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Carmen Velasquez (BS ‘63) founded Alivio Medical Center in 1989. The center now serves nearly 27,000 patients a year.

at the health center on Western Avenue grew so rapidly that Alivio had to look for a new site. The second, and larger, Alivio community health center opened in Pilsen in 2000. A third freestanding clinic opened in Cicero in 2008, and there are three school-based health centers in the Alivio net- work. In March of this year, a new facility opened in Berwyn, and another school-based center in Benito Juarez High School is about to open. Alivio serves nearly 27,000 patients annually, regardless of ability to pay.

Many of Alivio’s patients receive vital services—such as primary care, pre- natal care, dentistry for children, and health education—that they would otherwise struggle to afford, or not receive at all. The center also hosts community health fairs and classes, and the in-house pharmacy provides reduced-cost medication. Alivio’s bilingual, bicultural providers create a welcoming and respectful environment for their patients and at the same time provide cost-effective and high-quality care. “Part of our whole goal was that we wanted that commitment to

advocacy,” Velasquez says. “If you look at what we developed, there’s an incredible involvement with and commitment to the communities we serve. It’s not only primary care and health education; it’s all the things that impact our patients’ quality of life on a day-to-day basis. As we say on our business cards, we have an active presence for a strong community. We are ever-present.”

VELASQUEZ HAS RECEIVED NUMEROUS AWARDS for her tireless advo- cacy, and will be honored with the Damen Award at Loyola’s Founders’ Dinner this coming June. In 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed October 2 “Carmen Velasquez Day” throughout the state. Velasquez retired in March of this year. Among the things she plans to

do in retirement is advocate on behalf of the immigrant community seek- ing inclusion in the Affordable Care Act. After a long career of advocating for the underserved and fighting for

access to health care, Velasquez gained valuable insights about how to get things done. “First, you have to have the passion and that fire in your belly to go after

something,” she says. “Second, you can’t let anybody drive your car. I knew where I wanted to go, and I knew also where I didn’t want to be taken. But you don’t do it by yourself. You do it with a staff and board who support the day-to-day operations, with stakeholders who support the services we provide, and a core group of people who believe in the mission and have the same passion to do what is right.” Thanks to Velasquez and those who work at Alivio, tens of thousands of people have access to affordable, respectful health care.



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