On June 13th, Massachusetts General Hospital received the Lawyers for Civil Rights' 2019 Keeper of the Flame award, which commemorates the legacy of civil rights activist Rosa Parks. The award was given in recognition of Mass General's 15 year medical-legal partnership in Chelsea through the Legal Initiative for Care (LINC) program.

Two Mass General physicians, Fiona Danaher, MD, and Gene Beresin, MD, were also honored for providing pro bono expert testimony in support of LCR's family reunification efforts.

Attorney Laura Maslow-Armand, director of the Health Disparities Project at LCR and LINC attorney, presented the award. Noting that the health center welcomes immigrants and refugees to its medical facility in one of the most disadvantaged town in the Commonwealth, Maslow-Armand said, "Our mission is to improve family stability by preventing evictions, obtaining disability benefits, enforcing child support orders and petitioning for naturalization." She praised the work of MGH Chelsea's team of 45 community health workers and added, "Our medical-legal partnership has thrived and expanded because of the unwavering commitment of the medical and mental health providers throughout the hospital." 

Dean Xerras, MD, MGH Chelsea HealthCenter's Medical Director, accepted the award on behalf of the hospital. Xerras spoke of how his own medical training 25 years ago was focused around pathophysiology and treatment of disease, not the social determinants behind them. Contrasting that with today, he noted how at all levels of medical education and training, clinicians are learning how social determinants intersect with and affect health outcomes.

"We see this daily in gateway communities like Chelsea. With an army of patient advocates, including our primary care and behavioral health colleagues, our community health workers, and our outstanding partners from LCR, we can address some of the legal issues affecting a person's health, such as homelessness, unemployment and disability," said Xerras.

As she handed the flame-shaped statuette to Dr. Xerras, Maslow-Armand said, "This award commemorates the legacy of Rosa Parks. She surely is applauding us tonight."