Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center (MWCHC) is a non-profit medical center providing affordable and quality healthcare to patients in the Middle Tennessee and surrounding areas. Founded in 1968 by Dr. Matthew Walker, the center has grown from a single facility to a community staple of medical, dental, nutritional and behavioral health. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, MWCHC remains an organization dedicated to saving lives and reaching communities.
It has been 50 years since Dr. Walker built his first health center, but his history as a medical professional was firmly established long before MWCHC’s groundbreaking. Dr. Walker began his medical profession with residencies at Hubbard Hospital of Meharry Medical College in Tennessee and Freedman Hospital of Howard University in Washington, DC. In 1955, he became one of the first African Americans voted into the Nashville Academy of Medicine, and in 1961 was named to the Board of Hospital Commissioners of Nashville General Hospital.
Soon after, Dr. Walker was asked to run Taborian Hospital, an African American hospital in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. While travelling between Nashville and Mound Bayou, he noticed the need for similar care in Nashville, where areas of the community were not receiving sufficient healthcare. “People should be delivered healthcare at a price they can afford to pay,” explained Dr. Walker. “If they can’t afford to pay anything, they shouldn’t be made to pay anything.”
On March 11, 1968, Dr. Walker opened his first clinic, the Meharry Neighborhood Health Center, on Jefferson Street in Nashville. It was the first federally qualified health center in the state and staffed 19 full- and part-time physicians and dentists. The center combined all its medical services under one roof to emphasize family care, a structure that served as a national example for comprehensive health solutions. Two years later, the center was renamed the Matthew Walker Health Center in honor of Dr. Walker and his efforts, and by 1979, the center became a freestanding primary care facility.
MWCHC’s focus offered a wide range of health services including adult and child medical and dental care to the medically underserved people of Davidson County with an emphasis on the maintenance of good health, not simply the treatment of disease. Nashville Banner reported, “Matthew Walker Health Center was unique in that it was intended to convert the traditional outpatient department of the teaching hospital into a fully comprehensive family health program, geared to provide comprehensive health services to the underserved population in one convenient location, to prevent and to treat diseases and also in the process to provide jobs for persons of low economic and educational backgrounds.”
Today, MWCHC has three locations (Nashville, Clarksville, and Smyrna) and employs 107 medical professionals. The centers provide quality and affordable care for all patients both insured and uninsured with comprehensive services including family planning, obstetrical care, pediatric care, social services, internal medicine, dental services, radiology services, gynecological care, family practice and behavioral health. MWCHC also has a full-service pharmacy at the Nashville location.
“Matthew Walker is great because they truly provide comprehensive care – from medical and dental care to health education,” says Elaine Badger, a patient at MWCHC, “and they treat me like a human being.”
“Because Matthew Walker offers everything under one roof, it feels like I am part of team that is helping me maintain good health,” says Royce Sick, another MWCHC patient.
As MWCHC looks back on 50 years of impacting the community, it continues to plan for the future. “We are very excited to continue the vision of Dr. Walker. As we embark on the next 50 years, our goal will remain to serve the entire community with services that improves the health of the community”, stated Katina Beard, Chief Executive Officer. “Current plans are underway to increase access to healthcare for our youth and older adults, and we will be opening a new dental clinic in July”.
MWCHC is dedicated to providing state-of-the-art care to all patients regardless of economic status, with its three facilities reaching almost 17,000 patients a year. From Dr. Walker’s original vision to celebrating its impact 50 years later, MWCHC remains a vital community resource and institution.