For 46 years, Clínica Tepati has been providing basic healthcare services and health education to Sacramento’s underserved Latino community. Staffed by a team of undergraduate and medical students, the clinic provides a broad range of services to communities that might otherwise forgo seeking treatment due to cost, lack of health insurance, or other barriers to access.
When shelter-in-place and social distancing policies went into effect statewide in March to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, the clinic’s patients were suddenly unable to seek common treatment for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. Alfredo Lopez Aguirre, the clinic’s executive administrator, has helped his team transition to operate under a telehealth model, which allows healthcare providers to offer care at a distance. But he hasn’t lost sight of the clinic’s advocacy mission to close gaps in healthcare coverage in the Latino community.
His team is also coordinating a campaign to encourage patients gets counted in the 2020 Census. “Getting counted means we don’t lose out on federal dollars for healthcare programs in the next ten years,” he says.
Interview with Alfredo Lopez Aguirre, Executive Administrator of Clínica Tepati
What brought you to Clínica Tepati? What motivates you to do this work?
The idea of being a pre-med student while working in a clinic that serves the community was something that really interested me when I started at UC Davis five years ago. The folks that come into the clinic reflect my own family, my neighbors, my abuelitas and abuelitos. The staff also reflects the patients we serve; that’s what healthcare should look like.
I see the Clínica as an incubator for the future of medicine; a lot of folks from Tepati want to go into healthcare, law, and teaching, areas where we need more representation. We see ourselves as one organization that’s making strides to close this bigger healthcare gap that affects our community. As an undergrad I feel empowered doing this work being able to engage with the Sacramento community.
How is Clínica Tepati serving its patients during the COVID-19 health emergency?
Right now, the Clínica is on working on a telehealth model. We serve all of our patients online or by phone. We had to make this transition very fast, since many of our patients rely on Tepati as their primary source of care—without us, they don’t access to their medications. We are also seeing new patients, since so many people have lost their health insurance during the pandemic.
Healthcare needs to be viewed from a holistic approach, especially during this health crisis. Our patients are worried about putting food on the table just as much as they’re worried about buying insulin to take care of their diabetes. We’ve implemented a new program, in which we screen for financial help, food assistance, domestic abuse, etc. so we can connect them to resources in the Sacramento area. This helps our patients take care of their health while taking care of their families.
Why is it important to engage Latinos in the 2020 Census?/How are you engaging Latinos in the 2020 Census?
At Tepati, we want to empower our patients to have autonomy over their health and over their life and participating in the Census is one way to do that. Being counted in the Census gives our community a voice. We ask our patients if they have filled out the Census, and if they haven’t we find out why. A lot of our patients feel concerned about who gets access to the information. We always remind them that their responses are confidential and protected by law. By educating them, we are empowering them to fill out the form. We contribute so much the country, the economy, to the overall society, and getting counted means Sacramento gets the money and resources it deserves.
Written by Eduardo García, Senior Policy Fellow at the Latino Community Foundation.