By Marissa Lee
The sky was pink with the setting sun as I sat down with Leticia Gavilanes, a recent graduate of the Clinic-based Community Health Worker (cCHW) Program at San Manuel Gateway College’s Promotores Academy. Leticia’s journey to becoming a cCHW began 18 years ago when she moved from Los Angeles to Montclair, California. As mother of 2 young children, she quickly noticed the stark differences in public resources available between Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Hoping to get involved in this small city with a population of 38,000, Leticia began volunteering with the San Bernardino county office in Montclair, eventually working her way to a full-time health education specialist. Having worked for Montclair for 18 years, Leticia has coordinated the community garden, taught community classes, and assisted with various community programs designed to bring community members together. In 2012, she completed her first CHW course with the Promotores Academy with El Sol. Seeking to further her training and connect her community to more resources, Leticia began the Summer 2017 cCHW program.
Leticia is currently doing her clinical internship to finish her cCHW training at the Loma Linda University Health Diabetes Treatment Center. Diabetes has a personal connection for her as she lost two family members to uncontrolled diabetes and other chronic diseases. From her personal experience, she believes the patient and doctor truly have the same goals, but simply don’t know how to communicate. The doctor doesn’t know the personal stories behind each patient case. This is where she comes in as a cCHW. She enjoys connecting with her patients, hearing their needs, explaining their treatment in a way they can understand, and connecting them with resources. When a patient misses an appointment, she wants to know why rather than simply rescheduling them without asking questions. “We need to connect patients to what they want, not what you think they want”, she says.
For Leticia, the most exciting part of the cCHW program was seeing her peers transform into polished professionals. Her warm smile widened and her eyes brightened as she explained that each one of her peers has unique roles filling the gaps in their own respective communities in the Inland Empire. She believes this program is all about empowerment. “We are part of a movement. We see communities change to better communities, better lifestyles, better quality of life.” She attributed this deep sense of community and growth among her cCHW group to the passionate staff of the Promotores Academy. Leticia expressed how thankful she was for the good mentorship and the strong support given by the staff. As a graduate of the first cCHW program in Southern California, Leticia said, “I feel so grateful. Blessed. Honored.”