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Many think that Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders’ first trip to The Bronx was last Thursday for the massive rally in St Mary’s Park that saw over 18,500 supporters during his New York State kick-off campaign.

But it wasn’t.

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Three years ago in March of 2013, Senator Sanders heard about a health center in The Bronx called Urban Health Plan (6 years ago Welcome2TheBronx recognized its founder, Dr Richard Izquierdo, for being the person of the year for founding such a revolutionary clinic).

The award-winning Hunts Point-based health center was featured in The New York Daily News and caught the attention of Sanders who chairs a Senate subcommittee on primary care so he made it a point to contact Urban Health Plan to learn more about how they manage to successfully operate serving in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the poorest congressional district in the nation.

UHP is a leader in healthcare in our borough, for you see, regardless of your income and insurance or lack thereof, you are treated and in a clean, state-of-the-art setting often found in wealthier neighborhoods.

The staff is perhaps the most professional you will encounter not only in The Bronx but around the city. You are greeted not just as a client but you are seen as a friend, a family member and so much more than just a patient.

UHP seeks to treat you at all levels whether as your primary care physician, women’s health, mental health, dental, eye, you name it. They really believe in such holistic care including the fact that they also provide many preventative services including seeing a nutritionist and the availability of healthy cooking classes.

I personally know all of this having been a proud patient for the past 6 years and for the first time in my life, I felt happy with my healthcare provider and confident that my needs would be met.

Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez, President and CEO of Urban Health Plan (and daughter of the organization’s founder, Dr. Richard Izquierdo) told Welcome2TheBronx,  “We were really impressed that Senator Sanders was willing to come visit our health center to learn about the work we do in the South Bronx”

“For us, it was very fruitful because it reaffirmed our belief in his commitment in community health centers. For him, I believe it was because he got to experience an exemplary health center firsthand”, Izquierdo-Hernandez added when we asked if the visit was fruitful.

The New York Daily News wrote:

“Bernie Sanders, the very independent Brooklyn-bred U.S. Senator from Vermont, dropped by the Bronx Monday and, good for him, underscored his passion for a very neglected subject: the lack of primary care doctors serving poor urban and rural areas.

Sanders was kind enough to call from his Brattleboro, Vt. offices after reading the piece and, a week later, found himself in New York. A topic of his visit to the city was primary health care so he joined some of the folks at Urban Health Plan.”

To read that Sanders actually stepped foot in our borough long before he was considering a run for the presidency further shows his Thursday rally was anything but a publicity stunt and pandering to the hearts of The Bronx.

Urban Health Plan is no small potatoes either as they are the largest employer in the 10459 zip code which covers parts of Hunts Point and Longwood. They boast 800 staff members with 108 medical providers serving 73,261 patients with 366,006 visits in 2015.

We’ve always said that The Bronx has a lot to teach the world and we’re glad to know that Senator Bernie Sanders took the initiative to do just that.

He’s not a perfect candidate but he is our most honest of the bunch and much like The Bronx, has big dreams that can become a reality.

Of course our big question for Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez was if she’d vote for Senator Bernie Sanders to which she said, “Yes, I would vote for Senator Sanders.”

That’s a pretty bold and admirable statement coming from such an esteemed individual from The Bronx, a trusted pillar of our community, operating a healthcare network that provides positive outcomes and health impacts for residents of The Bronx and the South Bronx (as well as Queens).

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