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.

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