Women’s health clinic gets facelift in Astoria

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Since MIC Women’s Health Services in Astoria celebrated its grand reopening last week, only one pin has made its way onto the world map that was put up to reflect the diversity of the clinic’s patients.

Before the facility underwent a $420,000 renovation, patients would show their original homelands by pricking the map with pins.

But the new map that now hangs from the freshly painted white wall in a rejuvenated waiting area is still about 64 pins shy of representing the clinic’s patients.

“We have people from 65 countries,” said Susan Birmbaum, who has served as the center administrator since 1997. “You come here, it’s like a little mini-U.N.”

The uncharacte­ristically empty map is perhaps the only remaining update necessary at the health clinic, which has operated for more than 10 years in a city Health Department building on 31st Avenue and 14th Street

After shuffling around clinic and office space to continue providing service during the length of a two-year renovation, the center is again fully operating out of its basement home, a place hardly recognizable from its original state.

“They called it a face-lift and that’s really what it was,” Birmbaum said of the renovation. “It’s just more modern looking.”

The publicly funded clinic, a division of the Medical and Health Research Association of NYC and a partner with Elmhurst Hospital, is one of eight such facilities citywide that offers family planning and prenatal services to women of reproductive age in Queens. An affiliated clinic is located in Jamaica.

“Oftentimes clinics go up in spaces with big waiting rooms and you get this feeling of endless waiting,” Birmbaum said. “Here we have different spaces for people to wait. I think it’s more pleasant. It’s just more modern looking.”

Sitting in what Birmbaum describes as a “typical city building” from the 1930s, the clinic now looks more like what it is trying to mirror — a private health-care provider.

“We wanted underserved patients to be able to come into something that emulated a private practice,” Birmbaum said. “So basically when you come in you see the same provider, which is very different from a typical clinic setting.”

The patients come from all over Queens to the Astoria site, where they can enroll on-site in the state-funded Prenatal Care Assistance Program, which helps cover the cost of the medical care.

“It’s pretty generous,” Birmbaum said. “The working poor are eligible. You don’t have to be totally without resources to come to us.”

The clinic provides a critical service to borough women by guiding them through their pregnancies, Birmbaum said.

“All the studies show that with early prenatal care you have a healthier baby,” Birmbaum said. “The earlier we can target any kind of problem you might have, the better for you and your baby.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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