Our History

The story of Erie Family Health Center began in 1957 with a compassionate physician and an elderly patient in need of health care. The physician was Dr. Robert Snyder, an internist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and his patient was Carmela Jacob.

Carmela, a longtime resident of Chicago’s West Town community, was frustrated by the problems that she and other West Town residents encountered when they tried to obtain health care services. Recognizing an unmet need in the community, Dr. Snyder began providing onsite medical care for senior citizens at Erie Neighborhood House, a community center for immigrants in West Town — and Erie Family Health Center was born.

With the assistance of Northwestern University medical students and community volunteers, the clinic began providing geriatric health care services two evenings a week. Over the next 10 years, Northwestern medical students expressed a growing interest in staffing a student-run clinic to provide community based medical services for low-income families. This dream was realized in 1968, when Erie expanded its services to serve low-income children and adults.

By 1970, Erie had evolved into a full-service community health center and was officially incorporated as a separate entity from Erie Neighborhood House. The 1980s brought more growth and change: The Erie Senior Health Center was established onsite at a high-rise apartment complex for senior citizens. The Erie Teen Health Center was converted from a makeshift clinic in an apartment into a full-fledged clinic in 1985. In 1986, our original health center moved from Erie Street to Chicago Avenue. Erie established a full service Humboldt Park health center in 1986. In 1988, Chicago’s mayor declared October 6 Erie Family Health Center Day in recognition of Erie’s contributions to the health and well-being of Chicago’s medically underserved communities.

As the years passed, the number of patients in need of comprehensive, culturally sensitive health care services continued to increase. By 1987, our West Town location was serving more than 2,000 patients a month.

Today, Erie serves more than 50,000 medical and 9,300 dental patients a year at 13 health centers, including four large primary care centers that offer integrated medical and dental health services, three additional large primary care centers, the region’s only stand-alone teen and young adult health center, and five school-based health centers.

Although more than half a century has passed since Dr. Snyder first began providing medical care for West Town’s elderly, our mission remains the same: to deliver high quality health care services to Chicago’s medically underserved residents with compassion and respect—regardless of their ability to pay.