I was a late bloomer when it came to education, beginning at the local community college in San Diego in my mid-twenties, becoming an RN at 30 and getting my Masters in Public Health at 40. The world of education opened my eyes to the universe in ways I could never have imagined, and is part of the reason I became a fierce social justice advocate. I did this while raising my daughter, who was born when I was 18 and who proudly accompanied me on our many protests. I worked hard, and was supported by many different government programs and loans, eventually becoming the President and CEO of The California Association of Public Hospitals, and later the Program Director for Community Health at the San Francisco Foundation. My education gave me the chance to support myself and my daughter and to work in a field I loved, taking care of people and fighting for access to healthcare for everyone.
I am also grateful for the ways my education and my career opened my eyes to the terrible inequities in our country, particularly when it comes to healthcare. When I was getting my bachelor’s degree in nursing at Northwestern University in Chicago, I worked in both the university’s private hospital emergency room and the ER at the local public hospital. Almost all of the patients at the public hospital were Black or Latinx while the patients at Northwestern were largely white. And while the staff at the public hospital worked tirelessly, they simply had fewer resources than were available at Northwestern, and the differences in the quality of care were staggering. Someone with a broken arm might wait ten hours at the public hospital just to be seen.
Seeing these racial and class disparities in healthcare motivated me professionally to fight for improved access to quality healthcare. It’s why I care so much about the work that the Healthcare Foundation supports in our community, whether it’s our focus on early childhood development or programs that provide healthcare to our neighbors and friends who need it most.