What if you could deliver medical and mental health care to children and teens—especially those living in underserved communities who face challenges to accessing care—without them having to travel to the doctor’s office?

Since 2003, the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital has done exactly that through its Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit, a 38-foot bus or “doctor’s office on wheels” equipped with two medical exam rooms, which travels to more than 30 schools and community centers each year on Chicago’s South and West sides.

To support the Mobile Medical Unit and its services, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios donated $50,000 to Comer Children’s. The largest film studios outside of Hollywood, Cinespace is located on Chicago’s West Side in North Lawndale. The company has produced Chicago-based television shows, such as Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD, and has created thousands of jobs and numerous job training opportunities in the neighborhood.

Alex Pissios, president and CEO of Cinespace, said his organization is dedicated to serving its community and values being a civic leader.

“The Comer Children's Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit plays such an important role in the health and happiness of many Chicago-area children,” said Pissios. “If we can help more kids get their flu shots and the care they need so that they can stay in school, the entire community will benefit in the long run.”

Reducing barriers to care

The mobile medical unit helps to eliminate barriers to care, such as living far from hospitals and clinics, unreliable transportation, and limited financial resources, which can make it difficult for some children and families to access basic health and mental health care.

“When children do not receive appropriate and timely treatment, minor medical problems can lead to more serious issues that require emergency room care or hospitalization,” said Icy Cade-Bell, MD, Medical Director of the Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit.

To address these challenges, the mobile unit provides primary care to children and adolescents ages 3 to 19 in Comer Children’s surrounding neighborhoods, such as Woodlawn, South Shore, Englewood, and Greater Grand Crossing.

Some of the services provided by the Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit include: school physicals, immunizations, laboratory testing, classroom-based health promotion and education, mental health counseling, and a teen clinic to provide pregnancy tests and reproductive health counseling. The medical unit is staffed by a medical director, two nurse practitioners, a senior program coordinator, licensed clinical social workers, a referral case manager and database entry specialist, and a driver.

In 2019, medical unit staff served more than 900 students both on and off the unit, including more than 1,700 medical and mental health visits.

Cinespace’s gift will help support the programmatic needs of the unit, while also helping provide educational materials for a mental health focus group at a South Side high school: Hyde Park Academy. The mental health focus group is designed for students who have been impacted by violence and for those dealing with the loss of a family member or friend.

For Pissios, supporting the medical unit at Comer Children’s aligns perfectly with the organization’s philanthropic vision to help eliminate obstacles in its community—whether barriers to health care, employment, or job training.

“This gift will allow us to partner with Comer Children’s to make a difference in our community by providing basic care to children to help them live full, healthy lives,” Pissios said.

For more information about the Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit or Comer Children’s, visit https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/comer. To learn more about Cinespace and its commitment to the local community, visit https://www.cinecaresfoundation.org/.