Jennifer A. Allcock

Edmund N. Bacon
1983
The Reverend Paul M. Washington
1985

Born in England, Dr. Jennifer Allcock first came to the U.S. in 1960 as a member of the touring British women’s lacrosse team. During her visit, she discovered an “inequality of health care that seemed to exist here.” Allcock found something far worse during her pediatric residency two years later at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. She observed that, “having come here before as a VIP, I’d seen everything through rose-tinted spectacles…[At the hospital I found] a shortage of nurses; there were no bandages; we had to break up boxes to make splints. It was primitive. And it [the hospital] was full of the very poor and the very sick.”


 
A llcock was leaning toward accepting a position in Nigeria until some friends of hers suggested another plan—purchase a house in a poor section of Philadelphia, and service the needs of the neighborhood. Inspired by the civil rights movement, Allcock took up the challenge, purchasing a house in Germantown. She and her friend, Joan Hemenway, founded what would later be called Covenant House. Hemenway became her lifelong companion.

Allcock noted, “We called it ‘the ministry of being there.’” In fact, no one knew she was a doctor for the first two years. Allcock and her colleagues tutored neighborhood children in reading, established a library for them, and later started a nursery school.

In 1965, Allcock secured her medical license as well as enough money to purchase some medical equipment. She placed her medical sign on the premises, and began accepting patients. She faced resistance at first, as people were not accustomed to a female physician. As Allcock recalled, “nobody believed it. Doctors weren’t women and doctors didn’t roller skate down the street. But the children knew me and trusted me, and they’d bring in their parents, and gradually we built up a medical practice.”

Covenant House thrived, and by 1985 was located in two houses on East Bringhurst Street, with nearby modular clinical units. The clinic had 32 full time staff members, including four physicians. Patients were charged on a sliding scale (based on their ability to pay), and the clinic ran on a break-even basis. In a 1984 article on hunger in Germantown, Allcock testified that a large number of the one thousand babies seen by the clinic each year showed signs of malnutrition.

By 1985 Allcock’s principal activities had changed, from her early days as an active physician to being Covenant House’s executive and medical director. As she noted, “I traded in my stethoscope for a calculator.” Allcock raised funds to support the operating expenses of Covenant House.

Allcock served as the director of Covenant House Health Services for 25 years. She later earned an M.A. in Landscape Design, and relocated to Connecticut. Allcock became an activist in the Guilford Conservation Commission from 2004 to 2010, including serving as its chairperson for five years. Allcock led many conservation initiatives in the town of Guilford, CT, including establishing a research orchard for the purpose of developing “a blight resistant Chestnut Tree.” She also served as a director of the American Chestnut Foundation’s Connecticut chapter. In 2010, Allcock planned on returning to Pennsylvania.

In presenting her the 1984 medal, the Philadelphia Award committee praised Allcock as one who “has set a model for health care practitioners and institutions throughout Philadelphia and beyond.”

James Gross

Sources: “Recognizing a City Asset,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 30, 1985; Mark Wagenveld, “Association sees hunger in Germantown,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 17, 1984; Sue Chastain, “Germantown Doctor Honored for Thriving Community Clinic,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 23, 1985; “Two major CACIWC awards were given at the Saturday November 13, 2010 ceremony,” The Habitat, vol. 22, no. 4 (Winter 2010); “CACIWC 2010 Annual Recognition Award Recipients,” Connecticut Association of Conservation & Inland Wetlands Commissions, http://www.caciwc.org/library/annualReport/CACIWC%20Annual%20Report-111010.pdf; “Joan Hemenway’s Memorial Service in Hamden, CT,” Association for Clinical Pastoral Education News, North Central Region, http://www.ncracpe.org/Newsletters/mar07.pdf; “Covenant House Health Services (Philadelphia)”, Wikamapia.org; http://wikimapia.org/11351984/Covenant-House-Health-Services