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Hispanic health leaders that made a difference in 2012

Putting minority health on the forefront

 Many organizations and health professionals made headlines in 2012 for their dedication to service and professional achievements in improving Hispanic health in the United States.

These are some of the many remarkable individuals and organizations that put minority health on the forefront.

Dr. Salomon Melgen

AET 0135 Hispanic health leaders that made a difference in 2012

Doctor Salomon Melgen, center, received the Lifetime Honorary Member Award from Daisy Baez, founder of the Dominican Healthcare Association of Florida, and Doctor Rolando Grillo, during the Noche en Honor al Medico Dominicano gala, last Friday in Coral Gables. (Photo courtesy Dominican Healthcare Association)

A renowned philanthropist and VOXXI chairman and co-founder, Dr. Salomon Melgen made headlines in 2012 when he received a “Lifetime Honorary Member Award” from the Dominican Healthcare Association of Florida on the basis of his professional achievements, personal contribution to the Association and service to the community at large.

“The journey to get here tonight has not been an easy one.  When I came to the United States from the Dominican Republic, I faced many challenges. I did not speak the language and I was also discriminated against for being Hispanic,” said Dr. Melgen, during his acceptance speech. “But when one door closes, another one opens. We must learn how to fight and be persistent. It is the only secret to success in life.”

Soon after completing his training at Harvard University in 1986, Dr. Melgen, who was born and raised in Dominican Republic and experienced first hand the struggles of being an immigrant, became the first surgeon to perform outpatient retina surgery in South Florida, and became a pioneer in laser therapy.

Dr. Melgen is the founder and chief ophthalmologist of the Melgen Vitreo Retinal Eye Center in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.

Beyond his pioneering work in the medical field, Dr. Melgen has been awarded four times as one of the United States’ most compassionate doctors.

Because of his personal experiences when he arrived to the United States, and thanks to his philanthropist  heart, Melgen has been restless in his efforts to help the Hispanic community in the country, including important health issues affecting Latinos.

Most recently, Dr. Melgen offered his services to a civil engineer, Francina Hungria Hernandez, 28, who was shot in the face. Dr. Melgen helped coordinate her transfer to the Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Bacon Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, FL. with the assistance of Senator Felix Bautista and offered his professional guidance to help save Hungria’s left eye.

Dr. Melgen is an avid advocate for Hispanic rights and an important contributor to the improvement of Hispanic health in the country.

Dr. Raúl Ruiz

Rauls Doctor Picture Hispanic health leaders that made a difference in 2012

Dr. Raul Ruiz. (Courtesy Dr. Raul Ruiz)

The first Hispanic ever to be awarded three Harvard degrees (MD, public health, and public policy), Dr. Raul Ruiz, 39, was elected to Congress this November in representation of the newly formed California’s 36th Congressional District. He defeated incumbent Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack who was bidding for her ninth term.

“We – and I don’t mean only Latinos – all the residents in the United States, can achieve excellence and prosperity with personal responsibility as long as we work hard, play by the rules and have discipline,” said Ruiz to VOXXI. “But here is the part we often forget: We also serve our neighbors, our community, and our country with social responsibility. This is why we believe that together as a community we’re stronger than individuals.”

Dr. Ruiz Ruiz works as an emergency physician at the Eisenhower Medical Center, Coachella Valley’s only non-profit hospital. Moved by the alarming shortage of primary care physicians, especially in the communities with high rates of poverty, he launched the Coachella Valley Healthcare Initiative and continues to advocate for the rights of minorities as well as Hispanic health in the United States.

Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo

studioshotsmall Hispanic health leaders that made a difference in 2012

Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo . (Photo courtesy of Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo)

On May 12, Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, M.D., became the 2012 recipient of the Society of General Internal Medicine’s prestigious Herbert W. Nickens Award for his exceptional commitment to improving minority and Hispanic health and cultural diversity in medicine.

