Elena Rios, MD, MSPH, FACP
President & CEO, National Hispanic Medical Association
Q. How would you describe your work at the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) and how it relates to NHMA’s overarching mission?
A. I serve as the President & CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) representing 50,000 Hispanic physicians in the United States. NHMA’s mission is to empower Hispanic physicians to lead efforts to improve the health of Hispanic and other underserved populations in collaboration with Hispanic state medical societies, residents, and medical students, and other public and private sector partners. As President & CEO, I develop strategic planning and fundraising for the organization, serve on high level advisory committees for private and public sector entities, advocate for Hispanic health policy and programs through Congressional meetings, briefings and Federal government meetings, and work with the Board of Directors and the staff to implement our programs and operations for membership and communications. I also serve as the President of the National Hispanic Health Foundation (NHHF) overseeing the research training, education activities, and the National Hispanic Health Professional Student Scholarship Program.
Q. How long have you been at NHMA, and what do you love most about your job?
A. I have been at NHMA since a group of us founded the organization in 1994, volunteering until 1998, while I worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health to develop the governance, board, and advisory committee and the first two national conferences and regional summits. Over these 25 years, I have been most passionate about being able to help mentor the leadership development of our members – from medical students to physicians – who become interested in health care policy and advocacy or advancing their medical practice or faculty position through our programs and meetings.
Q. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing NHMA today?
A. Today, NHMA’s greatest challenge is to grow its membership and network across the nation, especially in local markets with dominant Hispanic populations. NHMA is interested in members who are Hispanic or Hispanic-serving who are interested in improving the health of the community. Being a unique non-profit organization that is a leader for the health of Hispanics, NHMA relies on its members to become champions and change agents and to help shape the future of the health of America. We work with physicians and premedical college students, medical students, residents/fellows, and national Hispanic health professional organizations as well as advocacy groups to build mentoring and leadership development. NHMA members have the opportunities to participate in local and national networks and build their support systems and learn from each other how to advance the health of our communities.
Q. What NHMA initiatives would you like to share with the Council?
A. NHMA has various programs to advance careers of students through the College Health Scholars Program that aims to increase diversity in the health workforce by providing Hispanic college students with the appropriate resources to prepare for medical, dental, nursing, public health, or science graduate school and the Medical Liaison Program which brings physicians to meet with medical students.
NHMA programs for physicians and advocates include the campaigns to educate them on the NIH’s All of Us Research Program that aims to enroll one million Americans; the CDC HIV Partnering and Communicating Together (PACT) to Act Against AIDS Program which aims to expand primary care management for HIV patients; on HIV and treatment options; the NIDDK/NIH NHMA Medical Faculty Development Program that aims to train residents on research; the NHMA Cardiovascular Disease Education and the NHMA Flu Campaign which aim to increase awareness of how to culturally manage Latino patients to improve their health. NHMA also has its flagship program, the NHMA Leadership Fellowship, a one year executive training program for midcareer physicians that is key to building a more culturally relevant future healthcare system in America.
Q. What does NHMA value about membership in NCL’s Health Advisory Council?
A. NHMA values the importance of membership in NCL’s Health Advisory Council to serve as a resource to advance advocacy of health policies for Latino consumers who so desperately need to be a focus of health and behavioral health education and prevention programs. I hope to build stronger relations with other consumer advocacy leaders.