It’s a sunny Wednesday afternoon, and Rush University medical student Vivian Leung gathers a group of second- through eighth-graders around the vegetable garden she helped them plant. “Who remembers what this is?” she asks, pointing toward a patch of green leaves. “Aru-? Arugu-?”
“Arugula!” a boy answers, setting in motion one of many after-school lessons Leung has led as part of what she calls the “edible schoolyard program” at King Elementary, a public school on Chicago’s West Side. She visits the school once a week to discuss, tend and eat the vegetables with children. In the process, Leung is breaking down obstacles to healthy eating that plague many Chicago communities.
King is in the middle of a food desert — an area, usually composed of lower-income communities, whose residents have limited access to grocery stores or other retailers that sell healthy, affordable food. These areas foster unhealthy diets that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and obesity-related metabolic disease.
“As medical students we really want to go out and develop our people-to-people skills, and the clinics and community service opportunities at Rush allow us to do that,” Leung says. “Rush really encourages students to get involved in changing our communities for the better.”
Leung’s experience is one of the stories featured in the Community Benefits Report for Rush’s 2010 fiscal year (July 1, 2009-June 30, 2010). The report features many of the initiatives that reflect Rush’s commitment to community through patient care, education and research.
These activities represent a significant financial commitment: In the past fiscal year, Rush University Medical Center and Rush Oak Park Hospital together provided more than $200 million in community benefits. The largest part of that amount was nearly $136 million in unreimbursed, but much needed, care that Rush provided to its patients.
That amount includes free care for patients who notify Rush ahead of time that they cannot pay for services, care for patients who receive services at Rush but later cannot pay their bills and care for patients whose government insurance does not cover all the costs to Rush to provide those services.
Rush also provided $40.3 million to subsidize Rush University’s work to educate and train future physicians, nurses and allied health professionals; allocated $13.8 million for research to improve patient care; and provided more than $5.7 million in other community benefit programs, which includes donations to various community and medical organizations throughout the Chicago area. Also, Rush maintains a staff of interpreters that makes quality patient care more accessible to Chicago’s diverse population, and provides volunteer time and resources for various community service activities.
Rush is able to provide and support these services because it’s a not-for-profit organization, which means that any revenue that remains after paying expenses is reinvested in the institution and its programs — including a substantial portion dedicated to community benefits.
Maintaining tax-exempt status is crucial to the Medical Center’s efforts to provide critical community services, because it leaves Rush with the revenue needed to pay for them.
“At Rush, we realize that the Medical Center is part of a larger community, and that we have a responsibility to enhance that community’s well-being,” says Larry J. Goodman, MD, Rush CEO. “The community benefits report shows how we’re meeting that responsibility.”
You can explore Rush’s 2011 Community Benefits Report at www.rush.edu/cbr2011.