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May Opening Set for Whitman-Walker Clinic’s New 14th Street Health Center Building

Ben Lasky*

Whitman-Walker Health, founded in 1978 as Whitman-Walker Clinic to serve the gay and lesbian community in DC and in the ensuing years has been a leader in the fight against AIDS while at the same time expanding its services to include overall primary healthcare, is moving from its main facility at 14th & R Streets a couple of blocks south to a brand new building at 1525 14th Street. While the grand opening will take place in early June, Whitman-Walker expects to begin serving patients on May 18.

View looking east across 14th from the corner with Church Street.

View looking east across 14th from the corner with Church Street.

Unlike the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, the new facility was built to Whitman-Walker Health’s specifications. According to its director of communications, Shawn Jain, the current medical center was not designed to be a healthcare facility, and is simply too cramped.

“Whitman-Walker is a leader in providing affirming, culturally sensitive, world-class healthcare, and we have been for a long time. But I don’t think our facilities have always reflected that fact,” Jain told The InTowner. “But I think this facility really will. And it’s a place that people from all walks of life, regardless of what your job is, are going to feel comfortable getting care at.”

2nd floor waiting area with view out window looking west along Church Street.

2nd floor waiting area with view out window looking west along Church Street.

The new building will be a clear upgrade over the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center. When the facility opens, it will increase the number of exam rooms from 12 to 24. Dental rooms will go from three to nine. The phlebotomy stations will be tripled. And it will offer a larger pharmacy.

3rd floor waiting area.

3rd floor waiting area.

According to Jain, the new facility will be strictly a medical building. Aside from a staff break area with a few board rooms on the sixth floor, the new building will be patient space. All administrative duties will continue to take place in the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center building, and it will remain that way for a couple years.

“Our board of directors is currently in a process to evaluate opportunities for redevelopment of the Elizabeth Taylor site. So long term, we do think that that site will be developed in some way,” Jain told this reporter.

Jain says the decision of how to redevelop the Elizabeth Taylor building will be made in the next couple of months.

3rd floor client services area.

3rd floor client services area.

While Whitman-Walker Health is most known for its work with patients with HIV and AIDS, its services reach far beyond. The new facility will offer Yoga, acupuncture and Reiki. Some of the other services available are women’s healthcare, transgender care, research, STD treatment and prevention, mental health and addiction services, medical adherence case management, pro bono legal aid for those who have faced discrimination and community health services, among others.

View of a portion of the dental suite.

View of a portion of the dental suite.

Over the years Whitman-Walker has had a large impact on the community. The health center serves about one-fifth of DC’s HIV positive population and its outreach and medical services have contributed significantly to the overall reduction of HIV, especially during the past seven or eight years.

To Jain, what sets Whitman-Walker apart is how it treats its patients. “We provide culturally competent care for LGBT people. Whether that means training other providers, or making sure that LGBT people feel empowered to seek out care that affirms who they are, and are not seeing a provider who is going to judge them for their sexual orientation, their behaviors or their gender identity.”

*Ben Lasky, a contributing writer for The InTowner, studied communications and journalism at The American University.

[All photographs by Jewel Addy, courtesy Whitman-Walker Health.]

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