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June 6, 2005


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Community Clinic Leaders Honored As TCWF Champions Of Diversity In Health Professions

Elia Gallardo (Sacramento), Sherry Hirota (Oakland), and Martin Waukazoo (Oakland) Awarded $25,000 Each for Their Leadership in Increasing Diversity

Woodland Hills (CA) — The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) presents its third annual Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award to three leaders who have created innovative strategies to increase diversity in the health workforce. The honorees are Elia V. Gallardo, Esq. of Sacramento, Sherry M. Hirota of Oakland and Martin Waukazoo of Oakland. Each will receive a $25,000 grant in recognition of his or her work and achievements at an awards ceremony in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 8, 2005.

Through their work with community clinics, each of these awardees has led efforts to improve the well-being of medically underserved communities by ensuring better access to care, increasing cultural competency among providers and creating programs to diversify the health workforce. Each year, the 600 community clinics in California serve more than 2.8 million patients, most of whom live in low-income, minority and immigrant communities. As both health care costs and the number of uninsured Californians rise, community clinics play an essential role in delivering health care.

In a state as ethnically and racially diverse as California, a health workforce that mirrors the population is a critical component of health care access and quality. Recent data shows that while 33 percent of California’s residents are Latino, only four percent of doctors, six percent of dentists and four percent of registered nurses in the state are Latino. This underrepresentation is similar for many ethnic and racial groups in the state. The lack of culturally competent care is one of the factors cited for the differences in health outcomes for many ethnic minority groups.

“The community clinics in our state are an important part of the safety net for people who have no other access to health care,” said Gary L. Yates, TCWF president and CEO. “These frontline providers face many linguistic and cultural challenges in ensuring competent care to an increasingly diverse California. Rising to the challenge, these champions have developed innovative programs to not only diversify the health workforce but to create whole new models of health care delivery that are responsive to the needs of the community.”

The three awardees have developed strategies, programs and partnerships to strengthen the community clinic system and diversify the health care workforce. As director of government affairs at the California Primary Care Association (CPCA), Gallardo works to advance the interests of more than 600 California community clinics and health centers and the many patients they serve through advocating for public policies that increase access to high-quality, responsive health care. As chief executive officer of one of the leading community clinics in the state, Asian Health Services (AHS), Hirota is a nationally recognized pioneer in the movement to create culturally competent care and has led efforts to diversify the health care workforce throughout the country. Chief executive officer of the Native American Health Center, Waukazoo has transformed a small community clinic into the largest health care provider for urban Indians in the country and has influenced many lives with his vision of a healthy generation of Native Americans.

Elia V. Gallardo, Esq.

Elia V. Gallardo serves as director of government affairs at the California Primary Care Association (CPCA), which represents more than 600 community clinics and health centers statewide. At CPCA, Gallardo has successfully advocated on behalf of a loan-repayment program for culturally and linguistically competent physicians and dentists working in underserved areas and is assisting health care professionals from other countries who want to continue their work in the United States.

Before joining CPCA, Gallardo worked with the Organización en California de Líderes Campesinas, which trains women farmworkers to conduct peer-health education. Based on this experience and her personal history, Gallardo is committed to including new voices and experiences in the delivery of health care and in the formulation of policy. She has provided analysis and testimony to the California Health Manpower Policy Commission, and technical assistance on programs, policies and legislation impacting the diversity of the health professions to legislative offices, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Department of Health Services, the Language Access Advocacy Coalition, and the Latino Health Alliance.

Born in Livermore, California, Gallardo is the daughter of monolingual Spanish-speaking farmworkers and was raised in Fremont before attending UC Berkeley and graduating from the UCLA School of Law. She currently serves on the boards of Farmworker Health Services, Inc. and the California Institute of Rural Studies and contributes to the Northern California Rural Roundtable by providing legislative and policy updates.

“Community clinics address culturally competent health care at a very grassroots level,” Gallardo said. “They are often the first to see the changing demographics of a community, including new immigrants. By design, half of the boards of Community Health Centers are from the community, which helps to ensure that the clinic is truly responsive.”

