Neighborhood Gets Dose Of Good Medicine


December 13, 1992|By SANDRA CROCKETT

Jonathan Johns has moved away from his East Baltimore neighborhood but he hasn't forgotten it.

Mr. Johns, a student at Johns Hopkins University, and a small group of his fraternity brothers provided the sweat work that transformed an abandoned rowhouse into a neighborhood community health center that is scheduled to open this month.

The idea was born a few years ago, when a group of East Baltimore clergymen began bringing the message of preventive health care to their parishioners. From that start, the idea came to open a community health-care center in the neighborhood.

The group worked with Lowell Whitehurst, president of the Collington Square Non-Profit Corp., on an abandoned, badly deteriorated rowhouse in the 2000 block of Mura St.

Mr. Whitehurst was the engineer in charge of getting the house in shape.

He did the technical and structural work on the rowhouse. But it was Mr. Johns, 19, and his fraternity brothers who wallpapered, painted and scrubbed the place clean this past summer -- while holding down regular jobs. "These boys have been instrumental in getting this place together," Mr. Whitehurst says.

On a recent afternoon Mr. Johns talked of the project and of his own plans for a career in medicine.

Q: Who came up with the idea?

A: CURE -- Clergy United for Renewal in East Baltimore -- came up with the idea to take the message of preventive health care to the people. There is a high rate of cancer in East Baltimore and a lot of people go to church. So, CURE got together with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to plan the center.

Q: How did you get involved?

A: Brothers in my fraternity became involved in January. We attended a public health class where we learned about the project, and it sparked a bit of interest, especially in me. I am from East Baltimore. We contacted people and found out that they were trying to build community health centers. Lowell was the brains behind it. We provided the muscle.

Q: When did you start working on the house?

A: We started it in June and finished about the end of August.

Q: Who is going to staff the center?

A: It will be staffed by a trained nurse from Hopkins and trained volunteers from the community. There will be free screenings for things like TB and high cholesterol. Also, techniques in preventive health care will be taught. Patients who need additional medical attention will be referred to clinics willing to see patients on the same day they are referred.

Q: Will you be involved in the center?

A: We [he and the other men] will be involved. We plan on becoming counselors at the new center so we can educate others about heart disease and stroke.

Q: With all of your schoolwork, how much time can you and your fraternity brothers devote to the center?

A: We are getting trained on Saturdays and we will be volunteering time as our schedules allow. Basically, we will be there on the weekends -- Saturdays and Sundays.

Q: What sort of an impact do you hope the center will have on the neighborhood?

A: First and foremost the 'care' will be right there -- right in the community. If you are worried about going to a large hospital -- hey, here is a small community center right in the neighborhood. And we hope to help educate the community. Primary care is so easy to give. Why not have a place to give it in? After all, knowing how to prevent something is half the battle.

Q: You grew up in East Baltimore? Where did you go to school and what sparked your interest in health care?

A: I graduated from Dunbar in 1990. Becoming a doctor was something I've been striving for since the seventh grade. Something triggered the interest in me.

Q: Where do you plan on going to medical school when you graduate?

A: I would love to go to Hopkins. I know the place now. I'm in no hurry to go anywhere else but if fate takes me some place else, that's OK, too.

Q: Does your family still live in East Baltimore?

A: No, they moved to Northeast Baltimore. But my grandmother still lives right there -- on Biddle Street.

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