Our Neighbors on the Front Lines-- United Way of Metro Chicago
Our Neighbors on the Front Lines-- United Way of Metro Chicago

All year long, PCC Community Wellness Center (PCC) provides healthcare to our underserved neighbors on Chicago’s West side and western suburbs. In the wake of COVID-19, PCC jumped into action to respond to the growing need in these neighborhoods. 

To support this work, the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund provided a grant to help PCC’s clinics continue to operate during this critical time. 

But none of these efforts would be possible without our neighbors on the front lines — the doctors, nurses, receptionists, custodians and other essential workers who bring the work of organizations like PCC to life. Our neighbors like Drs. Paul Luning, Sarah Tarnowsky and Emma Worringer. 

Together, they’ve steered PCC’s ship amid this crisis. 

“It restores my faith in humanity to see the people who work at PCC,” said Dr. Luning, PCC’s chief medical officer. “They absolutely put themselves in harm’s way because they know there are patients that need to be taken care of and patients who don’t have other places to go.”

“It’s been remarkable how little I needed to try to rally the troops,” he added. “They really rallied themselves and asked ‘What can I do? Put me to work.’”

Connecting to the Community

Early on in the statewide shutdown, one of PCC’s school-based clinics was forced to close. Rather than heading home, their team transitioned to planning, launching and running a call center and hotline for residents. 

“We quickly realized we needed an easy way for patients to talk to somebody to get information about the coronavirus,” said Dr. Worringer, who led the effort. 

Each day, their medical professionals answer hundreds of calls and provide medical advice about the virus and its effects. “There are lots of questions about what to do at home or work and how to self-isolate,” Dr. Worringer added. 

These calls also present an opportunity to address patients’ non-medical needs like housing and employment, said Dr. Tarnowsky, who specializes in community medicine. The medical professionals share other resources and refer callers to United Way community partners like Austin Coming Together for help. 

Flattening the Curve

To minimize COVID-19’s spread, PCC also created two pop-up testing sites at their Austin and Belmont Cragin health centers. This is in addition to seeing thousands of general patients via telehealth services and in-person when needed. 

These testing sites are in communities that have been hit hardest by this virus and are faced with the underlying disparities that have made certain populations more vulnerable to it. 

Both Black and Latinx Chicagoans have been “under-tested” but “over-represented in deaths” from COVID-19, Dr. Luning said. 

Showing Up for Others

Though they’re facing some of the greatest challenges in their careers, these doctors and PCC’s staff are going above and beyond every day. In the face of this hardship, they’re staying motivated by focusing on what they can do — care for others. 

“As healthcare providers, we’re always looking for ways to help,” Dr. Tarnowsky said. 

“The fact that we’ve been able to keep people safe and talk to these patients every day and be able to explain these things and help people feel reassured and empowered to take care of themselves has been a really rewarding experience.” 

Patients who are interested in testing or have questions about COVID-19 should call PCC’s COVID-19 hotline at 773-295-3347. 

With your support, health care providers can continue to treat and heal our most vulnerable neighbors. Donate to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Fund today!