Sherry M. Hirota

For nearly 30 years, Sherry M. Hirota has worked to improve the health of underserved communities by diversifying the health-care workforce. Chief executive officer of Asian Health Services (AHS) since 1982, Hirota has been instrumental in advancing the concepts of linguistic and cultural competence. Under her leadership, the AHS budget has increased from $100,000 with a staff of nine to $16 million with a staff of 160; 99 percent of whom speak both English and at least one additional language.

In addition to her work at AHS, Hirota helps promote the emerging professions of health care interpreters and community health workers. Nationally, she has been instrumental in the development of several organizations which promote policies and programs that improve the health status of Asians and Pacific Islanders. Hirota is a board member of the Community

Health Centers Network and the Alameda Health Consortium, and is an Emeritus Member of the board of The California Endowment. Her numerous awards and commendations include Outstanding Woman of the Year in Health-Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame, Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Award, and Woman of the Year for the 16th Assembly District of California.

Born in Berkeley, California, Hirota worked with different Asian ethnic communities as a community organizer in the late 1960s, and helped develop an Asian women’s center in Los Angeles before returning to the San Francisco Bay Area. Hirota lives in the East Bay near her three children and two grandchildren.

“Health care works best when we have respect for everybody and no one is left behind,” said Hirota. “It's in everybody's interest that we have language access and a diverse workforce that reflects the community, because without this, our health system cannot be truly competent.”

Martin Waukazoo

Martin Waukazoo’s vision of a healthy community has inspired many young Native Americans to pursue careers in the health professions. Chief executive officer of the Native American Health Center (NAHC), which serves diverse Native tribes as well as all other underserved communities, Waukazoo’s leadership helped the organization grow from a budget of $827,000 and a staff of 14 to a budget of nearly $14 million and a staff of 170. The Oakland-based organization has clinics in San Francisco and Sacramento, and has helped launch a clinic in Fresno. NAHC is now one of the country’s largest providers of health care and prevention services to the urban Indian community.

Waukazoo has created many innovative programs to increase the diversity of the health care workforce. NAHC’s Youth Services Department encourages at-risk Native American youth to pursue secondary education and motivates young people to enter the health professions. Waukazoo has also established partnerships with a variety of educational institutions, and NAHC has hosted numerous medical residents. In addition, Waukazoo has developed a health center training certificate program that integrates the working world of the community health practice with a ladder to academic and business training.

Raised in Rapid City, South Dakota, Waukazoo, an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, graduated from Black Hills State University before relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area. Waukazoo currently resides in San Leandro with his wife and near his three children and two grandchildren. He serves as a cultural advisor and elder in the community health care movement.

“Having an RN who walks on the earth in a good way, who is educated in Western medicine and who practices his or her traditions, increases the chances of a person getting well,” said Waukazoo. “And when that person gets well, their family and the community get well.”

TCWF prioritized diversity in the health professions in 2000. Grants that address the issue are commonly given to organizations that provide pipeline programs, scholarships, outreach and retention programs, internships, fellowships and loan repayment programs for ethnic minorities that are underrepresented in the health professions. Careers in medicine, nursing, public health and other allied health professions are included. Fostering and developing leadership is a theme across the Foundation's grantmaking.

Gallardo, Hirota and Waukazoo will be joined by TCWF directors, staff and Grantees of the Foundation at a ceremony at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California on June 8, 2005.

“Community health clinics provide essential prevention education, language interpretation services and help in navigating the health care system,” said Saba Brelvi, TCWF program director. “These champions have paved the way for people of color to become doctors, nurses as well as allied health professionals that allow our health care system to better respond to the growing disparities in health outcomes.”

The California Wellness Foundation is a private, independent foundation created in 1992, with the mission of improving the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention. The Foundation prioritizes eight issues for funding: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women’s health, and work and health. It also responds to timely issues or special projects outside the funding priorities. TCWF has awarded 3,858 grants totaling more than $460 million since 1992. Please visit TCWF’s website at for more information, including a news room section devoted to the Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award and the three honorees. Photos suitable for downloading are also available.

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