May 24, 2023
AAPI Heritage Month offers us all a time to reflect on the contributions made by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and uplift community members who work to make a difference and leave a lasting impact on those around them. Diversity is the most important thread weaving us together – by recognizing the diverse backgrounds, perspectives and approaches within individuals in our community, we can ensure that the health care industry continues to evolve to meet the needs of those in all pockets across the United States. ACHP is proud to lift up the voices of those within and near to this community, such as Fallon Health’s Ismael Espino, in our ongoing effort to celebrate diversity.
Tell us about yourself and your role in the organization?
My name is Ismael Espino. I was born in The Bronx, NY, and after living there for a year, my family moved to the suburban area of Westchester County, NY. My parents were born the Philippines and came over to the United States when they were in their 20s.
Today, I work as an Occupational Therapist (OT) for Fallon Health’s Massachusetts Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE, locally called Summit ElderCare). My role includes working with a team of health care professionals to manage the medical and social needs of each participant. As an OT, I work with participants in their homes and also at our PACE Center.
I also serve on Fallon Health’s Council for Cultural Competence — an employee group with a shared goal to help our employees better serve people of varying cultures, ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, abilities and ethnicities in a way that recognizes differences and allows individuals to feel respected and valued.
How do you define diversity?
Diversity is what makes us unique. It means recognizing the differences in race, cultural backgrounds, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion or socioeconomic background.
I remember when I was growing up as a kid and being one of few non-white kids in my school. My childhood was great, but so much of what I feel diversity means to me relates to race and ethnicity.
As we recognize AAPI Heritage Month, please share your thoughts about why it is important that we celebrate diversity within our organizations and communities?
Diversity continues to increase in the United States. More than ever, there are so many different nationalities in the U.S. When I walk through the streets of Worcester, MA, where Fallon Health’s corporate office is located, I can see so many different cultures in this city. This diverse population is the same population the organization serves, which represents our members. It is important that we not only celebrate diversity but also educate ourselves on our members’ cultures. We can better serve them if we understand and are knowledgeable about what is important to them and why.
Diversity in an organization or workforce leads to success. When it comes to problem solving and decision making, a group that is diverse will come up with more ideas. Input from people with different life experiences and cultural backgrounds provides more options.
From your perspective at your organization, what are the most important steps health systems can take to promote equity in health care?
It is important for an organization to identify what barriers members are facing in accessing health care. Once the barriers have been identified, problem solving and finding solutions for equal understanding will assist in overcoming the barriers. I think addressing health care equity takes a lot of outreach, surveying and communication in order to understand the barriers from each member’s point of view. In addition, providing education to members can make a big difference in health equity by letting them know certain resources are available to them.
An example that comes to mind is when the first COVID-19 vaccine came out a few years ago. Many pharmacies and vaccine site sign-ups could only be done online. For many older adults, navigating the online sign-up system was challenging. In addition to the sign ups being an issue, getting a ride to a pharmacy or vaccine site also represented a barrier for some. At that time, the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine could not be understated. I was proud when our team at Fallon Health problem solved this issue by offering a vaccine clinic at our Summit Eldercare site for participants and members, even providing transportation for those that needed it.
What life and/or career advice would you give to your younger self?
My advice would be to be proud of who you are and where you came from. When I was younger, I spent too much time thinking about how different I was from my classmates and community. Be yourself and embrace your differences. This allows you to see things from a different point of view, which helps you gain perspective and improve your understanding of many situations throughout life.
New from ACHP:
- A Conversation About Pride Month with ACHP’s Maddy Morris
- A Conversation About AAPI Heritage Month with CMS’ Daniel Tsai
- A Conversation About AAPI Heritage Month with Fallon Health’s Ismael Espino
- A Conversation About AAPI Heritage Month with UPMC Health Plan’s Lakshmi Davar
- ACHP Welcomes Ochsner Health Plan as Newest Member
- Medicare Advantage’s Misaligned Incentives: Risk Adjustment Pays More Than Quality
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