Christ Health Center was opened in March of 2009. The dream, however, was born long before that. Christ Health Center's vision to make a difference in the health of those uninsured and underinsured in Birmingham has been years in the making. Dr. Robert Record, a "transplant" to Birmingham, and Dr. John Fischer, a "local", both loved Birmingham and were excited to help eliminate the healthcare gap that exists in our community. What started off with two medical residents with a dream became a vision and is now reality.
God gave Dr. Record and Dr. Fischer a heart for those who struggle to make ends meet. Asked about Jesus' heart for the poor, many quote "The poor you will always have with you." (Matthew 26:11) Little do they know that this verse reflects back to Deuteronomy 15:11, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." Around the poverty mandate, the vision took life and our initial Board formed.
For years, Dr. Record and Dr. Fischer studied successful urban development and healthcare entities in East St. Louis, Memphis, Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta and other cities. Through this came a desire to replicate in Birmingham the work already begun in these cities. In 2005, they received a Compassion Capital Collaborative sub-award through Christian Community Health Fellowship to help establish Christ Health Center's initial clinic on the campus of The Foundry, a residential alcohol and drug recovery ministry in Bessemer, Alabama. There they were able to refine their vision while serving both the residents of The Foundry and the good people who live in and around Bessemer. We are called to love and serve our neighbors as we fulfill the Great Commission. In so doing, Christ Health Center's three-pronged strategy developed. First, we provide excellent healthcare to children, women and men with little access to such services. More than a million words, this delivers the message of the gospel with resounding clarity. Second, we are working to create a trusted connecting point for friends to get involved among communities of need. Why shouldn't Birmingham be the clearest testimony in the world of neighborly love? Third, and most captivating, we long for the day that the unredeemed of our society collectively recognize our excellence and come to understand that it is truly the presence of God that makes all the difference. Late in 2007, Dr. Record and Dr. Fischer were presented with the opportunity to purchase the Eastern Health Department building in Woodlawn. They pursued the building with vigor and found great partners in the process. Church of the Highlands informed them it had a vision for holistic community transformation that included increased access to healthcare for those who struggle. Much like our Foundry relationship, the Church's Birmingham Dream Center became an excellent community development partner and a landlord willing to rent clinical space for below market-rate. Initial operating capital came in the form of a large grant from the Daughters of Charity religious order. In March of 2009, we were able to open what is now a fully renovated 16,600 square foot clinic with 18 exam rooms, 6 dental operatory and a pharmacy.
In the spring of 2013, with the arrival of twins to Dr. Fischer's growing family, he reluctantly left Christ Health Center to pursue opportunities which would allow his wife to remain home with their three young children. The Bessemer clinic was closed, with the UAB School of Nursing later opening a primary care clinic in the same location to continue to serve Foundry residents and other patients in that area. The Woodlawn location was awarded a Section 330 grant as a federally qualified health center in November, 2013. Dr. Record continues to serve Christ Health Center under the direction of a governing community Board of Directors. By the end of 2015, the Woodlawn clinic provided over 15,000 medical and dental patient visits. We are excited about what the Lord has in store for our future as continue to work to eradicate the healthcare gap that exists in our city.