Javier Sevilla-Martir, MD, was recently awarded the 2019 Outstanding Community Engagement Award by the Indiana University School of Medicine Faculty Community Relations Committee. His concern for people continues to motivate him and is what encouraged him to choose IU School of Medicine for his residency, fellowship and career in academic medicine.
Raised in the small historic town of Trujillo, Honduras, Sevilla-Martir grew up in a nurturing community. For as long as he can remember, Sevilla-Martir said he dreamed of becoming a physician—inspired by the compassionate surroundings of his childhood home to provide health care to those who desperately needed it.
“The village raised us. I grew up in a community that was very supportive. It was pretty amazing,” Sevilla-Martir said.
The valedictorian of his high school, Sevilla-Martir attended college and earned his medical degree from Facultad de Ciencias Medicas de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras in 1993. Sevilla-Martir went on to practice general medicine at a nonprofit missionary hospital in his home country. Later that year, a friend introduced him to a rural area of Honduras. Recognizing the need for health care services, he started a free weekend clinic in the region.
During his time at the missionary hospital, Sevilla-Martir met a family medicine physician who came to volunteer at the nonprofit. This physician, Sevilla-Martir said, helped him to see that family medicine was the specialty he wanted to pursue. He sought additional training in the United States, accepting an internship at John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County in Chicago. This training at an urban hospital exposed him to community initiatives that provided care to underserved populations.
Though enjoying his medical training thousands of miles away, Sevilla-Martir’s heart remained in Honduras. After completing a family medicine residency at IU School of Medicine, he joined the faculty at the IU School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine. In 2002, with significant support from the department and a group of dedicated fellow family physicians and staff, he founded the Enhancing Latin American Care Experiences (ELANCE) Project. The initiative allows medical students to train in underserved Latin American communities. Elective courses and non-clinical experiences provide global health opportunities to medical students and advance their cultural humility. Over the tenure of the ENLANCE Project, more than 300 medical and public health students have traveled to Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Sevilla-Martir went on to pursue a faculty development fellowship in underserved medicine leadership in 2003. During his fellowship, one of his mentors told him about a free student clinic in San Diego, California. Upon becoming a professor of family medicine at IU School of Medicine, he challenged students for several years to think about opening a free student clinic in Indianapolis. The class of 2010 took on the challenge, and the school approved the clinic as a service-learning project—finding the perfect community partner in near east Indianapolis with Neighborhood Fellowship Church.
The first clinic was held on February 14, 2009, with the intention of being open once a month. Now, there are volunteers from across Indiana University, including the School of Dentistry, School of Social Work, Robert H. McKinney School of Law, School of Health & Human Services, School of Nursing, as well as the Butler University College of Pharmacy and the Krannert School of Physical Therapy at the University of Indianapolis.
According to Kevin Gebke, MD, chair of the IU School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine, Sevilla-Martir is the embodiment of a community-minded physician.
“Improving health care and providing equitable health care accessibility to underserved populations is essential to improving community health and population health,” Gebke wrote in a nominating letter for the award. “Dr. Sevilla takes this mission .”
“I am honored and humbled to receive the Outstanding Community Engagement Award,” Sevilla-Martir said. “I am grateful for the support of IU School of Medicine and many colleagues for enthusiastically bringing health care to underserved populations.”
The Faculty Community Relations Committee (FCRC) Award for Outstanding Community Engagement was established to recognize and encourage exceptional community engagement by IU School of Medicine faculty in activities such as, but not limited to, volunteerism, community-based learning or research, outreach, partnerships and curricular engagement.