A few years ago, I found myself facing a new chapter in my life. I had just graduated from college, and was about to begin a Public Interest Fellowship with what was then the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved. This would be my first gig in the proverbial real world, and it would turn out to be an unforgettable experience.
For my senior thesis in college, I wrote about how our health care system fosters a sense of alienation in people, because while it is intended to serve them, we often find that it is not people-centered enough to do that—to allow people to live and age with dignity and help them make the choices that support their ability to do so. Through this writing, I became certain I wanted to devote my time to making the health care system one that truly prioritizes people. When I found out I’d be working with Center for Health Progress, I jumped at the prospect of knowing I could move from solely writing about health care to working on the very systems that can, if improved, bring about the change I wished to see in a palpable way.
When I began at Center for Health Progress, I was one of six staff, and the first person of color at the organization. Since then, we have doubled in size and half of our staff are people of color. And it’s not simply numbers we have to show for our growth. While we have literally diversified our staff and Board, we have also diversified and expanded how we think about the health system’s role in advancing equity, as well as what it means to be a health equity organization.
In my first blog post, I wrote about an experience I had with a child thinking I was from Africa. I felt the anecdote was an important introduction to racism experienced by many navigating the health care system. I was advised to not explicitly use the word “racism,” and to use “race-based bias” instead, because that’s all we could expect readers to be ready for at the time. Not even a full year later, we pushed ourselves to be more explicit and unequivocal in our word choice, to show to the world that, ready-or-not, it was time to have these necessary conversations.
Every member of the team here has played a role in these tough conversations, and we are better for it. While this is an ongoing journey, I am proud to have seen the noticeable evolution of the organization from the time I joined to now. There is no doubt in my mind that Center for Health Progress will continue to elevate the conversation on health equity to places where it needs to be heard, especially as we move further into uncertain times.
I have been surrounded by a bright, hardworking, and passionate team at Center for Health Progress, an organization that fostered both my personal and professional growth. What a joy it has been to work with people who put real heart into creating opportunities and eliminating barriers to health equity for all Coloradans.
And now, it’s time for me to begin yet another chapter. In June, I will continue my personal mission to advance equitable health care access at Children’s Hospital Colorado. It has been an honor to contribute to health policy change in our state, and I look forward to partnering with this organization in my new position to ensure our health care system truly works for all.