February 24, 2023
February is Black History Month and ACHP is committed to celebrating and highlighting the diversity within our membership and efforts being made to make real achievements toward health equity nationwide. With Black Americans facing disproportionately more barriers to care, there is clearly still much work to be done. Leaders like Arpa Gonzalez, Director of Government Programs Operations at Fallon Health, are inspired by their lived experiences, which, in turn, encourages others to take that work to heart – this month and every other month – to leave a lasting impact on their communities and the health care system at large.
Tell us about yourself and your role at your organization.
My name is Arpa Gonzalez and I’m the Director of Government Programs Operations at Fallon Health. I was born in Puerto Rico and came to Worcester at the age of 2. Spanish was my first language.
Can you tell us about an early experience that impacted your career path?
Attending Worcester Public schools, being raised with people of all different backgrounds and being the daughter of a pastor and evangelist who was well known in the Worcester Latin Community exposed me to really embracing all different types of situations and struggles and wanting to be a part of a positive change and help to everyone I could reach. Due to my religion, I was married at the age of 16 and became emancipated my sophomore year in high school. By the time I graduated high school, I was also going through divorce. Attending college and studying human services while living on my own and trying to make ends meet with little to no help became a real challenge. This led me to working at Fallon Health – a company where I knew I’d be able to learn, grow and make a real impact in my community.
How has your career and the knowledge you’ve gained impacted or changed your worldview? And relatedly, how has your worldview impacted your career choices?
The world as we know it has changed so much since I began my career at Fallon Health. I’ve been a part of the Fallon Health organization since 2010 and in that time, I’ve learned how life can change in an instant. I’ve experienced traumatic life events personally and have also witnessed traumatic events the world has faced, whether it be loss or events like COVID that have changed our lives in and out of the office. These events have taught me to be resilient, to be even more open to change, to listen more and do more to help others – to be a part of the positive change however possible and continue to lead by example and not take anything for granted.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
I view everything I possibly can as an opportunity. One would hope that every day of the year, we are continuously grateful and remember those who stood up and fought for the freedom of the Black community, who believe that we are all created equal and still to this day continue to impact the day-to-day changes being made in our culture and in our lives and those who have died because they were not treated equally. However, there is still much work to be done to lift Black voices and to really bring light to the difference and the positive changes our Black ancestors and leaders have made. Black History Month to me is an opportunity to continue to bring education, knowledge and focus on the current Black Community and Black History. – information that some may not have been taught in schools or at home that can truly continue to bring our world both in and out of work closer together and make us stronger as a whole.
As a leader in your community, what advice would you offer to those getting started?
Take as many opportunities as possible to get involved in helping those around you; whether it’s volunteering or something as simple as opening the door for someone. Know that everyone and everything is important and learn from every person that comes into your life, no matter who they are.