Hispanic Center May Close Doors
Pol aims to save health program
BY ETHAN ROUEN
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
With the Hispanic population skyrocketing nationwide and more than half of Bronx residents speaking Spanish, the federal government is looking to eliminate a borough program designed to train minority doctors and provide health care to that underserved group.
The Hispanic Center of Excellence at Albert Einstein College of Medicine lost all federal funding this year and will close by May if it can't find the cash, Rep. Joseph Crowley said yesterday, making a pitch to save the program.
"At a time when the President should be improving health care and funding health care services, President Bush and this Republican-controlled Congress undermine important health issues such as this center for excellence," he said.
Last year, the Center of Excellence program, which set up health care programs in underserved communities across the country, funded 34 schools with $32.6 million. This year, it received $12 million to fund only four traditionally black colleges.
Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens) said he will propose a budget amendment in November to take money away from programs like abstinence-only education and provide $43 million for the Centers of Excellence.
While girding themselves for the financial disaster, students and faculty at Einstein say they will try to protect as many aspects of the program as possible.
Maria Marzan, the co-director of the five-year-old center, said the school will look for alternate sources of funding.
Still, the Spanish medical language course, which teaches students bilingual medical jargon, is in danger of being canceled.
"For those who speak Spanish, it doesn't mean they know the medical terminology" in Spanish, she said.
Of 180 students in the current class, 120 registered for the language program.
Einstein's appeal, several students said, is its work in the poor communities of the Bronx. To preserve that appeal, the school will keep its clinic in the South Bronx regardless of funding problems.
The clinic is open Saturdays, and is run by Einstein students who provide care and advice to those without insurance. It sees 500 patients a year.
For Bronx native Bianca Martinez, 24, the clinic is her chance to give back and improve her community.
"You want to go back and help your own people," said Martinez, a second-year medical student. "With this center, you can do that."
Originally published on August 25, 2006