Dr. Leo Boler has delivered dozens of newborns for West Side families. Boler, who practices out of Access Community Health Network’s Family Health Centers on the West Side, understands what it takes to assure a successful delivery.
But there’s a personal approach he brings to the job and his patients.
“I’ve always had the idea that medicine is more than just history and physical taking,” said Boler. “There is a social aspect to it as well, and I encourage my younger patients to persevere and make wise decisions regarding the future for both them and their babies.”
Boler, 55, a Lawndale native and graduate of Rush Medical College, has been an Ob/Gyn with ACCESS since its inception in 1992, and has seen many expectant teen mothers. Boler has worked within community health centers to create programs addressing infant mortality rates, which disproportionately affects black communities such as Austin and Lawndale.
One in particular is the Westside Healthy Start Program. Established in 1998 through ACCESS, the program works to reduce the high infant mortality rate and incidence of low birth weight babies on the West Side.
“When a woman is pregnant and still very young, she needs a lot more than just the routine pre-natal care,” Boler said of youth mothers, who could benefit counseling, better housing and access to an affordable primary caretaker. “These things alone would help assist in putting her mind at ease and keep her on an even keel during her pregnancy.”
One of the toughest obstacles that Boler sees facing many pregnant teens is a lack of support from their partners. This leads to a feeling of “helplessness” that can negatively affect the pregnancy, he said.
“When I started out in 1983, I wasn’t satisfied with the direction that most programs of this type took because they didn’t educate young ladies about the direction their lives should be taking during and after pregnancy,” Boler said. “I am fortunate to be associated with a program that addresses all these key needs.”
He added that traditional pre-natal programs were more concerned about getting the patient into the pre-natal clinic, delivering the baby and sending the mother home.
“Now, some of our patients may not have stable living conditions and one plan does not fit all situations,” said Boler.
Boler does want to see more peer-related programs added to the Healthy Start program so mothers can interact with one another. Job counseling services are also needed, Boler added.
“It’s a great peace of mind to know that you have an extra shoulder to lean on and job training under your belt,” he said. “It really makes the pregnancy that much easier to know your future is not in doubt after you give birth.”
Boler thinks ACCESS can continue its mission despite budget restraints to health care services from Washington.
“ACCESS is one of the largest community based organizations in the country,” he said. “I think we could weather whatever storm comes our way.”
For more information about the Healthy Start Program, visit www.accesscommunityhealth.net.