613 Park Avenue in East Orange is the office of Salerno Medical Associates. It may seem like just another building on this wide urban street, but it’s a building rich in history. A symbol of one family’s dedication to the community they have chosen to support for nearly a century. “You’re looking at a 19th century building that houses a 21st century practice. My father purchased the building, Alfonse Salerno, in the early 1950’s as his first home office. It was also the home for my grandparents. And, in fact, my grandmother was to face that greeted patients for many years as they came through the doors.

My father continued to maintain his presence here for 59 years. My mother’s also a physician, she continues to practice part time, she was one of the first female physicians in Newark. So it’s more than just an office, it’s more than just brick and mortar. It’s about history, it’s about tradition, it’s about our family taking care of your family.”

Salerno Medical Associates became a leader and advocate for the health and well-being of the increasingly urban community of East Orange and surrounding areas.

“During the sixties, during the race riots, when Newark was burning and on fire, many businesses, many doctors chose to leave the area, never to come back. But my mother and father stayed during the riots, and more importantly, after the riots to be part of the healing and rebuilding of the city and its people.” In the 1970’s a new generation was born who chose to carry on the family business into the 21st century.

“Growing up as an only child, I used to go with my parents on hospital rounds, house calls to both of their offices, and just see how to interacted with people. It’s something you don’t learn from a textbook, it’s something you just inherently see and develop and that was what was instilled in me. And so to me, it’s about compassion to the patient, it’s about commitment and sacrifice that I saw my parents do every day of my life, not because they had to but because they want to.”

Dr. Alexander Salerno, a former United States Air Force captain, chose to not only establishes practice here, but to take it to the next level, to meet the evolving needs of the community it serves. “When I joined my mom’s practice, and then eventually incorporated my dad’s practice, we formed Salerno Medical Associates in 2001. Initially, it was a primary care practice, but looking at changing community needs, we gradually expanded on the services and today it’s a one-stop shop. You can see a cardiologist, a pulmonologist, a gastroenterologist, a podiatrist, women’s health, preventative care, chronic care.

It has over 50 employees, it operates six days a week, it serves over 10,000 active patients.” In addition to expanding services, Dr. Salerno has also kept some long-held traditions intact, including Salerno Medical Associates house call program, which is one of the longest running programs of its kind in the area. Now called CHOP or Community Health Care Outreach Program, its services not only homebound seniors but also has expanded to address the needs of those with mental health issues.

In 2010, Dr. Salerno launched the Urban Healthcare Initiative Program, or UHIP, to address the growing disparity in healthcare outcomes in the urban community through education outreach programs.

He and his team reach out to the community through local churches, community centers, even barbershops. “I looked at Salerno Medical Associates to really take it to the next level, not be a follower but be a leader. In the old days, medicine was focused on treating problems, today medicine is about preventing problems. So we shifted the paradigm from reactive medicine to proactive medicine. As my dad used to say, a pound of prevention is better than a ton of treatment.” The building underwent major renovations between 2005 and 2007, building on the legacy of his family’s vision. “You know, when you walk in through that door, you’re not in your typical medical, sterile, medical office. I want it to be inviting, I want it to be comfortable, I want it to be welcoming, because it’s stressful enough to go to a doctor’s office. So my concept is I want it to be a home.”

Salerno Medical Associates has received numerous accolades over the years including being recognized by United Healthcare as a top healthcare metrics provider and earned the highest ranking for stellar care in a Horizon piloted patient-centered medical home program. But the real testament to the practice is the people. Generations of families have made Salerno Medical Associates their primary care provide. “I’ve been coming here for 36 years.

Three generations of my family has come here. And I keep coming because his concern is his patients. And I wouldn’t go any place else.”

“It’s an honor to be trusted to take care of the lives of people. At the end of the day, I want SMA to be a continuation of what my mother and father started. Where it’s still about passion, about holding a patient’s hand, about listening, about talking and about connecting with the community.”