Committed to the accessibility of health for immigrant communities

Sofia Gomez 2My parents are first generation immigrants who hardly completed primary school. They worked labor jobs–my father in the Zenith assembly line and then as a janitor, and my mom as a seamstress. My dad is Otomí–indigenous people from Central Mexico–and first spoke Spanish when he moved to Mexico City at the age of 12 to look for work. My mother, born in the Mexican state of Michoacán, was denied an education as it was unacceptable for women to go to school and instead was taught domestic duties to help around the house. The financial and cultural challenges that I continue to face as a first generation Mexican American give me a deeper appreciation of my culture, educational accomplishments, and my parents’ perseverance. Persistence, determination, hard work, discipline, love and passion for learning have been instrumental in pursuing higher education. My parents remain my source of inspiration.

My family’s experience as first-generation immigrants has significantly influenced my interest in promoting accessibility of health among immigrant communities in Arizona. During this past year, I have been able to conduct doctoral fieldwork examining the intersection of state-level immigration policy and access to health care in immigrant families. The work has been incredibly rewarding and has further solidified my commitment to address health inequity in Latino communities, particularly addressing immigrant health.

Since obtaining my first college degree, I have held various roles in the administration of health programs. I served as Executive Director of Humane Borders, a faith-based nonprofit organization that addresses migrant deaths in the Arizona desert due to dehydration. Having worked with many local, national, and international agencies, I now understand how public policy affects communities, regardless of borders and boundaries. My commitment to promoting health equity has also led me to pursue volunteer opportunities, including voter registration campaigns; Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Tucson (over 12 year mentorship to now a young adult); Coalición de Derechos Humanos (immigrant rights organization); Enroll America to inform communities of the Affordable Care Act, CommunityShare (an education initiative linking schools with community partners). These experiences have been vital in shaping my career interests and have led me to pursue my doctoral degree. After 20 years of working in community programs, I decided to return to school to pursue a doctorate in Public Health with a specialty in Policy and Management at the University of Arizona’s Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Without scholarship funds, I would not have been able to afford nor accomplish as much as I have academically. Scholarships have allowed me a place at a higher education institution. Scholarship support enables me to graduate at the end of this academic year. I am excited about the possibilities in public health and look forward to finalizing my doctoral degree in the spring of 2017. Upon completion, my intention is to teach at the college level and to continue to advocate for public policies that expand opportunities for people of color, particularly immigrants in Arizona.

We are proud to announce Sofia Gomez is one of the current LatPro Scholarship finalists. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column) and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

28 comments…

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    Lupe hernandez July 1, 2016, 7:50 pm

    Very inspirational!

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    Zoila Sanchez July 1, 2016, 8:22 pm

    We need to invest in leaders like you to advocate for the needs of immigrants.

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    Mary Lovick July 1, 2016, 8:25 pm

    Over the years of knowing Sofy and her core beliefs, I have a great admiration for her dedication and perseverance for Humanity and Her Family Heritage. Proud to have her as a friend in this lifetime.

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    Lori Cotten July 1, 2016, 8:50 pm

    Very nicely done, Sofia! Inspirational.

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    Mercedes Fuentes July 1, 2016, 9:32 pm

    Awesome Sophie!

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    Alexandra Samarron July 1, 2016, 9:34 pm

    I am very proud of you!

    -Alexandra

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    Matice July 1, 2016, 9:38 pm

    Powerful story, and an amazing candidate. These are exactly the types of scholars that we need in our communities, folks with first hand knowledge and experience of the issues facing migrants.

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    Amelia Munoz July 1, 2016, 9:59 pm

    Excellent candidate for this scholarship. Sofia is a deserving individual who has dedicated her time and talents to improving the lives of those in most need.

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      Stephanie Mastro July 3, 2016, 1:14 am

      I agree!

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    Paola July 1, 2016, 10:41 pm

    This is a very powerful story. Thank you for sharing it. I feel inspired. I can’t think of a more deserving candidate for this scholarship.

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    Estela July 1, 2016, 11:30 pm

    They couldn’t have picked a more deserving candidate than you. I am so very proud of the work that you do and of you.

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    Enrique July 2, 2016, 12:25 am

    Awesome, very proud!!!

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    Juan Martinez July 2, 2016, 1:34 am

    Sofía has always been very enthusiastic about immigrants rights. We need more individuals like Sofía.

