The mission of the CUNY Institute for Health Equity is in its title – we strive not only to deliver accurate information about health causes important to you, but we also prioritize centering equity in our discussions about health and health care. The reality of America in 2017 is that the health knowledge and expertise generated by American health care providers does not benefit all individuals equally. This leads to inequitable outcomes, that often are aggregated by ethnic and racial variables.
Dr. Judith Aponte, Ph.D., RN, CDE, CCM, APHN-BC, FAAN
Dr. Aponte is an associate professor at Hunter College School of Nursing, editor-in-chief of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses’ journal, and on faculty at the CUNY Institute for Health Equity
The work of CIHE faculty member Dr. Judith Aponte perfectly embodies the mission of centering concerns of equity when we talk about health. Her career has not only been devoted to diabetes but also to considering how Hispanics specifically are impacted by the disease, both overall and by subgroup. Recently, Johnson & Johnson wrote an article highlighting Dr. Aponte and her work. The interview was filled with many valuable tidbits, which bear repeating.
Dr. Aponte shared how family played a huge role in her decisions both to become a nurse and to eventually focus on diabetes. “I had a sister who had a disability, and throughout my entire life she was in and out of hospitals. When I really dig deep into who I am as a professional and individual, the healthcare profession chose me because it was something I wanted to contribute and give back to, given my experience with my sister,” says Dr. Aponte. She goes onto to share that, “My family is greatly affected by diabetes, as Hispanics are the third most affected ethnic group in the U.S. My mother, who is my champion, developed diabetes, and it drove me to learn more about the disease so I could help others.”
According to the American Diabetes Association, 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year, and a 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report suggests more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes. And, although Hispanics are the third most affected ethnic group in the U.S., Dr. Aponte also wanted to ensure a nuanced analysis of data. She says, “My parents are originally from Puerto Rico, and because Hispanic groups are not homogenous, I wanted to learn more about statistics and diabetes management among Hispanic subgroups. My dissertation looked at Cuban-Americans, Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans and that was really the beginning of my career doing research among Hispanic populations and subgroups affected by diabetes.”
As with many matters of equity, inequities can be layered on top of one another. Dr. Aponte shares how that understanding shapes her work, saying, “the population I service most is an underserved and vulnerable population. When providing diabetes management and educational materials, I look to find out what is needed by those who are illiterate, those who probably don’t speak any English, those who only finished grade school, and those who are possibly uninsured. These individuals have a limited or lack of resources, and for me it is such a passion to help these people. I am honored to be their voice and advocate. It requires a lot of time to truly understand what this population needs, and that makes it very challenging for anyone, but also the most exciting and rewarding.” Dr. Aponte goes on to explain how because of her personal identity and her position as a nurse, she feels like she is in a good space to provide true support to her patients. By building trust and showing genuine care, she is able to be there for her patients in a way that other health care providers might not.
Thank you Dr. Aponte!
You can find the original Johnson & Johnson article here.
For a Public Health Minute segment on diabetes, check this out.