Community Health Centers – A Place of Caring

In today’s blog Melissa Eltringham remembers her time as a college student and patient at Fenway Health in Boston, MA.

Melissa and Fred Boston, MA 1996

Navigating health care as a college student in Boston in the early 90s was precarious at best. No matter what ailment troubled me or my fellow students, the Boston University student health services clinic mysteriously diagnosed all of us with something universally cured by penicillin. Seriously, they had some sort of supply closet overloaded with it because it didn’t matter what the complaint – we would all get handed a mini bottle of white pills and told to take with a lot of water. Not even followed by a “call us in the morning.”

The journalism student in me was outraged. I envisioned a huge award-winning masterpiece in the Daily Free Press where I blew their penicillin dusted cover and became a hero on the campus of the esteemed College of Communication. Alumni like Howard Stern and Andy Cohen didn’t have anything on me. Well, actually they did because clearly their successful careers reflect a quality of tenacity and follow-through that my struggling inner journalist didn’t possess.

What I did possess were big listening ears. Working part-time on Newbury Street and co-mingling with fellow students from schools like Emerson, Northeastern, and Berklee College of Music, I often heard musings of being taken care of at “the Fenway.” Birth control? “Go to the Fenway.” HIV test? “The Fenway has your back.” Strep throat? “They’ll give you a throat culture at the Fenway.” Not being a sport person, which I know is blasphemous in a town like Boston, I knew this referral wasn’t about Fenway Park. I happened to live on Hemenway Street with my boyfriend in an area referred to as the Fenway and the Fenway Community Health Center, or FCHC,  was only a few steps away.

When I got engaged at the ridiculously young age of 20 and started planning my wedding a year later, I knew once more the FCHC would be my saving grace as it had been for my entire community of friends and colleagues and fellow students during those golden early and mid-90s years.I was informed a blood test would be involved with getting a marriage license so I decided to give the FCHC a call. They immediately booked me and my fiancé an appointment. I felt comforted and taken care of and most of all, seen. Furthermore, payment was never an issue of stress as the FCHC was my first introduction into the world of a sliding scale, which is the greatest wedding gift one could give an extremely young, naive, and financially insecure bride-to-be.

Melissa and Fred Santa Rosa Beach, FL 2021

I just celebrated my 25th anniversary. Everyone said we were crazy to get married so young. Looking back, I agree with them! All of those little gestures along the way helped us to arrive at this special silver anniversary. The supportive team at FCHC is one of those monumental seeds of strength that helped us get here. They are truly a pillar of community strength. And also, they never once suggested a prescription for penicillin!

Click here to find a Community Health Center and Federally Qualified Health Centers in your area

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