Early in 2020, we announced in the WFCC newsletter that the organization, the Worcester Free Clinic Coalition, was changing its name to the Worcester Free Care Collaborative. Recently, a new logo was also created by Sahar Peerzade to better reflect the mission of the organization, its ties to central Massachusetts and the greater Worcester area, and bring a modern look to the organization. Perhaps more subtly, it also aims to represent the concept of healthcare visually and symbolically so that patients who do not read English will still able to recognize our mission.

The heart and stethoscope motif is multifaceted and we wanted the logo to convey a sense of softness and warmth to invite the community together. Of course, it represents the human heart and by extension, health, but it also represents the City of Worcester and its place as the Heart of the Commonwealth. We hope that the heart and stethoscope motif will allow anyone, regardless of their understanding of English, to recognize the healthcare role of the Collaborative and its member programs. We hope that this reflects our renewed outlook well into the future.

Sahil Nawab
The new WFCC logo as of March 2021

Although my design was not selected, I also designed a logo for the WFCC and wrote about my creative process as well.

Going back to name change, there is actually quite a bit of backstory as to the reason for the change that deserves awareness and warrants further discussion by the community.

In some ways, one might argue, the original Worcester Free Clinic Coalition more accurately describes the specific role of the organization and its structure as a loosely associated set of independent free clinics. Although there has been a large push—especially since the 2019 Symposium—to integrate the clinics more tightly, each program nevertheless maintains its own set of volunteers, supplies, and location. The WFCC helps coordinate medical student volunteers and is itself primarily run by medical students from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

John Romano, one the previous co-presidents of the WFCC, suggested the new name, Worcester Free Care Collaborative. It maintains the same acronym, which meant that at least some aspects of the prior identity could be maintained. One of the other suggestions that came from the community was the Greater Worcester Free Medical Consortium. A number of arguments were also had as to whether the organization is an “alliance” or an “association.” However, none of these names ended up sticking, likely due to the elegance of Romano’s suggestion. Ultimately, I think that the new name is excellent, if a little bit more vague as to the specifics of clinical care.

However, the question remains: what actually prompted the name change? The old name was, in the past, completely adequate and an effective descriptor.

The provoking incident occurred when the Worcester Islamic Center first opened their program in late 2019. After months of planning and discussion, the program opened to the public on Thursdays. In order to advertise the program to patients, a lawn sign was placed outside of the Worcester Islamic Center with the words “Free Clinic,” just like all of the other free clinics part of the WFCC. Ultimately, it was this sign that started the chain of events that necessitated changing the name of the organization.

Two weeks after that sign was placed, police officers knocked on the door of the Islamic Center. They explained that a passerby had complained about the sign and reported the program as they believed that it may not be a licensed medical clinic. For legal and liability reasons, their claim did have some merits. As a free medical program, it is staffed by volunteers, including licensed physicians and nurses, who donate their time and expertise in service of the community. Running only two hours per week and not providing any direct treatment themselves, it was thought to be unnecessary. The volunteers are simply advising patients about their conditions, just as if you were to ask a physician friend about a specific concern. It was especially helpful for patients who were visiting their children from another state or from abroad and only staying in the area temporarily. Their primary care physician might not be accessible for an appointment until they go back, but their health conditions persist regardless. “Free clinic” is still a good descriptor for lay people to better understand the general nature of the program and what services it offers.

Nonetheless, the police officers required that the sign be taken down. The clinic halted for the time being. The strange part is that this exact issue has not affected any of the other free medical programs in the area, many of which also have signs that use the wording “free clinic.” Why was it that only the program at the Worcester Islamic Center had issues with signage? It seems discriminatory in nature that only a free medical program opening at an Islamic Center, as opposed to a church or any other secular organization, would face such issues and complaints. Other programs with similar services, similar signage, similar outreach, and ultimately trying to serve the most vulnerable patients within the community, never had to face such problems. It stands to reason that any new “free clinic” should not be subject to such complaints.

The final result of all of this is that our language has changed. We no longer use the term “free clinic” and instead prefer to use “free medical program.” The WFCC changed its name to the Worcester Free Care Collaborative. While I do love the new name, it was born out of unjust circumstances.