For the past 15 years, I’ve had one of the greatest jobs in the world. In September of 1996, I hopped on board as the medical director of the Teen Health Van for the San Francisco Peninsula Children’s Health Project, a partnership of Children’s Health Fund and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. The clinic on wheels was established to provide accessible, comprehensive health care to uninsured youth in the San Francisco Bay Area and as with all of CHF’s programs we wanted the Health Van to be a place our patients could depend on – a place where they knew they could see a doctor or nurse that they could trust. Since we launched 15 years ago, our van has been just that for over 3,500 kids in the San Francisco area.
In Packard Children’s recent announcement about our 15th Anniversary, we told the story of one of our patients, 22-year old Cathy Arines. Today, Cathy is a healthy woman with a job and long-term boyfriend, but that wasn’t always the case. When I first met Cathy in January of 2007, she was homeless and was completely malnourished. She says of the Health Van, "If I didn't have the help then, I would probably be sick or have died by now."
Since her first visit, Cathy has visited the van regularly for check-ups, learned how to care for her body, and got back on the right track. She graduated from high school with her class in June 2007 and now has a full-time job at Macy's and even a part-time business doing freelance makeup for weddings and special events.
Cathy is just one of the many amazing young people we have been able to help through our mobile program over the last 15 years. We know, though, that in these times of economic hardship, there are many more young adults in our area that need our help.
For more information and the current schedule for the Health Van visit www.adolescenthealthvan.lpch.org.