Our History

St. Thomas Community Health Center is the successor corporation to the St. Thomas Health Services Clinic. The clinic was started in 1987 by two Sisters of Charity (Sister Marion Puerzer and Sister Jane Meurschel) in association with resident leaders of the St. Thomas Housing Development. The original clinic was in the St. Thomas Housing Development, then the largest public housing complex in the United States. The Clinic moved to its present location in 1991 after more than $400,000 was raised to remodel a high school gymnasium belonging to the Redemptorist Order of the Catholic Church.

Throughout its history, St Thomas has had broad and consistent support from various aspects of the community. The St Thomas Housing Development Resident Council was instrumental in providing support and direction for the initial development of the clinic. The Resident Council and the St. Thomas Irish Channel Consortium were leaders in developing a community driven, accountable, anti-racist healthcare model. Early on, the Resident Council required the health care providers at the clinic to have special training in addressing racism and poverty. This training has been provided by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, well known in New Orleans and nationally for community organizing and Undoing Racism training.

Ochsner Clinic Foundation, the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, Trinity Episcopal Church, Mercy Health Systems, LSU Schools of Public Health and Medicine, and Xavier University, and individual physician volunteers, have all provided important financial and personnel support over the years. The Catholic Order of Redemptorist Brothers of St Alphonsus Parish provided rent free use of the building after the remodeling.

The clinic has been an important site for the training of Medical Students, Internal Medicine Residents, Family Practice Residents, Nurse Practitioners, and PharmD students from LSU, Ochsner, Xavier and Tulane. It has been an attractive training site because of its position in a vibrant community setting.

Post Katrina

St Thomas’ operations were completely disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. The 25 full time staff members were scattered across the country, unable to return. Service was halted. The clinic was closed, basically without financial or personnel support. The old corporation (St Thomas Health Service) was discontinued, and a new corporation (St Thomas Community Health Center) formed, and began operations immediately post Katrina.

Benefactors who helped us repair the facility and begin operations included:

  • The Baldwin County Alabama Baptist Builders Association.
  • The Episcopal Bishop’s Emergency Relief and Development Fund, through Bishop Charles Jenkins.
  • Trinity Episcopal Church, New Orleans, through its Rector rev. Dabney Smith, and its Development Office.
  • The Presbyterian Church, through St Charles Presbyterian Church in New Orleans.
  • The Morehouse School of Medicine.
  • The Association of Black Cardiologists.
  • The Louisiana Public Health Institute.
  • Various Episcopal Churches across the United States.
  • The Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Foundation of New Orleans.
  • Direct Relief Incorporated.
  • The Area Health Education Centers.

The following is a partial list of grants and other support, primarily related to post Katrina recovery, which have enabled St Thomas Community Health Center to continually evolve, and to provide both comprehensive primary care, as well as offer important specialty consultative care to our community which has very limited specialty services available. It includes:

  • The Primary Care Access and Stabilization Grant.
  • The Komen Foundation.
  • The Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program, administered by the LSU School of Public Health, and the CDC grants funding for cancer services.
  • The EENT Foundation of New Orleans.
  • The Episcopal Dioceses Louisiana and Southwest Florida, and Bishops Jenkins and Smith.
  • Ochsner Clinic Foundation Department of Cardiology.
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
  • The Kelsey Favrot Family and Friends.
  • DHH/Maternal and Child Health Program.
  • Johnson and Johnson.
  • The Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • The National Association of Free Clinics.
  • Operation USA.
  • AmeriCares, for both building supplies and ongoing support.
  • The Association of Black Cardiologists through the support of Keith C Ferdinand, M.D..
  • The Morehouse School of Medicine, through the support of Dr David Satcher.
  • The Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation.
  • The American College of Cardiology.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana.
  • Astra Zeneca Pharmaceutical Corporation.
  • The Toshiba Corporation.
  • The Cardio Science Corporation.
  • The St Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, and the University Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge.
  • Consultative support from K. E. Hughes, Associate Dean, E. J Ourso College of Business, Louisiana State University.
  • Consultative support from Jerome Kassirer, M.D., Tufts University School of Medicine.
  • Consultative support from Samuel Thier, M.D. Partners Healthcare System, Boston Mass.

The generosity of strangers, and support from people who just want to help has been truly amazing.