Health Services Project Coordinator, JSI Denver
Have you always wanted to work in public health?
I clearly remember when I was about five or six years old wanting to be a teacher. I would play school with my younger siblings and teach them different subjects and give them activities. I would imagine myself in front of a classroom, full of the confidence and creativity to influence others.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in México in a very loving Mormon family, and I had many opportunities to teach at church, school, as well as on a two-year voluntary mission educating people in my country about the teachings of the church. When I returned, I got a job training new missionaries in México City and then I moved to the U.S. and continued training young missionaries at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, while attending Brigham Young University.
How did you get into public health, then?
A couple of years later, after transferring to the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, a neighbor asked if I’d be interested in working with Latinos at an AIDS-prevention organization. I thought it would be a great opportunity, so I said yes and the very next day, I received a call from the executive director offering me the job despite the fact that I had almost no public health experience, as a gay Latino who had been teaching and training, I guess they saw I could do the job. I knew I’d have to learn quickly, but the opportunity to use the skills that I’d developed up to that point to help my community was so appealing. And best of all, my family recognized that I’d be helping people and was really supportive.
“JSI is full of opportunities to grow, learn, lead, and channel my passion while gaining the satisfaction of knowing I am making a difference in public health.”
What led you to JSI?
It was through that position that I first came into contact with JSI. In 2006, I was invited to serve on an advisory group for the JSI’s Capacity Building Assistance (CBA) project, which I did for close to two years. In 2007, three unrelated people called to tell me about a project coordinator position at JSI. At that point, I wasn’t sure how I’d fit into an organization comprised of domestic and international experts in public health, so I ignored the first two calls. But when I got a message from a respected leader at the state health department, I thought, “Who am I to say I don’t qualify? If I don’t, they’ll tell me; but at least I’ll have taken a chance.” So I did, and a month later I started working in JSI’s Denver, Colorado office providing bilingual training to improve HIV services at community-based organizations and state health departments.
What do you like most about working here?
Over time and through various projects including the ongoing CBA, I have worked with smart, genuine, and encouraging people. I have developed friendships with many colleagues. JSI is full of opportunities to grow, learn, lead, and channel my passion while gaining the satisfaction of knowing I am making a difference in public health. Even though there were times I thought there were others better qualified to do my job, I now accept that my skills and interests led me to where I am today. Ultimately, I am not simply “living up” to the standards of JSI, I am assimilating the JSI spirit into my life; It is mine to embrace.