Boston Community Pediatrics brings comprehensive care to South End


Photo courtesy Boston Community Pediatrics

The opening of Boston Community Pediatrics last month is only the start of Riseberg’s attempt to address Boston’s health inequities, specifically for low-income and minority populations.

Kenneal Patterson, news staff

Dr. Robyn Riseberg is addressing Boston’s health inequities by trying something new. On Nov. 16, the pediatrician celebrated the opening of Boston Community Pediatrics, the first nonprofit pediatric practice in the city. 

“We have created a model that is based on a pediatric private practice model,” Riseberg said. “[It] is typically not a model that is targeted for low-income populations and minority populations. That’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Riseberg said that after 15 years working with the South End Community Health Center, it became a challenge to maintain certain programs in such a large institution. She thus founded Boston Community Pediatrics as a way to tackle inequities in the healthcare system and provide comprehensive care for all residents.

“Our healthcare system has a lot that is in need of help, especially around making things equitable for low-income and minority populations,” she said. 

The center’s website notes that the “traditional model of pediatric service delivery unfairly disadvantages low-income families. The separation of care between Medicaid and privately insured patients fuels a divide that deepens racial and socioeconomic inequity.” 

Patients with either private insurance or insurance under MassHealth can go to the center for treatment. “Everyone from all different backgrounds will be seen here and be getting the same exact care,” Riseberg said. 

Clinicians at the center strive to be patient-centered, said Riseberg, as well as implement holistic support for both physical and mental health issues. Riseberg wants patients to learn that mental health is just as important as physical health.

“We are going to be piloting different ways of reducing stigma around mental health, such as having everyone meet with a mental health clinician,” she said.   

Clinicians will be seeing children both in-person and through telehealth appointments. Mobile testing units will also be integrated throughout South End communities so that patients do not have to leave their neighborhood in order to access care. 

The new facility is located near two public housing developments. The South End neighborhood has the highest percentage of affordable housing in the city, Riseberg said, and around 48 percent of the units are subsidized.  

“It’s a community that has a lot of need,” she said. “There are very few private practices in this neighborhood.” 

Riseberg said that time and time again, she saw patients encounter barriers to getting appointments or accessing their provider. Some families with MassHealth resort to emergency room visits instead of meeting clinicians at private practices. In fact, Boston Community Pediatrics’ website notes that “the rate of ER visits is 86 percent higher for low-income families than for their wealthier counterparts.”

Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn, who oversees the South End neighborhood, expressed gratitude for the center’s development. 

“I think it will help the South End,” he told The News. “I’m so glad that it’s located within walking distance of [public housing developments].” 

Flynn also said he was glad the practice was going to particularly reach out to communities of color and immigrant communities. He noted that the practice will help residents in the South End, Roxbury and Chinatown especially.  

“I think it’s important to provide as much outreach and education to communities of color and hard to reach locations as well, including public housing developments,” he said. “Whether it’s through telecommunication or in-person appointments, it’s critical we provide quality health care to everybody regardless of their ability to pay, their background or their immigration status.”

Flynn noted that communities like the South End often bear the brunt of public health issues. These include environmental factors like air pollution and high rates of COVID-19. 

“I think quality health care should be accessible to everybody regardless of income or racial background,” Flynn said.  

South End residents are already using the center for their health needs. 

Amparo “Chary” Ortiz said that her granddaughter just went to her first appointment. The native South End resident began going to Riseberg when her daughters were young. Now her eldest daughter is carrying on the tradition and taking her own daughter to Riseberg.  

Ortiz’s other daughter has seen Riseberg for over a decade now — from ages 3 to 14.

“Dr. Riseberg has been amazing. I almost feel like she’s become part of my family,” Ortiz said. “She’s the one who [helped me] throughout my whole process of being a mother.” 

When Ortiz heard that Riseberg was founding Boston Community Pediatrics, she switched over immediately. 

“I had heard that Dr. Riseberg was interested in opening up her own practice, and of course I love her, so I was like wherever she goes, I was gonna go,” she said. 

Ortiz said that Riseberg helped her navigate “every step” as her children grew up. 

“We as parents go through different obstacles in making sure that our children are on the right path,” she said. “Not just health wise — she’s been there to mentor me.”

Although Ortiz hasn’t yet seen the center, she’s heard great things from her loved ones.

“My granddaughter made it in today,” she said. “My daughter said, ‘Oh my God, Mom, it’s so beautiful in there.’”

Riseberg hopes to provide accessible healthcare for people of all different socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds. 

“I feel that everyone should have the same healthcare that I would want for my own children,” said Riseberg. “That’s what Boston Community Pediatrics is creating.”