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Personal Connections to Wards 7 and 8 and Whitman-Walker’s Service to Community

Meet Andrè Eleazer, 53, and Michael T. Spencer, 42. Both Andrè and Michael grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, but specifically within the Ward 7 and 8 communities. Today, they both serve on Whitman-Walker Health’s board of directors. In their roles, they help lead the long-term strategic planning for Whitman-Walker’s health care operations in the District.

Upcoming plans at Whitman-Walker include moving its Max Robinson Center health care operations from near the Big Chair and to a new 116,000 square foot facility at St. Elizabeths campus in 2023!

Learn more about Andrè and Michael, their leadership at Whitman-Walker Health, and their collective commitment to empowering communities in Wards 7 and 8 with greater access to health, wellness and support services in Washington, D.C.

André Eleazer
André Eleazer

Where were you born and how long have you been in Washington, D.C.?

Andrè: I was born in Columbia, South Carolina. My parents moved to the Washington, DC area in the late 1960s to seek better opportunities, as a lot of young Black families from the South did at that time. When I was about 5 years old, my parents moved to their first home in Washington, DC. It was an apartment on Naylor Road. Altogether, I have lived in the Washington, DC area for 48 years.

Michael: I was born and raised in Historic Anacostia. I am also a proud, third-generation Washingtonian.

What is your connection to Wards 7 and 8?

Andrè: As a child, I lived and went to kindergarten and elementary school in Ward 8. My mother was a partner in several businesses including a store on the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. During the 1970s, she and I would frequent many of the Black-owned businesses in the Ward 8 neighborhoods. I have always had, and still have, friends and family that live in Wards 7 and 8.

Michael: Growing up, I lived throughout Wards 7 and 8 – Fort Chaplin, Chesapeake Street, and Savannah Street areas to name a few.

How were you first introduced to Whitman-Walker Health?

Andrè: I started going to Whitman-Walker Health in the late 1970s. They offered twice-a-week sexual health testing and check-ups at various locations around the city. Those were the early years before Whitman-Walker established a fixed location. Later in the 1970s and early 1980s, Whitman-Walker secured locations in Washington, DC and started to offer more services to the community. They have been my primary care provider ever since.

Michael T. Spencer
Michael T. Spencer

Michael: I first learned about Whitman-Walker from living in Anacostia. Later on, one of my Leadership Greater Washington classmates got a job there and kept me in the loop about some of the life-saving work being done at Whitman-Walker.

How did you first get connected to Whitman-Walker’s Max Robinson Center in Anacostia?

Andrè: I had been going to Whitman-Walker’s former Arlington, Virginia location. When the Arlington location closed in 2008, my medical provider transferred to the Max Robinson Center in Anacostia. I moved my care to Max Robinson Center too and have been going there to this day.

Michael: I visited Max Robinson Center years ago to take advantage of the health care services they provide, including free STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing and other sexual health resources.

When and why did you join the board of directors at Whitman-Walker?

Andrè: I joined the board of directors in the 2000s. My medical provider had asked me if I was interested in becoming a patient representative on the board and I replied in the affirmative. Whitman-Walker Health’s board, like other federally qualified health centers, is unique in that their patients make up 51 percent of its board director positions.

Michael: I joined the board in 2018. I love my community and know we deserve health care options that see us as full, worthy human beings. I’ve always respected Whitman-Walker and thought I could use my skills, insight, and strong opinions to help them better meet the care needs of my neighbors and friends east of the river.

What makes you passionate about this work?

Andrè: Throughout my life, I have been encouraged to help others. That incentive soon came to define me in a very basic way. I developed a sense of gratitude for all the advice and help given to me by family and friends growing up. And so, it became second nature for me to try to help others as I have been helped. I recall as a young boy that my grandmother would always tell me: “It is in giving that we receive.” I am persuaded that she was right. “Give and you shall receive.”

Michael: I think all people should have opportunity after opportunity to live their best lives. Access to quality health care in an environment that serves and affirms you is a critical component of living your best life. Too often, people have little, if any, expectations for those of us from east of the river and they treat us accordingly. Whitman-Walker is different. Whitman-Walker literally saved one of my family members from certain death by doing an in-home intervention.

I’m passionate about this work because I know Whitman-Walker wants everyone in Wards 7 and 8 to have the opportunity to live their best lives. They are committed to being a health care and community partner in making that happen.

What makes you most excited about Whitman-Walker moving its Max Robinson Center care operations to a 116,000 square feet health center at St. Elizabeths campus in 2023?

Andrè: I have a deep sense of pride and happiness. I’ve been involved in helping guide Whitman-Walker’s growth these last ten years. Throughout my tenure, Whitman-Walker has strived to meet its mission and provide better health services to DC communities.

Now Whitman-Walker is uniquely positioned to bring world-class health and support services to a community that has traditionally been underserved. This is a huge achievement. But as Whitman-Walker expands, we must keep in mind that the community will in return inspire and instruct us at Whitman-Walker on how to bring even greater excellence to our work. This is a two-way street. It is my hope that Whitman-Walker and communities East of the River will become an evolving partnership. As we all grow our existing relationships, not only will the community benefit, but so will Whitman-Walker.

Michael: As a kid, I used to visit a loved one at St. Elizabeth’s. Years later, I left a law firm to accept a job at St. Elizabeth’s. I literally helped move employees and patients from the old hospital building to the new psychiatric hospital in 2010. Although I’ve moved on from that job, I’m excited to still be a part of St. Elizabeths history and see the community redefine its legacy from something people feared to something we may all treasure. We deserve everything good and I’m happy to play a small part of making that happen with Whitman-Walker.

Learn more about Whitman-Walker Health at www.whitman-walker.org. Get more information about Whitman-Walker’s Max Robinson Center move to St. Elizabeths at www.whitmanwalkerimpact.org/stelizabeths. To access HIV/STI testing or to get your COVID-19 vaccine at Max Robinson Center, or another Whitman-Walker location, call 202-797-4439.

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