When Ari Silva was 23 years old, he left his native Brazil due to political unrest and relocated to America. A self-described “ambitious young man,” Silva had studied business and computer science in college, but when he arrived in the U.S., his career took a different path. He worked first as a dishwasher, then in construction. He also continued his martial arts training and developed a passion for rock climbing. Eventually, his intensely physical lifestyle and years of construction work led to injuries, a number of surgeries, and asbestos exposure. He credits Marin Community Clinics with saving his life.
“When I became an American citizen, I knew I could make my own way,” the 60-year-old says. “But when I was very sick with cancer, a collapsed lung, broken bones, and psychological challenges, Dr. Xavier Perez at Marin Community Clinics treated me so well, looked at me as a whole person, and listened and believed in me. Dr. Perez helped me change my whole outlook on life. To this day, he means the world to me.”
Founded in 1972, Marin Community Clinics continues to provide affordable, excellent health care to uninsured and low-income residents of Marin County. Marin Community Clinics is a full-service health care provider with modern facilities, state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, and an array of treatment and prevention programs. It serves nearly 40,000 people annually in clinics spread throughout Marin County.
“Marin Community Clinics is the largest Federally Qualified Health Center in Marin County and serves as a safety net clinic,” says Melanie Thompson, chief medical officer. “We have eight clinical sites and provide a variety of services. Our mission is to promote health and wellness through excellent, compassionate care for all.”
Thompson joined Marin Community Clinics in 2015. In addition to overseeing all clinical staff and specialists, she is a family medicine physician with a specialty in obesity prevention in children and adults.
“Our power is our people,” she says. “We know that our patients face barriers to care, including transportation and the ability to get time off work, so the more we can bring to our clinic sites, the more accessible we make needed care to those we serve.”
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Silva has experienced this team approach firsthand on numerous occasions, a network of support that he says makes him emotional to talk about. When he received a lung transplant, he was given a life expectancy of three to five years by his doctor at UCSF. That was seven years ago.
“Marin Community Clinics staff and nurses watched me carefully and guided me through the recovery process,” Silva explained. “They all supported me and pushed me to live life, and I consider myself a medical miracle. I worked with a Clinics therapist, Dr. Perez, and a nutritionist – my weight dropped from 260 pounds to 185 pounds.”
Silva says the comprehensive attention he received from Marin Community Clinics changed the trajectory of his life, from the prospect of very little outside mobility to a resumption of being outdoors and interacting with others.
“If you look at me now, you must think, how could I have been that sick?” said Silva, “but if it wasn’t for Marin Community Clinics, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Thompson says this type of holistic attention is a typical strategy when working with patients in Marin. She also notes that providing comprehensive services is especially important for low-income patients, for whom traveling to several facilities is difficult to schedule with other obligations.
“As a patient-centered medical home, we offer so many services in-house,” she explains. “A typical patient experience might mean calling our call center to set up an appointment, having a medical assistant take vitals and offer screening questions. After being seen by a physician, a patient might be sent to our in-house pharmacy to pick up a prescription, or they might be joined by one of our nurses for more in-depth education.”
Silva, whose daughter is also a patient at Marin Community Clinics, says this dedication is invaluable, especially for the many low-income Marin residents who are often forgotten about when we think of the affluent county.
“You can go to places in Marin County that will surprise you,” Silva says. “People are suffering here, especially the elderly. I think that the county shows this postcard image, but when you look closely, there are so many people here who need help. Fortunately, Marin Community Clinics is there to help. They help the kids, my daughter, and others.”
Marin Community Clinics began in a church basement with doctors and other medical staffers who volunteered their time. Today, it is the largest nonprofit community health center in the county, with a full range of primary health care, dentistry, behavioral health, obstetrics and gynecology, among other important services.
To support Marin Community Clinics mission, and contribute to a healthier Marin – for all – make a gift today.