In 1969, in response to health-care disparities in Waco and McLennan County, local leaders and physicians established the Family Practice Center, now called Waco Family Medicine. Prior to these efforts, many Wacoans lacked access to adequate medical services. In fact, the patient-doctor ratio was 1,200 to 1. Seeing a profound community need, a partnership between community leaders and the McLennan County Medical Society sought to bridge this divide between patients’ needs, particularly those in poverty, and health-care access. Further, they officially started the Waco-McLennan County Family Practice Residency Program in 1970, the first of its kind in Texas. Through this program and the establishment of the Family Practice Center, they hoped to attract new physicians to Waco and to provide medical care to those in need.
The Family Practice Residency Program accepted its first two residents, Bing Oei and Julia Esquivel, on July 1, 1970. Learning from local physicians, including the first hired faculty Dr. May Wang, they graduated in 1972. Over the years, the residency program continued to expand and emphasize medical education as one of their primary goals as they trained physicians locally. While some went to practice in other states and countries, many stayed in Texas. As of 2017, over 300 of the 400-plus graduates practiced in the state. Further, McLennan County’s active physician population increased as the program expanded. Within thirty years, the number of family doctors in the area increased from 130 to over 300. In addition to resident education, the Family Practice Center also opened the Faculty Development Center in 1978, where practicing family physicians could continue learning, staying up to date on evolving medical practices.
During the Family Practice Center’s initial community outreach efforts in the 1970s, they also opened their first clinic at 1700 Providence Drive. At this location, they began their mission to provide care for residents with lower incomes and those without private or government-supported health insurance. Further, beginning in 1971, the Family Practice Center worked to meet the needs of community members without access to transportation. Thus, their mobile clinic went into communities across Waco and McLennan County, offering medical options to those who could have otherwise gone without care. These efforts ended in 1976 as the Family Health Center began establishing additional health centers across the community. With easier access, mobile clinic use decreased, and patients were able to commute to the clinic nearest them.
The rise in physician, resident, and patient numbers required building expansion. In 1983, the Family Health Center relocated up the road to 1600 Providence Drive; a shift made possible through their fundraising efforts and subsequent, generous donations from the public. Previous CEO Dr. Roland Goertz and other leaders within the clinic also saw a need for federal funding to assist their community care goals. As of 1999, the clinic became a Federally Qualified Health Center, able to receive federal funding to sustain their expansive services and enable continued growth. Since then, additional clinic locations have been added, expanding sites available to the public.
CEO Dr. Jackson Griggs and local board members renamed the Family Health Center Waco Family Medicine in 2021, a name that reiterates the clinic’s dedication to providing primary care for the community. With a variety of locations across Waco and McLennan County, Waco Family Medicine’s physicians and staff work to ensure better medical access for patients in the area. They persist in their original mission to provide health care for underserved populations and to offer educational opportunities for physicians. Their outreach in the community continues, as they offer care for medical, dental, and behavioral health to those in need throughout McLennan County.