Dr. Myron Glick founded Jericho Road Family Practice on the city's Lower West Side with his wife, Joyce, in 1997. They were drawn to Buffalo by the area's growing refugee population and the critical need for medical care. In 2003, Jericho Road Ministries was created to address the community's nonmedical needs.
Born in Lancaster, Pa., Glick was raised in a family of missionaries in Belize. He moved to Buffalo with his wife in 1990 to attend the University at Buffalo Medical School. They remained in Buffalo, where they raised their four children, ages 20, 18, 15 and 10. His family, Glick said, grew with Jericho Road.
Today, Glick has a staff of physicians, practitioners and volunteers who work out of locations on Genesee Street and on Barton Street. Next year the clinic and ministries will merge to form Jericho Road Community Health Center.
>People Talk: Were your parents physicians in Belize?
Myron Glick: They were church planters, but I saw a lot of medical need. We lived in a village where there were no doctors. In my background, Amish and conservative Mennonites were not able to go to high school much less college. If I was going to be a doctor I had to make the transition from that conservative close community to the real world. Joyce and I lived in that close community and we left together. We married before I went to medical school. We'll be married almost 25 years. She's not a medical person, but she's a big part of the sacrifice and success of Jericho Road.
>PT: You're no longer Amish?
MG: We're not Amish. There's no horse and buggy out front. Our parents are conservative Mennonites, and we subsequently left the church. When my parents left, they became missionaries in Central America. I grew up in Belize until I was 14. That's where I got the desire to be a doctor.
>PT: What led to Jericho Road?
MG: After my residency in Lancaster, Pa., we came back to Buffalo with the intent of starting a medical practice on the West Side. That's where the church we were a part of was located, the West Side Mennonite Church. Now we actually go to a church right here in the building. It's called River Rock Church, nondenominational, very multicultural. Probably 14 nations are represented in the 150 people who attend.
>PT: What percentage of your patients are refugees?
MG: Sixty percent from at least 70 countries – Eritrea, Ethiopia, Congo, Togo – name an African country – Sierra Leone, Vietnam, Thailand. We don't have many Eastern Europeans now, but we used to.
>PT: Do you have a translator by your side when you treat patients?
MG: We have invested an incredible amount of resources in translating. This year alone, the family practice will see about 40,000 patient visits, and over half will not speak English. If you look at our staff, they're from all over the world. Right now the Burmese population is the biggest group of refugees that we serve so we have two full-time Burmese translators going from room to room working with the doctors. When we have a woman in labor, we have a doula who speaks their language who accompanies them.
>PT: How do you handle stress?
MG: My family helps a huge amount. It's not like I'm coming home at 9 o'clock trying to explain what stress is. They know it, especially my wife. Believe it or not, I still play soccer so I run to stay in shape. I play on a team that has nothing to do with this work. For two hours, I don't think about this work, I just think about soccer.
>PT: Describe your sense of humor.
MG: Probably a dry sense of humor. I don't know if I should say this, but I enjoy watching Jon Stewart at night, that sort of humor, seeing irony in things. I probably don't laugh enough. You have to remember our Amish background. We're very stoic people.
>PT: What's the last thing you've done for yourself?
MG: I ran six miles last night. This summer, my boys and I painted our house, and I'm proud of that. It's an old house with three stories. We had to do a lot of scraping. I also took a management course in Boston at Harvard to learn more about running an organization.
>PT: You see patients, right?
MG: Full time. When we merge and become Jericho Road Community Health Center, I will at least for the interim be the CEO of that organization. In the next couple of years, I'll have to decide if I want to be the CEO and manage or do I want to primarily be a physician. I love being a doctor, but I also realize the impact of this organization long term.
>PT: Tell me about Jericho Road Ministries.
MG: It has about eight or nine programs, some of which are amazing by themselves. The Priscilla Project mentors pregnant moms who are refugees. You could help someone from Burma through her pregnancy, be present at the delivery and stay on through the first three to six months after the baby is born.
>PT: How many staffers did you start with in 1997?
MG: It was me, a part-time nurse and a part-time secretary. There were not many doctors on the West Side. I tell people that in Amherst or Williamsville, you might have a family doctor for every 1,000 to 1,500 patients. When we started here, it was one for every 30,000 or 40,000. Today we are still an underserved area, but it is definitely better served than what it was. We will have 120 employees when we merge.
>PT: What are some of the common medical concerns that you see?
MG: We see diabetes in every one of our refugee groups. The challenge is that disease is interpreted differently in every culture. Depression you see across cultures, but some may not even have a word to describe depression. We see exotic diseases sometimes like TB or malaria or parasitic diseases, malnutrition. What is challenging is not the medical problem, it's translating it into a meaningful treatment plan for a patient from Burma who speaks no English who eats rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
>PT: You must have many examples of culture gaps.
MG: I tell this story a lot: I delivered a baby who seven weeks later was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease and ended up dying within a year. When we brought the family in to counsel them – that if they had more children there was a chance of having more sick children – we offered them genetic testing. Later we found out they bought a white chicken and sacrificed it. They were thinking what made the baby sick was an evil spirit.