Provider Perspective: Nelly Velazquez
Education is often one of the first steps to achieving goals for people in marginalized communities. Not only does it increase knowledge, but it also empowers individuals to seek change for themselves. In the sector of Public Health, education can save lives.
Nelly Velazquez spent the last nine years of her career in Public Health as a Health Educator, working most prominently to teach about disease prevention in Baltimore City. Now, thanks to an offer from Georgetown University, she will be working for the Office of Minority and Health Disparities at Georgetown University as a Patient Navigator.
Velazquez is motivated most by her commitment to improving health outcomes in underserved communities, and her work has been vital to keeping the state of Maryland alive.
Read the interview below to learn more about her impact in Baltimore City and how she plans to continue her work at Georgetown.
How do you intend to impact the community through education?
“I want to educate communities about vaccination for cervical cancer, eligibility for vaccination, cervical cancer, screenings [and more].
My goal now is to have the same impact in Washington, DC and all the counties that we’re going to work with in Maryland as I did in Baltimore city– that was very successful.”
What inspired you to enter this field?
“I am inspired by the commitment that I have with the community. I was inspired by the vulnerable, low income immigrant women that made me reinvent myself as a professional and define my new direction. I found my paths in life and walked in that direction.
When you have a commitment that pushes you, the success and external recognition comes from the connection that you have with the people. I am committed deeply to my work.”
What have been some of the biggest challenges in your field recently?
“In reality, the biggest challenge we have in this field is that the healthcare system in the United States is broken. I believe healthcare is a business in this country. One of the problems that I’ve been facing is promoting health education and empowering communities to find their health and wellbeing.
[It’s been difficult] making the government understand that we can’t have healthy communities if people don’t have access to healthy food, or good prices for healthy food. I am still working to overcome these challenges.”
What solutions do you have in mind to help vulnerable communities?
“I want to empower the people, and especially empower women, to talk and raise their voices. Talk to the government. Vote. It’s important to reach them. A lot of communities don’t participate because they don’t have paperwork; they are scared. But we have to raise our voices.”
What changes do you want to see in the future?
“I would like to see less racism. Everybody always thinks there are no labels but that is not true. We live in a country where you can go to a hospital and you suffer because you are Latina. Where you suffer because you speak English differently. Where you suffer because you are an immigrant, Black, brown, Afro-Latina. I was fired from a previous job because I speak English differently.
And we have to change that. We have to raise our voices.”
Nelly Velazquez is a Patient Navigator for the Office of Minority and Health Disparities at Georgetown University. A native of Venezuela, she spent 9 years as a Health Educator and Patient Navigator. She graduated from Kent State University and plans to continue her studies for a master’s in Public Health this year. Some of her greatest accomplishments include recruiting members of the Hispanic community to the Baltimore City Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. Her main hobbies are reading and traveling, especially visiting art and culture everywhere she lives or travels to!
I’ve really been blessed to work in the community health sector. It’s really hands-on being out here with the people and I’m extremely blessed and grateful to be with CCI Health Services to do what we do on a very broad level. Our individual program is going to expand soon. So we’ll live in both [Montgomery and Prince George’s] counties to be able to provide more care. So I am amped about that.”
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