Spirit of Wetzel Award: Dra. Daniela Domínguez

3 min read. Spirit of Wetzel Award recipient Dra. Daniela Domínguez is a champion of health, wellbeing and liberation for communities on the margins.

Dra. Daniela “Danny” Domínguez is a licensed psychologist and professional clinical counselor with a special interest in liberation psychology, anti-racism, migrant justice, and gender and sexuality matters. As CEO of On the Margins and assistant professor at the University of San Francisco, Danny has been a stalwart ally and collaborative partner in several key Healthcare Foundation initiatives, including our Mental Health Talent Pipeline scholarship program and, most recently, a new Bicultural Clinical Training Program. 

Born in Mexico City and raised in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Dra. Domínguez brings a range of expertise and lived experience to the work she does. And as Assistant Professor in Counseling Psychology and USF, she emphasizes to her students the importance of drawing on their own lived experience and cultural inheritance as a vital knowledge base in their work as therapists. 

As a licensed psychologist and clinician, Dra. Domínguez works to create liberatory spaces of creativity and belonging. Applying this approach to the community level, she founded On the Margins as an eclectic and collaborative group of health professionals, artists, researchers, and consultants with the aim of supporting transformative justice and healing justice efforts.

That includes, among much else, counseling and coaching services; youth-oriented programs like ¡DALE! (Development, Advocacy, Leadership & Engagement), launched in 2021 to empower high school students with the tools and knowledge to be leaders and advocates for change in their communities; and Nepantlah, a program launched this year (as part of the Healthcare Foundation’s Bicultural Clinical Training Program initiative) to cultivate a virtual network of knowledge-sharing and support for bilingual mental health practitioners, community health workers, and psychology students. 

In her roles as teacher and mentor, scholar and clinician, program developer and community advocate, Danny continues to make an extraordinary contribution to the mental health and wellbeing of our region at the individual, professional, institutional, and community level. The Healthcare Foundation is proud to recognize Dr. Daniela Domínguez’s extensive service to her students and clients, and her untiring commitment to those on the margins, with the 2023 Spirit of Wetzel Award.

We asked her recently about the influences, legacies and values that undergird her extensive commitments to community health, health equity and social justice.

Can you point to early influences that helped you know what you wanted to be and do?

My abuelita and mama represent the richness of my family heritage, the importance of culturally-rooted growth, and they are a reminder to be in solidarity with my comunidad. Their love and legacy has shaped who I am today.

What inspired you to go into mental health as a profession?

Gender, sexual, Queer, and Black liberation movements as well as my own social positionality inspired me to go into a mental health profession. I am a Queer and cisgender Latinx womxn with a history of migration to the United States. Mental health programs have often failed to include the voices and stories of families that exist beyond the Standard North American Family constellation (i.e., white intact nuclear cis hetero family with “citizenship”). 

As a professor who is influenced by liberation movements, my teaching at USF openly teaches about diverse family arrangements, relationships, and healing practices. It matters to me to challenge the hetero-, mono-, and cis-normative cultural standards that continue to exist in Counseling Psychology classrooms. Conversations in my classes exist beyond the confines of the traditional nuclear family and students are asked to reflect on how they can more fully embrace different definitions of “family” as future Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Clinical Counselors. We discuss clinical vignettes with different family arrangements such as single family households, grandparents raising children, mixed-immigration status families, LGBTQIA2S+ families, and more.

What are the ideas and who are the mentors or role models you draw inspiration from in your work at On the Margins?

I am influenced by my ideological ancestors—Angela Davis, Grace Lee Boggs, Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde, Mariame Kaba, Dolores Huerta, Bell Hooks, and Fannie Lou Hamer. They taught me that if my lens lacks the capability of observing and considering multiple viewpoints, then I risk yielding to hegemonic “truth claims” that can dehumanize and objectify groups of people, limiting the space for creative exchanges that are inclusive of different voices. These ideological ancestors have shaped and informed my work at On the Margins.

What matters most to you about the work that you do?

What matters most is to be in ongoing pursuit of collective liberation. Liberation-based frameworks such as Abolition Feminism and Liberation Psychology are the fuel that help me to continuously ask myself: Who am I accountable to? And how is my work contributing to a resilient multiracial, cross-class, multi-issue ecosystem that moves me/us in the direction of healing?

What are your hopes for the region you live and work in?

I want to see a healthier Sonoma County community in which the pervasive structural and systemic issues that have historically impacted the health and wellbeing of Trans, Queer, BIPOC communities are addressed. Wounds don’t close when they are unacknowledged. I want the wounds of white supremacy to be acknowledged and addressed for healing to happen. It is time to pay attention to and change, through bold and sustainable action, the structures and systems of power that contribute to the traumatic experiences of marginalized communities in Sonoma County.

Ari and Dawnelise Rosen with their children


Thursday, November 2nd 8:30-10:00am
Dry Creek Kitchen, Healdsburg


Please join us for a celebratory breakfast reception and ceremony honoring this year’s Wetzel Community Leadership Award recipients Dawnelise and Ari Rosen and Spirit of Wetzel Award recipient Dra. Daniela Domínguez. These inspiring community leaders demonstrate extraordinary community leadership in support of health and wellness in our region.

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