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MEET LOCAL LEGEND: A. Janelle Goetcheus, M.D.

Picture of A. Janelle Goetcheus
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A. Janelle Goetcheus, M.D.

“I still feel sadness from seeing so much unnecessary suffering… This country still needs to make a much more fundamental commitment to care for all its people.”


Eleanor Holmes Norton


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Described as a “visionary who looks directly into the face of social evil…” and “speaks to patients in the language of the heart,” A. Janelle Goetcheus, MD, has been a powerful force for more than 25 years in ensuring that District of Columbia homeless and indigent persons receive quality health care. Nominating her a Local Legend of Medicine, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Member of Congress from the District of Columbia, cited Goetcheus as a “skilled and talented physician whose hands search through poverty to find those with the greatest needs.”

A 1965 graduate of the Indiana University School of Medicine, Goetcheus came to Washington in 1976 with her minister husband. “We felt compelled to move to work here,” she recalled. By 1979 the young family practitioner had founded Columbia Road Health Services, a medical clinic to serve the capital city"s tens–of–thousands of Central American refugees and other extremely poor persons.

As if this were not enough, in 1985 Goetcheus founded Christ House, a 32–bed, temporary residential respite care facility for homeless men and women, the only one of its kind in the nation—and moved in with her husband to raise their three children there. Kairos House, a permanent housing program for former Christ House patients who have medical disabilities preventing them from working –time, followed in 1992. The Kairos community supports and encourages spiritual growth, volunteer service and addiction recovery.

Also in 1985, Goetcheus helped to start the Health Care for the Homeless Project, guiding it from a handful of dedicated health care providers to become, in 1998, Unity Health Care, Incorporated, a 450–employee organization which operates two medical vans and 25 neighborhood health centers located in the neediest areas of the city. Most recently she has extended her involvement in meeting the health care needs of the underserved by assisting in the formation of the DC Health Care Alliance, a consortium of private entities providing inpatient services among several hospitals and outpatient services through community health centers.

Known to her colleague, Vincent Keane, CEO of Unity Health Care, as a “humble person who does not speak of the gifts she brings to patients but only of the gifts patients bring to her,” Goetcheus was named Doctor of the Year by the American Academy of Family Physicians in 1991, and was deemed a "Woman of Mercy" by the Sisters of Mercy in 1988. She was inducted into the District of Columbia Women's Hall of Fame, in 1989, received the 1990 Good Samaritan Award from the National Catholic Development Conference and, in 1995, was named Washingtonian of the Year by the Washingtonian magazine.

Bestowing the 2002 American Medical Association Pride in Profession Award on Goetcheus, Dr. Stuart F. Seides, Chairman of the District of Columbia Medical Society, neatly captured the “Mother Theresa of Washington,” saying, “She is an inner–city missionary, utterly selfless. She sees God in all these people who have fallen through the cracks of governmental social systems, and she has a vision in looking after the homeless and the dispossessed in the city.”



Dr. Goetcheus founded Columbia Road Health Services, a medical clinic serving 11,000 Central American refugees and other extremely poor residents of the District of Columbia.


In 1985, she founded Christ House, a live–in respite care facility for homeless men and women who are ill. It is the first facility of its kind in the nation. She also lives at Christ House with her family.


Assumes directorship of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, the third woman to lead such a National Cancer Institute–designated center.




Indiana University School of Medicine


Family Practice

Sub Specialty



District of Columbia

Picture of A. Janelle Goetcheus
“I feel very, very committed to being a part of this city, with all its goodness and all its struggles. ”