Disruptive Women in Health Care, a platform dedicated to provocative ideas, thoughts and solutions in the health sphere, recently announced its list "15 Disruptive Women to Watch in 2015." Among those chosen are laudable women such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Maria Shriver and Susan Dentzer, the senior health policy advisor for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. One other notable on the list is Alicia Wilson, the executive director of La Clínica del Pueblo. Wilson is taking her place among other game changers who are pushing boundaries every day.
So how is Wilson a game changer? If you ask her, she humbly defers to the work of La Clínica. "Being a game changer for me in health care is really about the place where I work. [La Clínica] has been several steps ahead in many areas by focusing on the needs of the community. We are nimble enough to respond rapidly to the call for help and we include our community in new solutions."
Wilson is only the second executive director that La Clínica has had in its 30-year history -- and the first female to sit at the helm. Wilson also sits on the Board of Directors for the D.C. Primary Care Association and on Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's Latino Community Congressional Advisory Committee.
A Quiet Fierceness
The Women to Watch list is compiled by the editorial team at Disruptive Women. The women who are selected have shown that they are not afraid to make waves in order to bring about change. Robin Strongin, founder and publisher of Disruptive Women, stated that she's not always looking for the woman who is at center stage when making selections for the list.
"One of the things that I look for in our selection of women is if she is involved in all aspects of making things better. The ones who are leaders in her field which can be someone who is quietly doing her thing isn't necessarily looking for the lime light. At the end of the day they are moving the needle," she said.
Strongin was impressed with Wilson upon meeting her at an academy health program last year. Wilson had a "quiet fierceness" that Strongin admired. "[Wilson] is really committed to the work and the progress. The contribution that she and her team are making in the community to the patients that she and her team serves. She has a lot of challenges but she goes forth and makes progress."
What Matters to Wilson
Wilson has pushed for signing more Latinos up for health insurance plans. In 2012, when the Affordable Care Act passed, 29% of Hispanic Americans were uninsured. After the 2013 enrollment period ended, early data reports indicated that only 7.4% of Hispanics signed up. Wilson was disappointed by the numbers. "Generally the Affordable Care Act has a lot of promise for the Latino community. The enrollment numbers haven't quite lived up to the promise yet. We are hoping to do better the second time around. We are keeping our fingers crossed," she said.
La Clínica has also been a major health care provider for HIV-positive Latinos in D.C. According to the D.C. Department of Health 2013 Annual Epidemiology and Surveillance Report, approximately 1.6% of the Hispanics in D.C. are living with HIV. Wilson stated that her concerns go deeper than the numbers. "We are still seeing exceedingly high rates of HIV among Latinos. The statistics for young gay men of color and Latina transwomen are jaw dropping. Another issue that doesn't get enough recognition is late testing. We have very high volume of Latinos that are diagnosed with AIDS in the same year that they received their first HIV diagnosis. That means that they have been living with the virus a long time and it has gone undetected." She further added that decreasing stigma, addressing social determinants of health care, and increasing access to quality, culturally sensitive health care are critical to changing health disparities.
Devotion can be hard to come by in the health care field. Stress and burnout can discourage many people from serving in the long term. For Wilson, serving the community is second nature. "I was raised with a very strong focus on social justice. And I am so happy to work in a place that corrects injustices every day and creates a more just system. Here, we do it through the health care system. For me it's very practical. You get sick. You get better. Our motto is 'Health care is a human right.' So it's exciting to work in a place where we defend that basic human right. That's what gets me out of bed in the morning."