“The Latino community is suffering greatly because of health disparities and lack of coverage,” Carrasquillo said.

A self-described “boricua, a nuyorican,” who grew up in the Bronx, studied Public Health at Harvard to gain tools to improve the way we deliver care to minorities. Carrasquillo co-founded and is currently acting president of Latinos for National Health Insurance (LNHI), a New York based organization that has advocated for the establishment of a comprehensive, universal, equitable and affordable program where everyone is covered from birth. He is also member of the speaker’s bureau of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Dr. Valerie Romero-Leggott

Romero Leggott Hispanic health leaders that made a difference in 2012

Dr. Valerie Romero-Leggott (Photo University of New Mexico)

Dr. Valerie Romero-Leggott is the Vice President for Diversity at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Associate Dean of the School of Medicine Office of Diversity and Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine.

She is also the Pres­i­dent of the Hispanic-Serving Health Pro­fes­sions Schools, made of 22 med­ical schools and six pub­lic health schools.

Dr. Romero-Leggott received in 2012 the His­panic Health Lead­er­ship Award at the National His­panic Med­ical Association’s annual con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton D.C. The award is offered to indi­vid­u­als who play a sig­nif­i­cant lead­er­ship role in improving Hispanic health  and working with under­served com­mu­ni­ties in the country.

Romero-Leggott’s work devel­op­ing pro­grams to encour­age His­panic youth to enter health pro­fes­sions has been outstanding, according to the Association.

Dr. Carmen Peralta

 Hispanic health leaders that made a difference in 2012

Dr. Carmen Peralta.

Dr. Carmen Peralta was awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Young Leader Award in 2012 for her work in medical innovation and dedication to developing methods of detecting early kidney disease among Hispanics and African-Americans in the United States. With her work, she is committed to improving minority and Hispanic health.

The Young Leader Awards are given to individuals seen as inspirations among the medical community, and the Foundation used a set criteria vital to successful medical innovation to help determine which nominees would receive the award. Dr. Peralta was one of 10 health professionals in the country awarded this honor in 2012.

“I believe I am a better doctor because of my multi-cultural background. When I get a hug or a smile from a patient who is shocked and surprised to have a doctor who looks like them, acts like them, speaks Spanish is very rewarding,” Dr. Peralta told VOXXI. “I have been given great opportunity in my life. I have very supportive mentors who teach and inspire me. With that opportunity comes responsibility to improve the lives of all.”

National Hispanic Medical Association

National Hispanic 395x296 Hispanic health leaders that made a difference in 2012In 2012, the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) signed on to the Amicus Briefs in support of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and Medicaid expansion.

This summer, the founder of the NHMA, Dr. Elena Rios was one of the presenters at the Democratic Convention’s Platform Committee. She talked in support of the Affordable Care Act and the health disparities focus of the Federal government, including the HCOP Program to recruit Hispanic community’s students to medical school.

Established in 1994 in Washington, DC, the non-profit NHMA represents 45,000 licensed Hispanic physicians in the United States and aims at becoming the national leader in improving Hispanic health through empowering the Hispanic physicians in the nation.

National Alliance for Hispanic Health

Alliance 410x296 Hispanic health leaders that made a difference in 2012The National Alliance for Hispanic Health published in 2012 The Buena Salud: Guide to Arthritis and Your Life,” the most recent book in Dr. Jane Delgado’s health series geared toward Hispanics.

Dr. Delgado is also the president and CEO of the Alliance. Other books in Delgado’s series cover topics such as healthy living, diabetes, heart health, Latina health and depression.

The Alliance is the premier science-based nonprofit organization focused on improving the health and well-being of Hispanics in the United States. Besides publishing and distributing health information, the Alliance also invested in research and, each year, they award up to $500.000 in scholarships to improve Hispanic student access to higher education and degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The Alliance is also active in politics, making sure the Latino community is acknowledged and important minority issues are addressed.

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