In 1957, a clinic opened in the kitchen of Erie Neighborhood house on Chicago’s West Side. A volunteer staff provided care for community residents two afternoons a week. This was the very beginning of Erie: a collaboration between co-founders Carmella Jacob and her physician Dr. Robert Snyder to make health care accessible and affordable to everyone.
By the 1970’s, Erie had an annual budget of $38,000, and additional staff to provide specialized care for women and children were brought on board to address community need. At that time, a chance encounter between Dr. Roger Meyer, a pediatrician aiding the new clinic, and Dr. Ann Doege resulted in Dr. Doege’s coming to the clinic as a part-time pediatrician.
Dr. Doege attended medical school at the University of Rochester in New York, where she met her husband, Dr. Theodore Doege, an internist. Ann completed her residency in pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle. After school, together the couple traveled to northern Thailand to help develop a new medical school and stayed there for three years, teaching and assisting with the training of doctors and nurses at Chiang Mai’s Faculty of Medicine.
Once they returned to the states, it was difficult for their children to adjust to American life. Dr. Doege stayed at home with them – but not for long. “When we returned to the Chicago area in 1970, our two children were old enough that the idea of helping take care of children on the West Side appealed to me.”
In those early days, Dr. Doege was witness to much of the groundwork needed to make Erie’s impact grow. She worked alongside Mary Burns, one of Erie’s founders and a Board Member. Burns was a community organizer and volunteer, just as passionate about expanding Erie’s services as she was about spreading the word about them. She brought in numerous grants, partnerships, and in-kind donations for Erie, organized large-scale events, and held classes and activities for senior citizens in the community. Dr. Burns retired after 50 years of service, at 86 years of age. Many called her “Mother Burns.” Mary Burns passed away in 2011, but she is remembered and missed by many at Erie.
“My first time at Erie, I was taken on a tour of the facility,” recalled Dr. Doege. “Mary Burns was closing the center for the day told me she would be back the first thing in the morning to mop the floors!”
Dr. Doege was also friends with Sally Lundeen, a nurse serving as a graduate faculty member of UIC and working on her PhD. Dr. Lundeen became Executive Director of Erie Family Health Center, and wrote the first government grant to increase Erie’s funding. “She was just our Mother Erie,” said Dr. Doege. “She is a remarkable person!”
Dr. Lundeen joined the University of Milwaukee faculty in 1985, and was appointed Dean of the College of Nursing in 2001, where she continued to encourage the use of nurse practitioners. She retired in 2016.
Dr. Doege herself served as medical director, managing the increased patient growth – and the ever increasing need for more exam rooms. “We were very short of space,” she said. “The first time I saw the space at Erie street, it was so dusty! There was sawdust and machinery everywhere.” With the help of an architect, that dusty space became Erie West Town Health Center, which eventually moved to Chicago and Paulina. Just over 10 years later, the site expanded again to Superior and Paulina, serving 15,300 patients in 2016 .
Dr. Doege and her husband have since retired and moved to Hinsdale, but she says she will always remember her time with Erie. They continue to donate to Erie in memory of their dear friend Mary Burns.
Erie is so grateful to founding members like Dr. Anne Doege, Dr. Sally Lundeen, and Mary Burns, who together increased health care access in Chicago. Throughout our 60th anniversary year, we will honor their hard work and commitment by continuing to build Erie Family Health Center into a positive force of change and health justice.
Do you have stories of Erie Family Health Center that you would like to see published in our 60th anniversary year? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your memories!