A New Era for Alivio Medical Center: Executive Director Carmen Velásquez Retires After 25 Years

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsAfter 25 years of activism, Carmen Velásquez, founder and executive director of Alivio Medical Center, announced she is retiring as of January 2014.

“I don’t want people to think this happened over night,” laughed Velásquez. “This decision occurred seven years ago when I, along with the board, agreed it was time for me to move on.” An impassioned pillar in her community, Velásquez has advocated for health care reform for the Latino, predominantly Mexican, and immigrant community. Through Alivio Medical Center, Velásquez has fought for access to health care for all; especially for the undocumented immigrant community.

“It’s surprising to me that we are still fighting for the same issues we did twenty-five years ago,” said Velásquez. “But I am proud of Alivio’s mission to helping in the effort to fight for more equality and close the gap on health disparities that affect so many in our community.” Under Velásquez’s leadership, Alivio grew from one community health center to a cluster of six clinics, with plans to open two new sites in late 2013. “Let me tell you it is hard work,” said Velásquez. “But what makes my job worth while is the people we get to help everyday. That’s what I will miss the most. I will miss seeing the babies who came in for treatment. That said, I am looking forward to what’s in store for me. And I know whoever the next executive director of Alivio will be, that person will do a phenomenal job.”

Velásquez has been recognized for excellence in her work throughout the years. Among the numerous awards are: the National Football League’s Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award, nominated by the Chicago Bears; the “Jaime Escalante” award for her leadership from the Festival Latino del Libro y La Familia; the Helen Rodriguez –Trias Health Award from the National Council of La Raza; Hispanic Business, The 100 Influential Thought Leaders Award; the prestigious Ohtli Award bestowed by the Mexican Government to distinguished members of the Mexican community in the United States for outstanding contribution to the advancement of Mexican communities abroad; the Humanitarian Award from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office; The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leadership Award; the Latino Leaders Magazine Maestro Award, and the MALDEF Lifetime Achievement.

Reactions about her retirement:

“Over nearly twenty five years, Carmen has channeled her indomitable spirit towards building Alivio into an essential pillar of Chicago’s Latino community…congratulations to Carmen on a spectacular career. I know I speak for Alivio’s first-rate staff and all the rest of Chicago when I say she will be sorely missed.” –U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

“I congratulate Carmen from the bottom of my heart for her 25 years of exemplary public service at Alivio Medical Center. She has provided vital health care services to tens of thousands of my constituents and hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans over the years and in doing so, has significantly improved the health of Latinos.” –Representative Luis Gutierrez.

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