Janelle Goetcheus had served the poor in Washington, D.C.'s inner city for seven years when this article appeared. She was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and attended medical school at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
Dr. Goetcheus was the recipient of the 1984 A.H. Robins Award "For Outstanding Community Service by a Physician." She is known at Sojourners as not only a compassionate family doctor, but also a longtime trusted friend. The following interview took place at Columbia Road Health Services. —The Editors
Sojourners: Could you tell about the work you're doing here in the city and the people you are serving?
Janelle Goetcheus: I'm at three health services here in Washington. One is Columbia Road Health Services, which is a part of several forms of outreach of Church of the Saviour here in the neighborhood. Columbia Road came about with two goals. One, to reach out to those who are underserved medically, and two, to practice in a holistic model—not focusing just on physical needs but also on spiritual and emotional needs as a part of overall health. So we practice in a team, and many of the people who come here do not see just one of the practitioners, they also see one of the pastoral counselors, one of the social workers, or the nutritionist.
The people who come here to the health service are people who live in the neighborhood, many in low-income housing. In the mid-'80s, we saw a marked increase in the number of Hispanic refugees from El Salvador and other Central American countries. They arrived here needing housing, needing jobs, and needing health care.