By Amy Crowley

 

A diverse healthcare provider community that reflects the demographics of its patient population is becoming universally-recognized as a critical component of equity in care.

 

Attitudes toward healthcare and accepting various treatments can vary greatly among different populations with diverse belief systems. Without physicians, nurses, and practitioners who can relate to and understand these differences, the whole community is negatively affected. The Latino community is no exception.

Dr. Maria Espinola, Psy.D is a full time, tenure-track assistant professor in clinical psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. In 2017, one year after joining the UC College of Medicine, Dr. Espinola recognized the need to improve the recruitment, promotion, and retention of women and underrepresented faculty members, residents, and students. She quickly took action and co-founded the UC Latino Faculty Association (LFA) and began serving as a member of the LFA Executive Committee.

 

The LFA is now 85 members strong and has begun to make positive changes within the community. The association is now working with Cincinnati Public Schools to pair a Latino UC student with a Latino Dater High School student for mentoring opportunities. The program will likely expand into Princeton High School which also has a large and growing Latino student population.

 

Dr. Espinola’s efforts and expertise in diversity continue to be recognized. The same year she co-founded the LFA, she was selected to serve on UC President Neville G. Pinto’s Diversity Council which guides the university’s efforts to conceptualize, define, assess, nurture and cultivate diversity and inclusion as institutional and educational resources at UC.

 

Dr. Espinola is also a faculty advisor for a group of over 40 medical students and actively worked with them to establish the UC Student-Run Free Clinic. The Clinic opened its doors in July 2019 to serve uninsured and underinsured people in Cincinnati, particularly within the Latino community.

 

Dr. Alicia Cintron, who works in the School of Human Services at the University of Cincinnati, nominated Dr. Espinola for the award. “Dr. Espinola has been an advocate for diverse communities and the marginalized since she was in grade school. It is no surprise that she continues to carry this important work with her and in everything she does. Her tireless work can be seen through her dedication to her students, clients, and the community in her various efforts such as the Free Clinic. She is an invaluable member of the UC and Cincinnati community, and I am so proud to be able to call her a friend,” said Dr. Cintron.

 

Since 2012, Dr. Espinola has been interviewed by the media, written articles, led workshops, and has been invited to speak at many conferences on various topics related to culture, diversity, well-being and health disparities.

 

The Health Collaborative is proud to honor Dr. Maria Espinola as a finalist for the 2019 Inspire Diversity & Inclusion Award. Through her tireless work to make diversity in healthcare a reality, many patients no longer feel misunderstood or neglected simply because of their culture, gender, religious beliefs or socioeconomic realities.

 

Watch for more articles profiling the work of our award finalists throughout October, as we lead up to the 2019 Inspire Healthcare Dinner and Awards Celebration!