About the Center

Welcome to the Columbia Community Wellness Center.

The center is led by neurologist Olajide Williams and psychiatrist Sidney Hankerson, physicians known for their pioneering approaches to improving public health in Harlem and Washington Heights. The Wellness Center operates with support from Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute.

The Wellness Center houses the Community Health Worker Stroke Prevention program, designed to raise awareness about one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. The free program includes six-week training sessions held throughout the year to give local residents the tools they need to become community health workers. Volunteers learn about cardiovascular health issues, with a special emphasis on stroke and related risk factors. The program, modeled on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention training curriculum for community health workers, is led by Dr. Williams, chief of staff of neurology and associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center; founder of Hip Hop Public Health; and co-director of the Center for Stroke Disparities Solutions in New York.

“When we committed ourselves to creating a new kind of open, accessible campus in Manhattanville, we knew it would be essential to use this as an opportunity to deepen our partnerships with the local community.”

Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger

“I live in Harlem, I raised my children in Harlem, I have worked in Harlem my whole career as a neurologist, and I recognized the painful disparities that plague communities of color,” said Dr. Williams. “I don’t think that we, as physicians, will be able to realize the type of outcomes that our local communities desperately need if we do not venture out of the four walls of our hospitals. By extending our work through the Wellness Center, we’re fulfilling our fundamental responsibility as physicians and healers to our immediate community.”

The Wellness Center is also a home base for Mental Health First Aid, a program dedicated to improving access to quality mental health services in Upper Manhattan. To address the hurdles faced by African Americans and Latinos when it comes to getting mental health treatment, the program will work with local faith communities, training leaders to identify and respond to signs of depression and other mental illnesses, as well as substance-use disorders like alcoholism and drug addiction. Doctor Hankerson, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, will direct the program. His team will teach members of the community to combat the stigma often associated with mental health issues and help others seek medical care.

“The Wellness Center is a hub for health in West Harlem,” said Dr. Hankerson. “We know that people of color, African Americans and Latinos, are disproportionately affected by chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety and stroke. Our goal is to promote education, awareness and engagement so people can get the help and healing that they need.”

In addition to the stroke and mental health awareness programs, the Wellness Center provides free blood pressure readings and cholesterol tests. Staff offer information about free and low-cost clinical resources in the neighborhood and within the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center community.

Services at the Wellness Center will be provided by Columbia Doctors. Printed materials and other resources are available in English and Spanish.