CHICAGO — José Sánchez arrived in Chicago more than a decade ago with the difficult task of saving the then-Norwegian American Hospital from bankruptcy. With vision and leadership, the Puerto Rican fulfilled the mission.
Recently, Sánchez made history again. The 200-bed hospital in northwest Chicago that he helped resurrect and has run ever since changed its name to honor the community that it serves.
The Norwegian American Hospital became Humboldt Park Health in late January to “reflect today’s most diverse and inclusive Humboldt Park community, which comprises various ethnicities, races, cultures, languages, religions, family structures and experiences,” the hospital said in announcing the change.
“Norwegian American Hospital was the hospital’s name for over 120 years, and it reflected the community at the moment it opened when most of its residents were Norwegians,” said Sánchez, the hospital’s president and CEO. “But over time, the community’s demographics changed completely.”
Now, most of Humboldt Park’s residents are Latino, he said.
“They are Mexican, Puerto Rican and African-American. So, we decided to change the name to make it relevant to today’s community. It was a necessary change,” said Sánchez, explaining that the act of renaming the hospital is in tune with the process that the United States is living through at this moment, “with a focus on equality.”
The hospital’s full new name is Humboldt Park Health, Advancing Health Equity, which reaffirms the institution’s commitment to social change, he said.
Humboldt Park Health went through a full rebranding process, which involved changing the colors of its logo. It now includes green, which stands for rebirth, and blue, which symbolizes trust, said Sánchez, who added that the process was “intense,” and that members of the hospital’s board of directors, executive team and medical staff participated.
A positive change
Sánchez said that he is pleased with the result and that the community has been giving it positive feedback.
In addition to a new name and incorporating social equity concepts, the hospital has made other changes to serve the Humboldt Park community better during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have established an outpatient clinic to treat people who had COVID-19 because the disease leaves consequences. We have a diversified clinical group there that can provide the service that these people need. It is a new service,” said Sánchez, who is in charge of about 1,000 employees, including doctors, nurses and other health professionals.
Humboldt Park Health is a COVID-19 testing center, which has given it more visibility within the community, according to Sánchez. The hospital has carried out more than 25,000 tests and is also vaccinating the community’s eligible members.
The hospital is mindful of the social disparities in the city, and its Foundation acts accordingly.
The Humboldt Park Health Foundation, according to its website, works in “providing patients with excellent and compassionate medical care, regardless of their economic circumstances or insurance coverage.”
Toward the future
Sánchez has been in charge of the hospital for more than a decade. It has been “a battle.” However, he feels proud for having done “the job that had to be done.”
“Ten years ago, this hospital was bankrupt, and I was hired from [Generations +/Northern Manhattan Health Network in] New York to save it. We managed to do it, along with the team … and the employees,” said Sánchez.
The future presents many challenges, including financing the center and competition with other hospitals, but Sánchez is optimistic.
“When we compare ourselves to hospitals similar to us in Chicago, I think our future is brighter because we are a smaller, more efficient hospital focused on working with the community,” he said.
(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos; edited by Matthew B. Hall)
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