The Girl from the Bronx: A True Story of Struggle, Resiliency and Courage chronicles Dr. Debbie Salas-Lopez’s journey from New York’s South Bronx during the 1960s to health leadership roles, which are still rare for a Latina in the 21st century.
Both a memoir and an account of public policy’s effect on vulnerable populations, Salas-Lopez and co-author Llewellyn Cornelius, director of UGA’s Center for Social Justice, Human and Civil Rights, relate the hurdles that poverty and racism create, as well as how strong family and community values informed Salas-Lopez’s career success. She worked full time while attending night school—often with a child in tow—before finally earning a medical degree at age 38.
She never forgot to give back. While still serving her residency in internal medicine in New Jersey, Salas-Lopez was instrumental in developing the nation’s first cultural competency training laws for doctors. The training, now required for medical licensure in six states, teaches physicians sensitivity to cultural differences among patients and results in better health outcomes.
Each chapter ends with a summary of “lessons learned” for the benefit of the next generation of health care and community leaders. Today, Salas-Lopez serves as senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health, New York’s largest provider of health services.