In its first year, Direct Energy and Tribune Media Group’s Chicago Volunteer Citizen of the Year award is honoring Dr. Charles “Charlie” Martinez. Martinez is the founder of the Old Irving Park Community Clinic, a free primary care facility created on the belief that all people, regardless of socio-economic status, have the right to quality health care. Its mission is to provide quality medical and behavioral health care in a dignified and respectful manner to local uninsured individuals and their families.
Six years ago, Martinez, a former nuclear medicine specialist, and a friend decided to start a clinic that would help those without one of the most important necessities: health care. Growing up, Martinez’s family didn’t have health insurance, so when he was injured as a child he immediately worried about how his family would afford his medical bills. Today, Martinez has devoted his life to the Old Irving Park Community Clinic to help ease that same worry for other families. Patients include uninsured working individuals, unemployed individuals who do not qualify for any type of government assistance programs and those that are unable to access any financial resources for payment for health care.
“Dr. Martinez is an amazing man. Every day he is making a difference in the lives of the uninsured and under-served. I am honored to be involved with an organization that has a life changing impact on so many people,” says Michael Johns, president of the Old Irving Park Community Clinic.
As a man in his 70’s, many would think that Martinez should be enjoying the stress-free days of his retirement. Instead, Martinez volunteers 5 days a week, mostly 8 hours each day, at the Old Irving Park Community Clinic. He leads the medical staff by networking within the community to obtain free tests and specialist referrals, offering advice for patients and serving as a provider a few days per week. In addition to his clinical expertise and advocating for patients, he also serves on the board of directors and is a key player in board development for the clinic’s future evolution. Last year, the clinic had 7,000 patient visits providing nearly $1.8 million worth of services free of charge. In his nomination, Martinez is described as “level-headed, gentle and a true inspiration to those in the medical community.” He delivers care with respect and treats every patient with the dignity they deserve as human beings.
“It is our honor to recognize someone like Dr. Martinez. Not only did he identify an opportunity to help others in his community, but he put his vision into action. His dedication to the Old Irving Park Community Clinic and its mission to provide basic health care is invaluable to the Chicago community,” said Rob Comstock, executive vice president and general manager for Direct Energy. “We applaud Dr. Martinez for going above and beyond to ensure that others have a better quality of life.”
By winning the Chicago Volunteer Citizen of the Year award, Martinez will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a $5,000 donation to the Old Irving Park Community Clinic. The donation will be used to help the clinic continue to provide essential services to those who need it most in Chicago. Services at the clinic include primary care, nutritional support, prescription medications, routine lab work, specialist and hospital referrals, health care-related educational workshops, mental health and substance abuse assessments and counseling.