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    Samantha July 2, 2016, 2:57 am

    Sofia is an incredible leader – mentor and advocate. Through her inspirational work with DACA youth she has re-ignited many of us in public health to reconnect with the social justice foundation of our profession. As a doctoral student in public health and through her participatory action research approach to understanding the critical issue of access to health care among immigrant youth and families she has developed culturally center policy approaches to improve the lives of so many first generation and new immigrant families similar to her own ! She is an inspiration!

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    Lupe Waitherwerch July 2, 2016, 5:24 am

    As a Latina I couldn’t be more proud of all of your accomplishments Sofia. You are an incredible asset to our community.

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    Christina July 2, 2016, 7:21 pm

    Sofia’s work is timely, innovative, and critical for moving public health into a new era toward health and social equity. Her work is powerful and inspiring for Latinx communities !!!!

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    Wendy Ruiz July 2, 2016, 9:08 pm

    Sofia you are my role model to work hard like you. I’m so proud of you

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    Rosa Gonzalez July 3, 2016, 12:44 am

    Very proud of Sofia accomplishments. Keep going, for what is worth you have my unconditional support.

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    Josh Schachter July 4, 2016, 5:21 pm

    Sofia’s passion for ensuring that all voices in a community are heard is an inspiration to me and so many others. Her courage to pursue her doctorate amongst many challenges serves as a model for those who have big dreams.

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    Maria Williamson July 5, 2016, 12:01 am

    Your ccompassion and passion to the problems of health care for immigrants

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    Jan Schachter July 5, 2016, 4:12 pm

    So very inspirational.

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    Lois Anderson July 5, 2016, 5:25 pm

    Ms. Gomez seems to be the perfect candidate for all of us to support. She is an inspiration in so many ways.

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    Abby July 5, 2016, 6:22 pm

    Sofia! Mama Gallina! Mi comadre! I love you dearly and I admire all the hard work you do on behalf of immigrants in Arizona. You inspire me and teach me so much. Thank you!

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    Karen A. Heckert, PhD, MPH, MSW July 6, 2016, 5:03 pm

    Congratulations Sofia for being a finalist candidate! Your passionate work with your Latino community throughout your employment and academic career has repeatedly demonstrated your talented leadership and strategic contribution to the right to health for all and the national goal of becoming the Healthiest Nation in One Generation. Witnessing the culmination of your community based participatory action project with DACA youth two weeks ago in Tucson was one of the most powerful experiences of my public health career working with indigenous communities both globally and in the U.S.. I am so privileged to be among your diverse circle of friends and colleagues. You possess an extremely unique ability to communicate equally effectively with local community folks from various cultures as well as with mainstream health systems providers and policy makers. Your talent and expertise create understanding and acceptance which are essential for change. Sofia, you are exceptional in every way. LatPro should be proud to invest in the final stages of your doctoral studies to help ensure your continued impact on eliminating health disparities and achieving health equity in the U.S. through humane public health policy and practice.

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    Addie July 7, 2016, 3:35 am

    Sophie, I am so proud of you. Your passion for equality is truly inspirational!!! <3

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    Mike Humphrey July 8, 2016, 4:51 am

    I have known Ms. Gomez for many years. As a public health professional, I have worked with Sofy on a number of public health projects, notably the Children’s Assistance and Resource Event. Her doctoral project – working on eliminating health disparities is indicative of her knowledge, commitment and passion for public health. I truly believe that Sofy is a rising star in our field.

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    Susana Stoll, MA July 9, 2016, 9:23 pm

    Such a great opportunity to speak on Sofia’s accomplishments as a Mexican-American woman fully engaged in helping her community and many others! Sofia’s commitment to the immigrant community in Arizona is truly inspirational. Whether volunteering with various organizations, working in diverse non-profits and now working towards her Ph.D. in public health, Sofia’s dedication to finding solutions to issues affecting this community is tireless and impressive. Her, intelligence, care, and dedication to the community and to these matters show through all her work, enthusiasm, and efforts. Sofia is truly a leader in every sense of the word. I am so thrilled that she is a candidate for this scholarship; no one deserves it more than her.

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    Bernadette Soto July 13, 2016, 9:32 pm

    “I’ve known Sofy for the last 13 years when we worked at the health department. She has always been committed to making sure everyone had access to care. She worked hard to make sure of that! I’m proud of her and the work she does .”

    Reply

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