Press Release

California's Venice Family Clinic Wins Prestigious Foster G. McGaw Prize For Excellence in Community

Finalists From Farmington, Maine, Columbus, Ind., and Greenville, N.C. Also Recognized

In recognition of its leadership, hospital and community partnerships and its high quality primary health care services, Venice Family Clinic of Venice, Calif. has won the 2005 Foster G. McGaw Prize for excellence in community service—one of the health care field’s most prestigious honors. Venice Family Clinic serves 22,000 low-income, uninsured and minority community members, including more than 3,000 homeless persons, on the west side of Los Angeles county.

Each year, this $100,000 award is presented to a health care organization that provides innovative programs that help improve the health and well-being of the community. The Foster G. McGaw Prize is sponsored by the American Hospital Association (AHA), The Baxter International Foundation and the Cardinal Health Foundation.

Named as finalists and receiving $10,000 each were Franklin Community Health Network in Farmington, Maine, Healthy Communities Initiative of Bartholomew County in Columbus, Ind., and Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C.

“The Foster G. McGaw Prize recognizes health care organizations that demonstrate a passion and commitment to making their communities healthier and more vital,” said Susan Manilow, chair of the Foster G. McGaw Prize Committee. “The truly inspiring work of the 2005 winner and finalists is a testament to this commitment in improving the health and quality of life of their communities. They provide excellent examples for others to follow.”

Launched in 1970 by volunteer physicians Philip Rossman, M.D., founder, and Mayer B. Davidson, M.D., co-founder, Venice Family Clinic first operated at night out of a borrowed dental office. Today, Venice Family Clinic is the largest free clinic in the nation, with a staff of 250 and more than 2,300 volunteers who help fund and deliver comprehensive primary health care as well as specialty and supportive services benefiting 22,000 men, women and children at seven community locations during the nearly 106,000 patient visits they receive annually.

“Venice Family Clinic is unique in the breadth and depth of primary health care and supportive services offered to those with the least access to health care,” said Manilow. “The Clinic has responded to and sustained programs that address the real needs of the people it serves, and it works every day to improve the health and quality of life of the most vulnerable members of its community.”

The many people served by Venice Family Clinic include uninsured working-class and homeless individuals and families, many of them immigrants with little education. The Clinic collaborates with more than 70 health and social service providers, including local hospitals, professional organizations, governmental agencies and community-based organizations across Los Angeles and California.

“The Venice Family Clinic has close to 500 volunteer doctors who provide primary or specialty care at one of the Clinic’s seven sites or at their private offices,” said Clinic CEO Elizabeth Benson Forer. “Our extensive community partnerships with the Los Angeles hospital community mean that someone who is gravely ill and might otherwise die can receive treatment – at times even surgery – at no cost.”

“Most of our patients are hard-working people. Many hold more than one job and are struggling to keep their families safe and healthy but they have no access to health care, so the Clinic has become their family doctor,” added Forer. “But we do more than heal – we also educate our patients on how to manage their own care, as well as provide mental health services to handle the stress of what it means to be poor and uninsured.”

In addition to its strong leadership and partnerships, Venice Family Clinic was recognized for a wide array of responsive, high quality programs and services, including:

  • Mental Health Services: Depression, anxiety, exposure to violence and social stress related to poverty, homelessness and immigration are some of the community needs that led to the creation of mental health services at the Venice Family Clinic in 1993. The program has grown since then to include medical management, counseling, support groups, case management and specialized programs addressing domestic violence, homelessness and post-traumatic stress as a result of torture or human trafficking. In addition, anti-depressants and other medications are available to patients free of charge at the Clinic’s two on-site dispensaries.
  • Diabetes Care Management Program: For 35 years, Venice Family Clinic has provided medical treatment for people with diabetes. In the past five years, services have been enhanced significantly, with a focus on both the prevention and standardization of medical and educational services. In 2001, the Clinic joined a national quality-improvement initiative sponsored by the state’s Bureau of Primary HealthCare. Results demonstrate improvements in both quality of care and clinical outcomes for 1,800 diabetics receiving care.
  • Community Health Training Programs: The Clinic partners with more than a dozen academic institutions, including UCLA, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente, to provide 33 clinical and community health training programs benefiting more than 350 medical trainees and future health professionals annually in a wide array of disciplines, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work and public health.
  • Public Health Insurance Outreach and Enrollment Program: The Clinic launched an on-site health insurance enrollment and education service in 1999. The Clinic’s health insurance team educates new immigrants and other vulnerable, low-income groups about the value of health insurance, assists eligible patients in enrolling in public health insurance programs, and instructs them about covered benefits and appropriate utilization of services. To date, the Clinic has enrolled more than 4,500 patients, including nearly 2,500 pregnant women who often then bring their newborns in for well-baby care.
  • Pharmacy Access Program: Venice Family Clinic’s pharmacy program is unique among community clinics and is a key component of its high-quality care. Through two on-site dispensaries, the program dispenses more than 100,000 prescriptions annually to the Clinic’s 16,500 uninsured patients and facilitates pharmaceutical access to 4,500 more patients with prescription benefits through public health insurance programs. Among the most expensive treatments are drugs to combat pain as well as chronic and terminal illness, including arthritis, asthma, diabetes, high cholesterol, gastrointestinal disorders, high-blood pressure and depression.

The Foster G. McGaw Prize finalists were also recognized for their significant accomplishments in community service:

  • Franklin Community Health Network in Farmington, Maine, for its efforts to promote collaboration among disparate health organizations to produce a model rural health network.
  • Healthy Communities Initiative of Bartholomew County in Columbus, Ind., for its broad-based community collaboration to address the county’s greatest health care needs.
  • Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C., for its innovative programs to improve the health of individuals in the community through strong community partnerships.

About the AHA

The AHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, which include nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and 43,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at

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