our aim is to keep them out of the hospital,” Larson told the City Paper.

Ludmir agrees. “Costs would be much lower if women got treatment that prevented problems during pregnancy rather than waiting for problems to arise,” he said to the City Paper.

By 2013, Larson and Ludmir, along with a legion of volunteers and donors, were providing health care to over 3,300 patients annually on a shoestring budget at multiple locations, including space at Penn’s Tuttleman Center and Pennsylvania Hospital. Now, within the new, larger location, Puentes is projected to accommodate 10,000 visits a year, from primarily the Latino community but also other immigrant populations and any uninsured U.S. citizen in need of emergency medical care.

Both Ludmir and Larson steer clear of the politics of treating immigrant populations. “We’re health care providers,” said Larson. “I signed an oath that didn't have anything to do with geographic boundaries or anything but a life. The way I look at it, that's my responsibility.”

The new center allows Puentes’ clinical footprint to physically expand, with extended hours five days a week plus two evenings. The center is staffed mostly by volunteers from Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, as well as students and staff from the schools of Nursing, Dental, and Law. The facility offers an array of treatment diagnostic, educational and language services, and partners with Latina Community Health Services, based at Pennsylvania Hospital, to provide comprehensive prenatal and obstetrical care.

The new facility includes exam rooms for medical and dental treatment, large space for educational classes, space for behavioral and mental health counseling, and a kitchen for healthy-eating classes. 

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