When much of the West Side of Chicago was destroyed in the riots that followed Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in April 1968, many businesses fled the area. Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital, as RUSH University Medical Center was known at the time, chose to stay on the West Side, providing both the health care and job opportunities so badly needed by the neighboring community.
King himself had lived just a four-mile drive from the hospital in 1966, when he and his family moved to a small apartment on 1500 S. Hamlin Ave. in the Lawndale neighborhood at the invitation of the Chicago Freedom Movement, a civil rights coalition working to improve living conditions for Black Chicago residents.
Today, RUSH is working to improve the health and economic conditions of West Side residents through the numerous community service and health equity initiatives listed below. “Our commitment to health equity is one way to live out (King’s) legacy, today and always,” says Dr. Omar Lateef, president and CEO of RUSH.
“We’re very grateful and appreciative of our partnership with RUSH and look forward to continuing this work by building up this community, which has had tremendous challenges, so that we can increase the quality of life for all of God’s children,” says Pastor Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Church in West Garfield Park.
RUSH is committed to addressing the root causes of disease through partnerships and innovation
- RUSH’s Anchor Mission Strategy defines the organization’s commitment to supporting community health and economic vitality for 12 West Side communities through hiring, purchasing, volunteering and investing.
- RUSH has a close collaboration with outside partners, including West Side United, a coalition to address inequities in health care, education, economic vitality and the physical environment.
- RUSH is part of the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative, a group of residents, faith-based organizations and health care institutions, nonprofits and other stakeholders that work and live in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood. Rite to Wellness’ proposal for a wellness village in the community is among six finalists for the 2022 Pritzker Traubert Foundation Chicago Prize, which includes a $10 million award to further community development and economic opportunity on Chicago’s South and West Sides.
- Rush University and the University of Chicago are establishing a center that will support research to address health disparities among Blacks and Latinos in the Chicago region.
- RUSH partners with West Side churches through West Side ALIVE to screen for preventive diseases. These screenings drive knowledge about health care needs within the community.
- RUSH brings its community commitment to life in many more innovative ways, including the following:
- Community-Based Practices
- RUSH’s Food is Medicine program
- A Safe Haven in the Sue Gin Health Center at Oakley Square
- Family Connects
- The Center to Transform Health and Housing
- RUSH’s Community Health Worker Hub
- The RUSH University College of Nursing Faculty Practice
- Community Health Equity and Engagement initiatives
- Social work and community health services
- RUSH Surplus Project
- RUSH is striving to combat climate change in order to ultimately improve health, particularly in neighborhoods where, historically, there has been disinvestment.
- Other efforts across RUSH include free integrative health treatments, support groups and educational programs for cancer patients; Reach Out and Read — promoting early literacy and school readiness; preventive care including diabetes education; free smoking cessation courses, mammograms and heart-healthy lifestyle interventions.
- More of this work is described in Community Health Needs Assessment/Community Health Implementation Plan and Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement Impact Report.
- The RUSH BMO Institute for Health Equity coordinates, scales and sustains RUSH’s health equity programs in the communities it serves. The institute is one of the key initiatives to address health disparities that cause a 16-year life expectancy gap between the Loop and West Garfield Park. The goal is to reduce the life expectancy gap by 50% by 2030.
RUSH is developing a diverse talent pipeline for the health care workforce of the future and one that is focused on achieving health equity.
- Through the RUSH Community Service Initiatives Program — a national role model for more than 30 years — RUSH University students, faculty, residents, fellows and staff use their distinct skills and talents to make a difference in our community and beyond.
- The RUSH Education and Career Hub, or REACH, provides innovative, hands-on STEM learning for underrepresented students to increase postsecondary achievement and diversity in health care and STEM professions. REACH includes the RU MedSchool boot camp, which helps pre-med students achieve.
- Health Equity Research Scholars, the Health Equity and Social Justice Leadership Program and the GME Health Equity track are both intended to help educate future health care leaders to advocate for health equity throughout their careers.
- The MA Apprenticeship Program, a collaboration between RUSH and Harper College, pays for students’ tuition and books while offering them hourly pay and benefits.
RUSH honors MLK Day with service and learning
In a longstanding annual tradition, RUSH students, faculty and staff will observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day by participating in wide range of volunteer and educational activities at RUSH sites and in the surrounding communities. Activities will take place both on MLK Day and before and after the holiday.
RUSH University Day of Service, Jan. 16
RUSH University students, staff and faculty are invited to participate in a wide variety of service activities to honor and advance King’s vision. Opportunities to participate include preparing breakfast for men and women at Franciscan Outreach; providing flu vaccinations and health education in Little Village; making blankets for people who are homeless; assisting with pipeline programs for community school children; attending a keynote speech and much more.
Virtual Event: Community, Not Chaos, Jan. 18, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
A virtual panel will discuss and reflect on King’s legacy of hope to reclaim justice, equity and liberty. Sponsored by RUSH Generations and the Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement. Register Here
RUSH Oak Park Hospital Coat Drive, Jan. 9-20
RUSH Oak Park Hospital's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is conducting a coat drive to help community members facing hardship. The committee is accepting new and/or gently used and freshly laundered coats. Collection bins are located near the entrance to the hospital cafeteria on the second floor. The drive is part of the DEI Committee’s MLK Day of Service, when they will be providing coats and care packages to community members facing hardship, including those in need in the hospital’s Emergency Department, inpatient units, and warming center.
Support RUSH’s Community Health Fund
This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, please consider making a gift to RUSH’s Community Health Fund. The fund supports RUSH University Medical Center in fulfilling its commitment to improving the quality of life within the diverse communities neighboring the medical center through initiatives and partnerships that provide access to safe housing, quality education, reliable transportation, healthy food and other essential building blocks to good health.