For more than 40 years, Ernesto Gonzalez, MD, Mass General dermatologist, has worked tirelessly in his dedication to the Hispanic community at Mass General and beyond. Since 2005, Mass General has continued to honor staff who share Gonzalez’s devotion and enthusiasm with the annual Ernesto Gonzalez Award for Outstanding Services to the Hispanic Community. This year was no different. Not only were two MGHers honored with the award during the Sept. 30 virtual celebration, but one standout group was given the honorific name, “The Ernesto Gonzalez Service.”
“Today we get a chance to celebrate some awardees who live the vision and the life principles of Dr. Ernesto Gonzalez,” says Joseph Betancourt, MD, vice president and chief equity and inclusion officer at Mass General. “He is an individual who demonstrates the principles of who we are as a people: resilience, grit, determination, passion, humility. It is all those factors that have been so inspirational to me and so many others.”
The two individuals displaying those principles who were honored with this year’s Ernesto Gonzalez Award were Leslie Cartagena, NP, of the Palliative Care Division, and Javier Romero, MD, neuroradiologist and director of vascular ultrasound services in the Department of Radiology. Both Cartagena and Romero helped provide extraordinary care to Spanish-speaking COVID-19 patients—Cartagena through her Palliative Care work, and Romero with the Spanish Language Care Group. Both awardees also are active in their communities, through volunteer work, support groups and overall leadership.
“I remember walking through the halls in front of Mass General’s gift shop back in 2012 and seeing the Ernesto Gonzalez plaque and being in awe of all the names listed. I didn’t know their names or their stories, but I knew how important their work was,” said Cartagena. “I knew there was so much work to be done to help decrease the disparities facing our Latino community. Never did I think I would be part of this well-respected list, and I am so honored to accept this award.”
An additional honor given this year was to a group who remained committed to the care and equity of the Latino community—a group that has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic—during the spring surge. That group is the Spanish Language Care Group (SLCG), now bestowed the name The Ernesto Gonzalez Service.
“The Spanish Language Care Group was the single most meaningful activity that I’ve taken part in during my professional life,” said Betancourt. “One of the most exciting parts of this effort for me was seeing how our colleagues who have cared about diversity for many years, fundamentally saw what Ernesto has been talking about. Diversity isn’t just a nice thing to do, but working shoulder to shoulder we can deliver higher quality care together in a way that improves the care and experience for all.”
The group—composed of 62 Spanish-speaking Mass General clinicians representing 13 departments and 13 countries—worked closely with the hospital’s Interpreter Services Department to assist teams caring for COVID limited English proficiency Spanish-speaking patients on surge floors, the intensive care units, Emergency Department as well as at Boston Hope.
“I consider The Gonzalez Service a great honor as it recognizes my work as a pioneer with the Interpreter Service of Mass General for more than 40 years,” said Gonzalez. “I trust that you will continue your efforts and commitment to acculture the institutions and governance we serve on the importance of the core values of diversity, inclusion, social justice and equality.”
To deliver highly specialized, time sensitive care to patients while also helping to combat ongoing capacity challenges, a multidisciplinary team developed the Neurosciences Receiving Unit (NSRU) – a new space that can receive transfer patients in need of urgent care following a stroke.